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Urban market comes to Heartside

After two years, plans for a year-round urban market are finally becoming a reality.
Demolition at future site of Grand Rapids' urban market

Demolition at future site of Grand Rapids' urban market /Scott Kaplan

Grand Rapids' urban market

New indoor/outdoor urban market will be located at 435 Ionia Avenue


Project has been ongoing since 2009


Market will include produce stalls as well as specialty shops 

/Scott Kaplan

With all the publicity surrounding the Fulton Street Farmers Market (FSFM) renovations, it’s easy to overlook the fact that plans to create a $28 million indoor-outdoor urban market in Grand Rapids’ Heartside District have been quietly brewing now for over two years. But that’s about to change.

Thanks to a $1 million Brownfield grant awarded to the city by the Department of Environmental Quality as part of the Clean Michigan Initiative, crews have been busy since early January demolishing buildings on a 3.5-acre plot of land located on Ionia Avenue, just east of I-131. That money comes in addition to $4.7 million given to the city from the Michigan Economic Growth Authority last November and around $6.5 million in private funding.

Since 2009, the nonprofit organization Grand Action has spearheaded research and funding efforts for the project. They are also the group behind such projects as the Van Andel Arena, the Devos Place, and most recently, the MSU Medical Center on Michigan Street. According to Grand Action’s Project Manager, Jim Leach, if all the funding comes through, the market could be up and running by mid-2013.

“Funding has been the biggest reason we started so late. The economy has had a lot to do with funding, and there’s a lot of worthy projects out there,” he said.

Plans for the new market include indoor and outdoor stalls for produce vendors as well as space for specialty food retailers like butchers and cheese makers, restaurants, and a tasting room for Michigan wineries and micro-breweries.

“This is not your typical farmers market,” said Jon Nunn, executive director of Grand Action. “We will provide a resource to fill a void in what is virtually a food desert. Our focus is inclusiveness and will be reflective of the needs of the entire community. We also see ongoing partnerships developing with the education and healthcare communities,” he said.

Christine Helms-Maletic, development project manager for the Fulton Street Farmers Market, is also excited about the prospect of another market in downtown Grand Rapids.

“Grand Action went a long way to ensuring that our market wasn’t going to suffer any type of competition that might come up, and with the trend toward local food, there is a demand for stalls that the Fulton Street Farmers Market can’t satisfy. People are looking to buy local food. We were never looking to be the only game in town. We never thought we should,” Helms-Maletic said.

Cindy Visser of Visser Farms and long-time vendor at FSFM echoed Helms-Maletic’s sentiment saying that when the urban market gets up and running they would rent out a stall there, too.

“We have produce year-round. We have stalls at 8 different markets in the summer and two in the winter. For sure we would want to do the winter part of [the urban market],” Visser said.

According to a feasibility study completed in 2010, Grand Action concluded that the urban market could create as many as 1,270 jobs with total sales for all businesses within the market estimated at $25 million per year. As of now, the city owns the building site for the new market, and the Downtown Development Association met Wednesday, February 08, 2012 to discuss the demolition progress. There is no word yet on who will manage the market once it has been built.

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