Public input added to farmers market plans

ESCANABA – Plans for a new farmers market in Escanaba – which would also serve as a community gathering place – continue to be developed as public input is incorporated into the design.

During the Escanaba Downtown Development Authority’s (DDA) regular board meeting Wednesday, a proposed architectural design was modified to include more green space and a walkway connecting Ludington Street to the “city market place.”

“I think the board is excited about it and I think the state of Michigan is excited about it,” commented DDA Director Ed Legault after Wednesday’s meeting.

As a result of the additions, the estimated cost of the project also increased from $532,000 to $705,000. The DDA is seeking funding for construction of the market place from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC).

“This will help revitalize downtown,” Legault added, praising the suggestions received from the public which he says “enhance the original strategy.”

The added green space will include 26 garden beds similar to the garden area currently on the west side of the property. Additional sidewalks, seating, and landscaping would also be part of the plan, according to the architectural design developed by Marquette architect Barry Polzin.

Vegetables could be grown, harvested and sold during the farmers market, Polzin noted.

The proposed walkway connecting the market place to downtown would be accomplished by acquiring and demolishing an existing building in the center of the 900 block of Ludington Street, according to the design plans.

Legault commented, “There will be a nice green space area there and a place for people to rest.”

The block-length walkway would include seating along the way and landscaping for additional plants. Green space and walkability design plans are favored in the grant application process, noted Legault.

The DDA board voted 6-1 in favor of presenting the market place plans to the planning commission and authorizing administrators to proceed with the MEDC grant application. DDA Vice Chair Dan Bender opposed the motion.

After meeting in closed session regarding real estate purchases, the board voted unanimously to allow administrators to negotiate the purchase of property to open up the way for the market place connection to downtown.

In addition to being used for the farmers market, the new city market place would be used as a multi-functional gathering place for other community events including weddings, concerts and downtown festivities.

The 8,100-square-foot structure would have an enclosed kitchen, outdoor seating area, restrooms, and storage area at the north side of the building. The majority of the market place would be an open but covered area that would fit 38 stalls for vendors.

Parking spaces on the current property are included in the design. There is also parking available on North 9th Street. The proposed connecting walkway would access parking on Ludington Street.

The DDA has been seeking to improve its farmers market for years and even made offers on an existing downtown building to renovate into a year-round facility.

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Jenny Lancour, (906) 786-2021, ext. 143, jlancour@dailypress.net