NewBo city market plan moving forward

by John Kenyon

CEDAR RAPIDS – As plans for the proposed NewBo City Market on the city’s southeast side move forward slowly, organizers hope some activity can occur on the site as early as spring 2011, with a new facility fully open by 2012.

The Cedar Rapids City Market Inc. board unveiled the final site plan, business plan and artist’s conception at last week’s city council meeting. At that time, the group formally requested that the council turn over the Quality Chef site at Third Street and 12th Avenue SE.

The City Market group wants the city to give it the $900,000 parcel, as well as to keep two buildings on the site away from the wrecking ball.

That nearly $1 million in-kind contribution would go toward a projected $5.8 million cost. The group is also seeking $3 million in Federal Emergency Manage-ment Agency alternative project funds for construction costs.

The remaining $1.9 million would come from private sources and a hoped-for state Community Attraction and Tourism grant, said Sarah Ordover, president of Cedar Rapids City Market.

Some council members raised the idea of leasing the land to the group for a nominal annual fee rather than giving it outright, and Ms. Ordover said she understands the reasoning behind it.    

“I understand from their point of view, should our enterprise not succeed, they would want to keep control of the site,” It’s a very valuable site. But we’re going to succeed; we’re going to wildly successful.”

She said that diversion from the group’s plan shouldn’t affect fundraising.

“We’ll need to look at various funders and what their requirements are,” she said. “As long as the lease is long enough, I assume that would be OK.”

The NewBo City Market site plan includes a two-story market hall that would be new construction, a cooperative arts and crafts gallery, community kitchen and other community-related spaces.

A planned market store would be housed at the Day Company building, a structure that Ms. Ordover said is historic.

“If you peel back all of layers, the siding, there is a historic building behind it,” she said. “We have not been in the building, to be perfectly frank. But we have been told by Greg Eyerly (city flood recovery director) and others that it is structurally sound.”

That building would act as a sort of grocery store, she said, to accommodate vendors that could not sustain themselves running a stall at the outdoor market.

“We won’t operate it ourselves,” she said. “We’ll find an organization that wants to have a healthy grocery store in town, and we’ll consign goods.”

The market would be open five to seven days a week, whereas the vendor market would be open perhaps only two days a week at the start.

That building and another warehouse-like structure the group calls “the Green Beast” would need to be saved from demolition as the city moves to rehabilitate properties after the June 2008 flood. The second building could be used for things like garage sales and swap meets, Ms. Ordover said.

Two tenants have agreed to locate in the NewBo City Market: Linn County Public Health will run a low-income food cooperative from a distribution facility on the property, and the New Bohemia Group will operate an arts and crafts gallery featuring the works of area artists.

Project for Public Spaces (PPS), a nonprofit consulting firm that specializes in helping communities organize public markets, developed the site plan for the City Market group. PPS delivered the first phase of the report in November, finding that a year-round public market could capture 2 percent of the trade area’s sales potential for fresh food, or approximately $2.1 million annually.

Ms. Ordover said the first order of business is to finalize the agreement with the city.

“Until we have that site, it’s hard to do anything,” she said.

A capital campaign would be next, followed by construction. She said she would like to see site preparation before winter.