FLINT, MI. — The Flint Farmers’ Market, managed by Uptown Reinvestment Corporation (URC) announced today plans to relocate the market to the former Flint Journal printing facility at 300 E. First Street. The move allows the market to undergo significant updates and expansion, and marks its return to the downtown Flint area after more than 70 years.
Over the past 10 years, while the market has experienced a rebirth of enthusiasm and vitality at its Boulevard Drive site, downtown Flint has also experienced a renaissance. When the Flint Journal changed its business model in 2011 and vacated both its sites on First Street, the opportunity to merge the two “rebirths” by returning the market to a downtown home proved too good to be missed. The combination of the market’s vitality and the downtown area’s vibrancy will create endless new possibilities in the drive to reinvent and revitalize not just downtown, but all of Flint and Genesee County.
“Many people have memories of the market at its current location. There is history, ambiance, and a country-like quietness at the location alongside the river, all of which hold great attraction. However, we are hopeful that the public will embrace the fact that moving into a newer and much larger facility offers a once in a lifetime opportunity for the market and its vendors to take a significant step into the future,” said Dick Ramsdell, Flint Farmers’ Market Manager.
The market is one of the most beloved and most successful places in the City of Flint. However, the current building, now 73 years old, suffers from a multitude of ailments ranging from a leaking roof to an insufficient plumbing and sewer system, to inadequate parking. In addition, the facility is not ADA handicap accessible and does not have an elevator. The effects of the building deterioration coupled with the growth of the market vendor and customer base have created challenges that the market is hard pressed to address at its current site.
According to Tim Herman, President of Uptown Reinvestment Corporation (URC) and CEO of the Genesee Regional Chamber of Commerce it’s the right time to relocate the market.
“The current market is bursting at the seams,” said Herman. “We have the perfect opportunity to move the Market and fix some of the problems that stifled the Market’s expansion and growth. Once the renovations are complete, the new Flint Farmers Market will occupy more than double its current footprint to 32,000 sq. ft., more people will be exposed to fresh, locally grown foods and educational opportunities that will encourage nutritious options as a central part of their diets. The new market will rival our nation’s leading small city markets.”
In addition to diversifying and adding more unique vendors, the new 32,000 sq. ft. site will have a commercial kitchen designed to serve as an incubator and test kitchen for entrepreneurs and current market vendors alike. It will offer a large meeting room which seats 200 people and can be used for community meetings and private events all year round. The room will also feature a demonstration kitchen where cooking demonstrations and culinary classes will be held.
The Charles Stewart Mott Foundation has funded a number of improvements to the current market over the years through grants to the URC, including for roof repairs in 2010. While that support helped maintain the property over time, the new location offers a unique opportunity to grow the market’s long-term vitality and success, said Neal Hegarty, vice-president of programs at the Foundation.
“The Farmers’ Market is one of the Flint area’s greatest assets. In addition to providing fresh produce and locally grown food, it offers a space for people from all walks of life to come together and cultivate a sense of community. The new location will expand not only the market’s physical capacity, but also its service to the people of Genesee County, and ensure that it remains a cherished asset for many years to come.”
“The Flint Farmers’ Market has been a vital part of the Flint community for decades and has a great tradition of bringing people together around fresh foods, community fun, and local businesses,” said Flint Mayor Dayne Walling. “The City of Flint supports the continued innovation at the market through public-private partnerships. We are excited for our community to have access to the new services and amenities that will be offered in the downtown location.”
Scheduled to open in the spring of 2014, the new site is about a half mile south of the current Market, easily accessible off the I-475 access road, Chavez Drive, across First Street from the University of Michigan-Flint campus and the beautiful Wilson Park.
“I am excited the Flint Farmers’ Market will be right at the center of all the happenings that Downtown Flint offers. This will give so many residents and those working downtown a better chance to discover one of Flint’s most treasured jewels,” commented Art Reyes, UAW Local 651 President.
“We are very excited about moving to a new location” said Tom Alex, owner of Knob Hill Meats. “Not only will it be at a new place but Knob Hill Meats will be expanding our size and our hours of operation to better serve our customers’ schedules. Downtown Flint is a safe and growing area full of many unique and exciting experiences. We are looking forward to seeing all of our regular shoppers there and are looking forward to meeting new customers as well!”
Downtown Flint has grown steadily. The revitalization has been on the upswing for the past seven years with buildings being renovated, lofts and other residential living made available, and the opening of businesses, coffee shops and many great restaurants such as Blackstone’s, Churchill’s, Cork, El Protrero, Flint Crepe Company and 501 Bar & Grill. The new location will allow the market to become an active participant in the increasing number of downtown events that draw close to 1 million visitors a year. It will also make the Market more accessible to people who use public transportation, and provide fresh food options to over 5,000 people who work and live downtown as well as the over 30,000 students attending nearby colleges and universities.
The relocation of the Farmers’ Market will be part of a proposed $32 million downtown redevelopment project. To date, the URC has completed projects encompassing 600,000 sq. ft. of mixed-use space totaling $65 million. Recently announced URC projects include: Michigan State University’s College of Human Medicine expanding its public health and medical education program; Genesys’ Downtown Health Center; and the opening of Landaal Packaging Systems’ Innovation Center and Corporate Offices.
Community Open Houses
Market management has announced two community open houses to be held at Riverfront Banquet Center in downtown Flint next Wednesday, March 13. The first Open House will be held over the lunch hour, 10:00 a.m. – 12 Noon. The second will be held from 5:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. the same evening. The Open Houses will offer an opportunity for market customers and supporters to visualize the new market and share ideas and suggestions for the new space. Visitors will be able to meet project developers, market consultants from Project for Public Spaces, and the market management team. Additionally the market website, www.flintfarmersmarket.com will have an area dedicated to community input for those who may be out of the area or unable to attend the public input session.
The market management team offers to visit neighborhood, church and community meetings during the months of March and April. These sessions will provide those unable to attend one of the open houses the opportunity to hear the market’s new story and offer their own suggestions. For more information contact the market office at 810.232.1399 or email [email protected].