After 130 years on the outskirts of the city, the Muskegon Farmers Market has at last found a home of its own downtown.
The market, which was founded in 1884 and was about to celebrate its 50th year at its longstanding location at 700 Yuba St., has found what looks like a permanent location on a four-acre space at 242 W. Western Ave., downtown Muskegon, said Lori Payne-Gomez, market master.
The new market space, which offers more room and visibility for vendors, has 160 covered stalls, compared to the 120 covered stalls it had at the Yuba Street location, where the flea market still resides. The new market also has an indoor space, which Payne-Gomez has nicknamed “the garage,” with 12 bays that could fit about 16 vendors during winter, she said.
The market held a well-received soft opening on May 3 and will have its official grand opening at 10 a.m., Saturday, May 24. The new market’s hours are 6 a.m.-3 p.m. on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. After Thanksgiving, it will only be open from 7 a.m.-3 p.m. on Saturdays, Payne-Gomez said.
Bringing the market downtown was a $4 million project, with construction done by T4 Group, a Muskegon-based general contractor, design and build firm, and architecture done by Paradigm Design, a Grand Rapids-based architecture firm, Payne-Gomez said. The project was developed by the Downtown Muskegon Development Corp., a nonprofit organization made up of groups like the Community Foundation of Muskegon, the Chamber of Commerce and the Paul C. Johnson Foundation, she said.
“As a city we’ve been trying to relocate (the market) to sites closer to downtown to help with the synergy,” said Cathy Brubaker-Clarke, Muskegon’s director of community and economic development. “For one thing, the site is all new and modern and meets the needs of the farmers. We were very careful to talk to the farmers, and find out what they need in terms of canopy and electricity and water. There’s more space for customers to walk in between stalls, more restrooms.”
A number of community developments already have begun to plant roots around the new market, Payne-Gomez said.
The Women’s Division Chamber of Commerce is interested in hosting a dance night nearby. The market itself also has plans for an “Art On the Market” event on Wednesday nights, offering families and children a chance to enjoy fine arts and crafts, she said. There also are plans for the market to host a “Power of Produce” club, which would empower children to be involved with the farming process and encourage healthy eating.
The community involvement generated by the market’s move also is triggering business growth, Brubaker-Clarke said. She’s already had downtown developers make decisions to move forward on projects because of it, she said.
“(The first impact is) because of what the market brings with the activity and excitement downtown, because it is the largest outdoor farmers market in West Michigan,” she said. “But it’s also an indication of (how) the people and city got behind it to raise the funds … (which is) just as important (for) the market to come downtown. If we can do that, we can do a lot of other things as well, and that’s sending a message to developers.”