Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Boston Public Food Market

Seattle has one. So do Philadelphia and Cleveland. So why don't we? I'm talking about a public food market and Boston is one of the few major cities in the country not to have one. It could really do the city, and the state, some good though.

"It's a missing piece of the city's fabric. The products we have to sell in Massachusetts are second to none, and we have an opportunity to create what should be one of the great public markets of North America," Don Weist, president of the Boston Public Market Association told The Boston Globe in a February, 2009 article.

Imagine a central place under one roof where you can buy fruits and veggies, meats, cheeses, baked goods, sweets, and so much more, all grown or produced locally from small farmers. Currently, there are a few smaller-scale open air farmer's markets like the ones operating in City Hall Plaza and Dewey Square, but there are none to be found in one large building, like the one I previously described.

Proposed building to house the market
The Boston Public Market Association is here to change that though, with the ambition to create a public market in a centralized building, serving vendors and consumers year round.  Plans are already underway to convert the building above the Haymarket T station, known as parcel 7, part of it a parking garage and part of it vacant retail space, into a fully functionable market, complete with 50-75 plumbed, electrified, and metered vendor stalls. The location, with over 30,000 square feet, is located near the Rose Kennedy Greenway, right next to the existing Haymarket, lays in between the Financial District and North Station, and is right on the Green and Orange Lines, making it the ideal location to put such a facility. Construction is set to begin in the third quarter of 2011 and the targeted opening date is July 1, 2012.

The Boston Public Market Association, who will be in charge of the operation of the market is a nonprofit 501(c) (3) organization. The venture is being publicly and privately funded, with the Patrick administration pledging to spend up to $10 million to support the renovations for the project. Once completed, the market is expected to bring in about $30 million in sales annually, directly benefiting the farmers selling their products there. These sales will not only affect the city of Boston, but will be dispersed throughout the state, as the farmers, who will come from all over Massachusetts, will be able to invest in new infrastructure to improve efficiency and crop yield, making this a valuable public investment. 

The city has not had a public market since the original one, which operated for 200 years until it fell into severe disrepair, closed in the 1950s. It was originally established in the 1740s with the building of Fanueil Hall and Quincy Market, where produce sellers have historically gathered since the 1830s. This area has long been considered Boston's food selling center.

So how will this be different from Haymarket? Contrary to what many might think, Haymarket does not actually sell fresh, local produce. These vendors buy their goods from wholesale markets (basically the older produce that grocery stores try to get rid of to make way for new shipments) in Chelsea on Thursday and Friday nights, and then resell it at deeply discounted prices. This means that in almost all cases, the produce here is just ripe or overripe, and is transported from all over the country. In addition, Haymarket is only open on Fridays and Saturdays, from dawn to dusk, while the public market will be open every day throughout the week. The Boston Public Market Association does not foresee these two entities competing and in fact sees the presence of each complementing each other.

As we approach the third quarter of 2011, keep your eyes peeled to make sure you catch the beginnings of construction on parcel 7. 

For more information, check out the Boston Public Market Association's website.

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