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Lawrence Farmers Market proposes new location for Tuesday and Thursday markets
As I watch the snow on my sidewalk continue to not melt, the summer staple of a homegrown tomato sure sounds good right about now.
This summer, you may have a new farmers market location to buy one. Well, sort of.
Leaders with the Lawrence Farmers Market are proposing a plan to city commissioners to move their Tuesday and Thursday markets to a new downtown location.
Market board members want to move the weekday markets to a spot that is closer to their Saturday market, which is held in the long-term city parking lot in the 800 block of New Hampshire street.
But during the weekdays, that lot is heavily used by downtown employees, so market organizers are proposing a twist. They want city permission to set up vendor booths in the wide grassy area that is between the long-term lot and Rhode Island Street. If your internal Google map is not functioning currently, the area is the city right-of-way just east of the parking lot. It currently serves as a landscaped buffer area between Rhode Island Street and the sidewalk that runs along the eastern edge of the parking lot.
Market organizers estimate the 3,000-square-foot area could accommodate a dozen or so vendor booths. That will put the booths fairly close to the street, but Rhode Island is one of the lesser traveled streets in downtown. City commissioners are expected to receive the request at a special year-end meeting at 9 a.m. Thursday. (Yes, I know the year ended on Tuesday, but perhaps City Hall is using Congress’ Fiscal Cliff calendar.)
Commissioners are expected to ask staff members to study the feasibility of the proposed location.
Whether it is this location or somewhere else, the market will need a new space for its Tuesday market. It has been held for many years in the city parking lot in the 1000 block of Vermont Street. The lot hasn’t traditionally attracted many vehicles, so there always has been plenty of room for the market.
But that has changed. Treanor Architects has completed its project to convert the former Strong’s Office Supply building into a new headquarters for the architecture firm.
The completely revamped and expanded building — which is just south of the parking lot — is now open and housing about 60 employees. Parking demand in the lot has become significantly higher.
The proposed change, however, also represents a shift in strategy for the farmers market’s Thursday event. Last year the market used Thursdays to hold a West Lawrence market at 1121 Wakarusa Drive.
I haven’t yet chatted with any board members of the market, but the group’s letter to City Hall indicates the organization wants to again focus on downtown.
“The Lawrence Farmers Market has a need to regain a cohesive identity as a single market at a single location,” according to the letter. “Moving the weekday markets to 800 Rhode Island is the simplest, cheapest and most effective way to improve our marketing, reduce administrative costs and serve a broader customer base.”
Market organizers are asking that about 10 of the parking spaces in the city’s long-term lot in the 800 block of New Hampshire be reserved as a loading and unloading area for market vendors.
It will be interesting to see if the city gives the green light to the new plan. Early on, there had been some talk about moving the Farmers Market to the new outdoor plaza area that will be created as part of the $19 million public library expansion.
The plans for the parking garage include public restrooms, which were thought to be a drawing card for the farmers market.
But the farmers market may get its restrooms at its current location. A representative with the development group that plans to build a multi-story apartment building at the northeast corner of Ninth and New Hampshire streets previously has indicated the ground floor of the building will include restrooms designed to serve the adjacent farmers market.
I’m guessing that both the development group — which is led by Lawrence businessmen Doug Compton and Mike Treanor — and market organizers are keen on the idea of the market staying near the Ninth and New Hampshire intersection.
The intersection already has one multi-story apartment building and plans are in the work for one more, plus a multi-story, extended stay hotel. That’s a lot of new residents who would be within walking distance of the market.
It also will be interesting to see what the move may do to the Cottin’s Hardware Farmers Market. Last year the hardware store at 1832 Massachusetts St. hosted a popular market in its parking lot from 4 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. on Thursdays.
I guess time will tell on that one. Now, the question is whether time will clear my sidewalk of snow, or will my wife stick a snow shovel in my hands?