Growth prompts San Francisco Produce Market expansion - The Packer

Growth prompts San Francisco Produce Market expansion

09/06/2012 06:13:00 PM
Vicky Boyd

The city of San Francisco in August approved an improvement plan that will ultimately mean nearly 40% more space for the San Francisco Wholesale Produce Market.

“We feel very fortunate that we have tenant-merchants here that are very positive about the future and the demand for space,” said Michael Janis, market manager.

Steve Barrante of S&J Produce jokes with a customer at the San Francisco Wholesale Produce Market.Vicky BoydSteve Barrante (left), a salesman with S&J Produce, jokes with a customer at the San Francisco Wholesale Produce Market. Starting in 2013, a 3-phase construction project will add 40% more space, giving merchants much-needed breathing room.The expansion and renovation plan has been six years in the works.

When completed, the three-phase plan will add 200,000 square feet to the market’s existing 300,000-square-foot footprint. That doesn’t take into account two-story buildings that actually have additional square footage, Janis said.

As part of the plan, a newly created governing group signed a 60-year lease with the city to provide the long-term commitment needed for development, he said. The current 50-year lease was set to expire in 2013.

“It really provides a strong foundation to continue the market and to make improvements to meet the needs of the industry,” Janis said.

The market, in existence for 137 years, moved to its current location near the Port of San Francisco in 1963. A new building housing Whole Foods and Earl’s Organic Produce was constructed about 10 years ago.

Under the plan, the governing group will use about $5 million put aside from rents for initial construction. The group will borrow the remainder, using rent revenue to repay the loan.

The three-phase plan calls for rerouting two blocks of the main road that currently cuts through the middle of the market.

It also involves constructing a new building on a city-owned lot adjacent to the market. Construction is expected to start in 2013, Janis said.

Renovation of existing buildings will be guided by the governing group’s board of directors of tenant merchants and outsiders, Janis said. Among those will be a brand manager to help publicize the market and experts on design, logistics and food systems.

“As we make the improvements, we make the ones that make sense at the time and looking forward,” he said. “We’ll work with the merchants closely to bring on what makes sense.”

The expansion can’t come soon enough for Greenleaf, the market’s largest tenant, said Dale Van Matre, director of purchasing and managing partner. The firm currently operates two warehouses, one onsite for mainly produce and one offsite for dry goods, specialty cheeses and other items.

Together they comprise about 75,000 square feet.

Each day, a fleet of 30-plus trucks loads up to make deliveries to 700 customers, which include restaurants, universities and large corporations.

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