A packed house turned out Tuesday night at the Good Shepherd Center to talk about the past, present and future of the Wallingford Farmers Market. Organizers had to bring out extra chairs as about 75 people filled the meeting room for a spirited but respectful discussion.
Spirited discussion on the Wallingford Farmers Market
While the meeting was supposed to mainly focus on finding a future site for the market, the discussion was dominated by talk about the failed attempt to expand the market onto Wallingford Avenue.
“This whole process went forward without any input from the businesses,” said Dr. Viola Gay, an optometrist on Wallingford Ave. “We had no seat at the table.”
The Chamber of Commerce hoped to end this year’s season by expanding the market from the parking lot behind Wallingford Center to the east side of the street along Wallingford Avenue between 44th and 45th (as seen in the map below). But several businesses along Wallingford Ave. complained loudly once they got word of the plan– a plan some of them claim was never communicated to them.
“I didn’t know anything until the last minute. If not for the rumor mill I wouldn’t know anything at all,” said one business employee.
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=proposed expansion site on Wallingford Ave. that was scrapped.
Chamber officials say a lot of information on the proposed move had been available since this past spring and that they made every effort to contact business that would be impacted.
While the majority of people who spoke last night opposed the expansion onto Wallingford Avenue, one business owner received some applause after talking about her positive experiences with the market. Colleen Kurke, who owns Cutz Meridian Salon and who sits on the Chamber board, said she’s seen more customers after taking flyers to the market site. In fact, several business owners who opposed the expansion onto Wallingford Avenue say they fully support the market in a location that won’t negatively impact things like parking, deliveries, and safety.
In a surprise announcement, a representative from Wallingford Center said she’s still open to bringing the market back to the current site next year if parking issues can be addressed. She wants customers to have convenient access to the building.
“We’d like to mutually co-exist,” said Amy Singer, building manager for Wallingford Center.
But many people believe the market has to move to stay alive. On top of Wallingford Center asking for its parking spaces back, the site may simply be too small to stay financially viable. At the end of the meeting, audience members threw out several ideas for new sites for the market including:
- behind Lincoln High School
- McDonald School
- north side of Wallingford Playfield
- Good Shepherd Center
- parking lot behind Dick’s Drive-In
- Gas Works Park parking lot
- 46th between Stone Way and Interlake
- St Benedict School
A representative from the city’s Office of Economic Development said he’d look over the pros and cons of each suggested site and return for another community meeting in the next month or two. Any location would have to meet several requirements (room for emergency vehicles, non-arterial, etc) as well as gain the support of at least 80% of surrounding residents or businesses, something that didn’t happen with merchants on Wallingford Avenue.
Chamber president Kara Ceriello fears the Farmers Market Association will give up on Wallingford, but she’s still hoping to find a solution.
“I still believe very much in this. I’d like to think we can find some kind of happy compromise,” said Ceriello.