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Riverfront project plans a year-round farmers market

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By Debra Smith and Noah Haglund
Herald Writers
Published:
EVERETT — A covered, year-round farmers market along the lines of Seattle's Pike Place Market might open in Everett in as little as two years.
And it probably won't be in the historic but threatened Collins Building.
The San Diego developer working on the city's Riverfront project wants to include a 35,000-square-foot market west of the Snohomish River.
OliverMcMillan president Paul Buss said his company hasn't nailed down all the details but wants to invest in the market.
The market would occupy a space near the river's edge where a park and a plaza had previously been planned.
A feasibility study described a site that might include one large building or a series of inter-connected buildings. Inside, 50 permanent stalls would allow cheesemakers, butchers and the like to sell their goods year-round. The market also would have seasonal stalls for farmers to rent space for a few months when their crops were in season.
Preliminary plans call for restaurant and retail space, a commercial kitchen, business office and cold-storage facility. A ring of green space would surround the market so people could eat goodies outside on nice days and take in the view.
The consultant that prepared it, Community Attributes of Seattle, also recommended the plan, citing a central location and easy access from the freeway.
It listed drawing customers and “creating a quality experience for key customer segments” as potential roadblocks.
The project also needs dollars from the developer. The study pegged the building cost at around $6 million.
“It's a challenging time,” Buss said. “We believe by working together with the city and county we are going to find a way.”
OliverMcMillan would serve as developer and would lease the market to another firm to operate.
City and Snohomish County officials quietly have worked on a plan for a market for the past several years. The study was paid for with $10,400 of city money and grant money provided by the county.
The city has already invested millions of dollars in the public-private Riverfront project that spans more than 200 acres on the site of a former landfill. Eventually, city officials envision a mix of shops and condos here; now it's mainly piles of dirt.
The market would be the centerpiece of the first phase of the project, said Lanie McMullin, Everett's economic development director. She thinks a realistic time frame for the market would be closer to 2013.
She dreams about a full-service facility that serves farmers and small business people who, for instance, could use a commercial kitchen space to prepare tamales that could then be sold at the market.
She said a regional market wouldn't preclude other local markets. A number of other local farmers markets already sell fresh goods and produce to customers, including one on the Everett waterfront in a Port of Everett parking lot.
A group of people who want to save the historic Collins building at the Port have said publicly it would make a good site for a permanent farmers market. McMullin said the city briefly considered that site and even brought a group of farmers there to check it out. The farmers said the building wouldn't suit their needs.
Marilyn Boyd, who'd like to see the building preserved, said her group was unaware the city was exploring a market. She's gung-ho for farmers markets, but she believes the Collins Building would be a better site because it provides character.
“It's the people in power deciding what the people should want,” she said.
For the county, the market is part of a wider effort to help farmers and preserve farmland.
The county just announced the creation of the Growers Alliance, a nonprofit organization that advocates and supports farmers. The group is so new it's still gathering members, said Carol Krause, the alliance's volunteer president. One of its top priorities is starting a permanent market and Everett is the most likely site.
“We've wanted to establish a permanent farmers market in Snohomish County for quite some time,” she said.
One farmer who plans to join the Alliance is Mark Craven, whose Craven Farm near Snohomish features a pumpkin patch and corn maze every fall.
Craven likes the proposed riverfront spot for the farmers market.
“It's a great site, easy off I-5,” he said. “Besides a place for the locals to go, it would also be a place for the tourists to come too.”
Local farmers are buzzing, said Linda Neunzig, a county agriculture project coordinator involved with the Growers Alliance. She's already received verbal commitments from locals who'd like to occupy a permanent stall in a market: butchers, cheesemakers, dairies, ice cream producers, pasta makers and bakers.
“Now it's time for the farmers to step up and say, ‘Let's do this,' ” she said.
Debra Smith: 425-339-3197, dsmith@heraldnet.com.
Read up
Find a copy of the Everett Farmers Market Feasibility study and the Snohomish County Growers Alliance Business Plan at www.heraldnet.com. For information about the Growers Alliance, contact Linda Neunzig at 425-388-7170.

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