When it comes to the Wallingford Farmers Market‘s future, Wallingford Chamber of Commerce president Kara Ceriello is beyond mad — “I’m just apoplectic,” she told us, that the city won’t clear the way for the weekly market to thrive in its final weeks.
Plans have been afoot to move the market since before this season began in May, because Ceriello has known that this year’s smaller space in the south parking lot of Wallingford Center wouldn’t accommodate all the vendors needed for a vibrant, sustainable market. Ceriello’s been working with Office of Economic Development (OED), the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) and even the Mayor’s office to find a suitable spot for the market to grow.
She, along with Seattle Farmers Market Association (who organize the market) and other Wallingford businesses and community leaders, thought the only option to keep the market in central Wallingford was to close down Wallingford Ave. between N. 45th and N. 44th Streets on Wednesday afternoons/evenings. To her surprise, SDOT and the OED recently got on-board after Chamber efforts to move the market to Interlake Ave N. and N. 46th St. didn’t pan out.
The market can’t expand at the Wallingford Center, which “has been kind enough to give us the space this year, but they need their parking for their tenants,” Ceriello said.
“If the market just stayed at Wallingford Center, it would stay tiny and there’s a very real possibility that it wouldn’t return,” Ceriello told us. That possibility alarmed many neighborhood leaders, and even Deputy Mayor Darryl Smith got involved to help ensure that Wallingford would have a farmers market.
Ceriello’s fear of losing the market altogether is based on hard business facts. This year the market was confined to a space that could accommodate fewer than 30 vendors. Market master Judy Kirkhuff told us recently that she’s turned away a lot of vendors for lack of space and that the market was losing money this year, a first for the Seattle Farmers Market Association.
It looked like the market would clear the last couple of bureaucratic hurdles in SDOT and move to Wallingford Ave. in the next week or two. Not so fast — Ceriello got word late Wednesday that another SDOT manager has gotten involved, and wants her to gather community input again and confirm that the Wallingford Ave. location was a last resort. Now Ceriello is fired up and ready to “camp on someone’s doorstep to make this happen,” she said. “We need help doing something for Wallingford.”
SDOT is reluctant to close an arterial during the week, but Ceriello points out it’s not a through street and isn’t on a bus line.
The Wallingford Farmers Market: Red = where the market has been located in the past; Green=where the market has been thus far this year; Yellow=the plaza area, available for performances and community gathering; Blue=the last few weeks of the season and beyond? See interactive map.
Jon Hegeman, who oversees the Wallingford, Ballard, Fremont and other weekly markets, has long loved the idea of having the market on Wallingford Ave. He sent this endorsement of the location last week:
It keeps the market in the focal point of the downtown location we’ve been used to, it will afford everyone the expanded use of the plaza facilities of the Wallingford Center, and gives the market the benefit of the adjoining culture of restaurants, shops and stores and specialty retailers. I think this is the best possible outcome for the Wallingford Center and their tenants, who will continue to enjoy the market customer traffic, and they get their parking lot back.
The really exciting part is that we look forward to market days and this block of Wallingford Avenue becoming something of a town square for the neigborhood. Both Fremont and Ballard have benefited immensely over the years from a similar phenomenon. We’d love that kind of atmosphere and ritual to come to Wallingford in its own unique way. So this promises to be a win-win-win for everyone.
Ceriello is committed to making this vision happen for at least the last three market days (ending Sept. 29), and she’d welcome input from the community to pass along to SDOT. Do you think the market should move to Wallingford Ave. for the last few weeks of the season (and perhaps in future years)? Leave comments here or on our Facebook page, or contact Ceriello directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.