Monday, September 13, 2010

From old Reid's to new farmers market

Charlotte City Council, at its dinner meeting before the regular council meeting that is happening in front of me now, heard a request for up to $1 million from Charlotte Center City Partners to do the construction work to turn the former Reid's Fine Foods grocery into an uptown farmers market.

Center City Partners, a nonprofit tax-funded group that represents uptown and South End, has sponsored an uptown market for 12 years, but it's outdoor at The Square, small and from what I can tell of the good sold, not what I'd consider "local" produce. CCCP has wanted a better site for a larger market.

I hate to do this to you, but all I've time for now is to copy/paste the CCCP press release, for those who want more details. The council is now starting to hear public comments on the proposed tougher tree ordinance and I need to listen to that.

On the market proposal, the council voted to sent it to the economic development committee for a recommendation. Council members Andy Dulin, Michael Barnes and Edwin Peacock III voted against sending it to committee.

Press release:
Charlotte Center City Partners is exploring the creation of a new public market in Uptown to be located in the former Reid’s Fine Foods space on the ground floor of the Seventh Street Station parking deck. Carolinas HealthCare System (CHS) has offered to invest in this new market because of the project’s potential benefits for the citizens of our region.

The proposed ‘City Market’, situated adjacent to the 7th Street light rail station, would feature high quality, unique products sold at reasonable prices. Produce and products from local farmers and vendors would support public health by providing year-round access to fresh foods. The vendor mix is proposed to be multicultural and represent Charlotte’s global melting pot as well as its Southern heritage. The market would include a café and provide programming opportunities for the community to learn about healthy eating in a warm and inviting setting, surrounded by fresh foods.

“Our goal will be to provide a wide variety of produce, meat, fish, bakery and dairy products, and other raw and prepared food, brought to market in the center of the city by farmers, growers, producers and chefs,” said Michael Smith, President and CEO of Charlotte Center City Partners. “We want to create an environment that recognizes and celebrates the diversity of our citizens and fosters their interaction. We also want to strengthen the historic link and mutual dependency of our rural and urban communities.”

The market will take advantage of its Uptown location and the City’s unique assets including the light rail line, the new UNC Charlotte building and First Ward Park across the street as well as Johnson & Wales University.

Another objective will be to provide an incubator for small businesses, supported by the workforce development programs at CPCC. In time, this market will become a ‘must see’ destination and provide an authentic Charlotte experience for visitors. The hope is to achieve all this and, at the same time, make sure the market is operationally self-funded.

As founding sponsor, CHS would provide health and wellness programming for the market. “We want to invest in the City Market because it supports our mission of ‘Live Well Carolinas’ and our goal of prevention and wellness in the Charlotte community,” said CEO Michael Tarwater.

This concept is the result of years of research and exploration through a partnership with the City, County and Projects for Public Spaces (PPS). In a recently completed feasibility study report, PPS surveyed local market vendors and found a high-capacity, skilled set of vendors who know and understand retail marketing. The survey found that 75% of vendors have a strong interest in participating in a year-round indoor market and that 75% employ 0-3 full-time employees and more than 60% of vendors would be ready to sell in less than three months.

The City Market is proposed to be a stand-alone 501(c) 3 organization employing a Market Manager and Assistant Manager as well as custodial staff. The projected opening is Spring of 2011.


Anonymous said...

A farmers market would be fine but the government needs to stay as far away from it as possible. If it can't be done without public money, it is a bad idea. If this is such a great idea, why are there no businessmen lined up to do it on there own?

Larry said...

Charlotte Center City Partners is a citizens tax supported group who does not have to report to anyone except the council once in a while.

So finding a million is nothing.

And any agenda they want is almost always approved.

After all they are looking out for what is best for the Center City.

EuroCat said...

Oh, man...

"In time, this market will become a 'must see' destination and provide an authentic Charlotte experience for visitors."

A line like that makes even me say "Run awaaaaaaay!" It sounds like the promotional propaganda for the NASCAR museum. With lame lines like that, CCCP is becoming its own worst enemy.

Sure, it's a good idea...even good enough for some city funding. But $1 million? Insane. What could possibly cost that much?

"The market would include a café and provide programming opportunities for the community to learn about healthy eating in a warm and inviting setting, surrounded by fresh foods...

'We want to create an environment that recognizes and celebrates the diversity of our citizens and fosters their interaction...'"

C'mon. Two words: Farmers. Market. A bunch of booths, tables, and display areas. Local produce. Healthy food. Easy. The building's already there. The space is already nearly finished to suit.

Not $1 million.

Anonymous said...

Yoo hoo, Mary - Charlotte already HAS a Regional Farmers Market offering local produce.

But it's not within walking distance of The Observer so in your mind it doesn't exist, right?

