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Bigger, better farmer’s market in the works

Madison Mathews • Sep 15, 2012 at 9:39 PM

The future of the Johnson City Farmer’s Market not only looks bright — it looks much more spacious, too.

The Johnson City Development Authority on Friday unanimously approved a design for a new permanent open-air market that includes more space for vendors and promotes future growth of the market.

The new structure, which is slated to be adjacent to Founders Park on land bounded by Wilson Avenue, Commerce and Main streets, is 43-feet wide and contains 62 spots covered by a traditional-style roof, and 31 additional vendor spots outside.

After looking at three possible designs, which included an L-shaped structure with 65 spots and a partially-covered space with 50 spots, JCDA members chose to go with the single structure design to submit to city officials.

“It was the most cost-effective. You only have to build one structure as opposed to two. It does allow for growth at the Farmer’s Market,” Washington County Economic Development Council Director of Redevelopment Shannon Castillo said.

The new Farmer’s Market is part of a long-term downtown revitalization strategy unveiled in May by the council.

In addition to seeing the Farmer’s Market move to a permanent home, the strategy’s other elements include moving Hands On! Regional Museum from its current location to a new facility on Cherry Street, creating a greater presence by East Tennessee State University downtown through the use of several city-owned buildings in the 300 block of East Main Street where Hands On! is now located and creating green space with an outdoor amphitheater near the Johnson City Public Library between West Millard and King streets.

With the new design, vendors would be able to back their vehicles into each slot, making it more accessible than setting up in the cramped parking lot at Cherry Street.

The structure also would feature an adjacent restroom facility so the entirety of the covered building could be dedicated to vendors.

Farmer’s Market President Blair Eldred couldn’t be more excited about the potential this new “stable home” for the market would have for both vendors and the community.

“It’s going to be a multi-use type of facility, where when the Blue Plum is going on, they’ll be able to utilize that space, too, but the city will be able to use it for so many different events,” he said.

For the past several months, Eldred said he has worked with city officials and council members while they worked through the design phase.

While a dedicated structure would not only help with overcrowding and parking issues, Eldred said it could mean a year-round market in the city since they plan on using vinyl curtains that can be rolled down.

“It will fit very well for us utilizing vinyl siding much like what they have Taste Budz. That will allow us to be able to go to a year-round type of market and will work out great for us, I think,” he said.

With about 100 registered vendors and anywhere between 50 to 60 vendors on any given market day, the Farmer’s Market could bring in even more business with a dedicated structure.

“Right now with the economy struggling as it is, people who have lost their jobs are looking to go a totally different direction and create a new micro business ... and it’s really drawing a whole new crowd to the Johnson City Farmer’s Market, not only in the way of vendors but also customers alike,” Eldred said.

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