Boston Public Market plays complementary role

05/17/2013 02:51:00 PM
Jim Offner

A new marketing outlet for Massachusetts fruit and vegetable growers is coming to downtown Boston.

The Boston Public Market — a 30,000-square-foot facility with first-floor retail space and frontage on the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway — has received final approval and is scheduled to open in June 2014, organizers say.

Gov. Deval Patrick and the state’s Department of Agricultural Resources say the new market, at 136 Blackstone St. in downtown Boston, could generate up to $19.5 million in annual sales, create dozens of temporary construction jobs and up to 200 permanent jobs when it opens.

The year-round public market will feature dairy, meats, seafood, specialty foods and beverages, flowers and other products, in addition to fresh produce. It will open near the Haymarket subway and bus stop, close to the city’s financial center. The site is owned by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation.

The concept dates to 2001, when “a group of food lovers, food producers and state and city officials” saw a need for a year-round marketplace, said Marlo Fogelman, spokeswoman for the market the
Boston Public Market Association, a nonprofit group organizing the project.

The idea was to provide Boston consumers with year-round access to “fresh and healthy” locally grown food, Fogelman said.

She said the public market is designed to complement existing farmers markets and will go up next door to the historic Haymarket, an open-air market that is open every Friday and Saturday.

“We currently run two successful seasonal farmers markets and look forward to the opening of a year-round marketplace for our vendors,” she said.

Distinctly different

The concept behind the new market is distinct from the Haymarket, Fogelman said.

“This offering is extremely different from the vendors of the Haymarket Pushcart Association, who operate outdoors on Fridays and Saturdays, specialize in reselling low-cost, discount produce purchased wholesale from suppliers to area grocery chains,” she said.

The Haymarket’s food is sourced across the U.S., and sometimes imported, she said.

“The Boston Public Market will feature only regionally produced foods,” she said. “We are certain this activity will bring an increased vibrancy to the area that will benefit the Haymarket vendors as well.

The market also will fill a potentially profitable niche, Fogelman said.

“While Boston is a vibrant city located in a region that produces amazing food, because our area’s food producers lack a year-round retail outlet, they lose out on tens of millions of dollars in potential sales annually,” she said.

The new market is projected to bring in over $30 million in new sales of food products per year, based on sales figures for similar markets in other cities, Fogelman said.

The market will have 14,000 square feet of rentable space, including up to 30 permanent retail stalls and up to 60 interior and exterior retail day stalls for agricultural and specialty food vendors, Fogelman said.

Educational center

Planners also envision year-round community programming, educational events and entertainment, she said.

“While produce will certainly be one component, this will primarily be a marketplace for New England-produced specialty food items,” she said.

Planners also visualize the new market as “an educational center — teaching consumers of all income levels, visitors and children about the health benefits and pleasures of eating fresh, local and sustainable grown seasonal food,” Fogelman said.

The estimated cost of building the market, which could open this year, is about $8.5 million. A mix of state, federal and private funding sources is expected to pay for it.

Produce vendors at Boston’s twin terminal markets, in Chelsea and Everett, generally agreed that the new market would have little effect on their business.

“The question is will our base be going to go downtown? I tend to doubt it,” said Yanni Alphas, president and chief executive officer with the The Alphas Co., Chelsea.

The idea is sound, though, said Victor Simas, vice president of sales with New Bedford, Mass.-based Sid Wainer & Son.

“Anything that promotes local production we’re all for,” he said.



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