Anonymous said...

I think it should certainly be considered, but I HIGHLY DOUBT it would cost $1 million to turn that location into a viable Farmer's Market.

Great plan for the space though! Local, healthy food should be accessible even in the urban markets. I'd be all for it if they can come up with a reasonable budget.

Anonymous said...

I'm all for the farmer's market but don't think taxpayer funding is required. CCCP should be able to solicit the big banks (BofA, Wells, Fifth Third) & law firms (Grant Thornton and the one McCrory works for), and other businesses located uptown and easily raise the $1 million, if that's how much they really need. For these large companies, a couple hundred thousand is a small amount that they could write off as a community service project and never miss it.

I live on the edge of the city but we used to come uptown to get produce from Ried's occasionally. We would probably come to an uptown farmer's market once in a while. I think haveing several of these markets all over town is a good thing.

Anonymous said...

"Another objective will be to provide an incubator for small businesses, supported by the workforce development programs at CPCC." Anytime I see CPCC or any other NC community college associated with workforce development I have to laugh, because they do everything they can to keep the majority of their own employees designated as 'part-time' so they can pay them a third of what full-time faculty earn for teaching the same number of classes and having the same credentials. CPCC might want to teach businesses how to rely on employees who make less than a living wage, but I think Wal-Mart and other large corporations have already done that.

Anonymous said...

give me a million dollars and I'll start a farm and a market

Anonymous said...

Any council member who votes for this needs to be removed or voted out of office, period!

Jumper said...

Big waste of money. I can't see burning a bunch of gas to go way out to the existing farmers' market, so I'd like one closer, but this is foolish. Bad foolish.

Any empty parking lot on the weekend, some portajohns, and $10,000 worth of gazebos and some little holes to anchor them down. And half of the tents would be provided by the sellers so they don't have to rent.

That's all you need for a viable farmers' market.

Jumper said...

And there are big abandoned parking lots all over the city too. Farmers market sites could be corner of Sugar Creek and Eastway, or Plaza and Eastway, or the abandoned KMart at Harris Blvd and 29, or... probably Eastland Mall, or...

Cato said...

Isn't this, along with the demise of Reid's, a pretty big repudiation to smart-growth economic theory? You have:

1) a street-level space (with a healthy complement of parking above)
2) at the uptown end of the only light rail line in the county,
3) with plenty of foot traffic at all waking hours nearby

and businesses can't make a go of it without taxpayer assistance. Further, won't the renovations make use by any future tenant even more costly when they have to be reversed?

And, yeah, I'd already have to drive past at least one farmer's market if I were going to go there.

Anonymous said...

What a waste of taxpayer money. There is a reason this country is broke.

Anonymous said...

Here is how I look at it. I have several restaurants and I am profitable. I can't borrow money from the banks because there not lending. It's time I speak out and get involved. For $1 million I can guarantee employing 100 people in one year and lets not forget the half a million dollars a year we would collect in sales and use taxes. Lets also throw in personal property taxes. Now ask the tax payer if they would like to see their money/grant money paid back, we would use 10% of the profit to pay back the money. Tell me this is not a better option!!!

Anonymous said...


When people with college educations start getting ideas about a bigger farmers' market in uptown helping to "… strengthen the historic link and mutual dependency of our rural and urban communities" we should all begin looking for milk buckets to puck in.

Go out to the NC Agriculture's farm market on Yorkmont. It is clear those merchant-farmers already know how to mix well with city folks and visa-versa.

Like the baseball park, the arena and the light-rail there always seems to be some thinking that the real need isn't good enough explanation and some wild-ass tale is needed… ain't.

So, you need an even million. That would be 200 lbs of tomatoes bought everyday for 7 years or 100,000 bunches of flowers or 25,000 Christmas trees.

Don't make it sound fancy, because farmers' markets aren't.

Jumper said...

Let's see what Google says already exists in Charlotte:

consultant said...


This is a real Farmers Market:

Dustin said...

I like this idea -- it would be great to have something like this in the former Reid's space (still disappointed that closed) -- though I share some of the same concern about using public money on it.

However, it also makes me ask: wasn't there supposed to be a similar sort of market in the parking garage built on 5th Street behind the arena? (Of course, there were also supposed to be condos in that project, too, right?) Whatever happened to that?

Anonymous said...

The "restaurant owner" thinks the $1 million will employ 100 people? An inside retail store won't begin to employ anything remotely like that and of course the farmers are already employed: no one in their right mind would attempt to begin farming because of one farmers market. (Oh, btw, if you're having trouble getting banks to lend, there's only one reason: you're a bad risk. Financial institutions are happy to lend and the low rates they're charging reflect that desire. Lending is down because business is not taking future risk by borrowing these days, thanks to excessive gov't intervention.