UPDATED: New Fort Wayne farmers market organization plans year-round market at Electric Works project on Broadway

This photo shows a portion of Building 27 on the former General Electric campus on Broadway, which Electric Works project redevelopment plans call for renovating into a year-round farmers market and other food-related uses. Garage doors would replace many of the windows on the left wall so farmers market vendors can pull up to unload their items. (By Kevin Kilbane of News-Sentinel.com)
Jered Blanchard, president of Fort Wayne Public Market organization's board of directors, announces plans Monday for a year-round farmers market at the planned Electric Works development on the former General Electric campus on Broadway in Fort Wayne. The announcement took place at the former GE Club building on the campus. (By Kevin Kilbane of News-Sentinel.com)
This photo shows the exterior of Building 27 at the Electric Works project site, which development plans call for renovating to house a year-round farmers market, culinary training area, restaurant business accelerator program and more. (By Kevin Kilbane of News-Sentinel.com)
People shop for produce, baked goods, other food, jewelry and more during the Fort Wayne's Farmers Market event Saturday in the Lincoln Financial Pavilion at Parkview Field. Plans were announced Monday for a future, year-round farmers market at the planned Electric Works redevelopment at the former General Electric campus on Broadway. (By Kevin Kilbane of News-Sentinel.com)

Fort Wayne is ready for a year-round, public farmers market, and a new local farmers market organization would like to make that happen at the Electric Works campus in the 1700 block of Broadway.

Farmers markets still will go on as usual this year, however.

“We still are very much in the early stages of this planning process,” Jered Blanchard, president of the Fort Wayne Public Market organization, said at an announcement about the plans at the former G.E. Club building on the Electric Works project campus.

Fort Wayne Public Market, which has signed a letter of intent to locate the year-round market at Electric Works, was organized in May by members of the Young Leaders of Northeast Indiana (YLNI), which has helped coordinate the Barr Street Market in partnership with The History Center, and Fort Wayne’s Farmers Markets, which organized farmers markets adjacent to the Barr Street Market and the winter market currently taking place 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturdays in the Lincoln Financial Pavilion at Parkview Field.

THE NEED

Members of YLNI and Fort Wayne’s Farmers Market both feel the time is right to expand to a multi-day, permanent farmers market, said Blanchard, who works as community wellness coordinator at the Allen County office of the Purdue Cooperative Extension Service.

“The markets continue to grow,” he said. “They are at capacity.”

Fort Wayne Public Market board of directors will assume management of the YLNI farmers market and Fort Wayne’s Farmers Market at the end of the outdoor market season in September, Blanchard said. There will be a winter market during late 2018 and early 2019, but the location hasn’t been determined yet.

He wasn’t sure when the market may open at Electric Works or where it will be located on the campus.

The planned $440 million redevelopment project seeks to transform the old GE campus into an innovation and entrepreneurial district containing an innovation center, offices, housing, retail space and educational programs involving Indiana Tech and possibly Fort Wayne Community Schools.

Plans call for the west side of the former General Electric company campus to be redeveloped first, with a goal of completion by summer 2020.

THE VISION

Project planners envision the farmers market being located in Building 27, a 68,000-square-foot manufacturing building that connects to Building 19, which plans call for being redeveloped into the space for the innovation center, educational space and office space, said Jeff Kingsbury, managing principal at Greenstreet Limited and a partner in RTM Ventures, the latter of which is the master developer for the Electric Works project.

“Great cities have great public markets,” said Kingsbury, a Fort Wayne native now living in Indianapolis.

Building 27 also would contain space for culinary training, a restaurant business accelerator program, health and wellness programming, and a food hub where producers can bring food for distribution to other areas of the community, Kingsbury said.

Renovation plans call for adding a series of garage doors along the sides of Building 27 so farmers market vendors can pull up to unload their items, Kingsbury said.

Electric Works planners also have brought in a national farmers market expert, who will to provide training to Fort Wayne Public Market board members Monday about the design and operating model for a year-round public market, Kingsbury said.

POTENTIAL IMPACT

Blanchard said Fort Wayne Public Market leaders hope the new year-round market will increase interest in all city farmers markets rather than take customers away from other local markets. The Electric Works site likely would serve people living and working downtown and also the large number of people who live in nearby neighborhoods, he said.

At present, they don’t know how many days a week the market would be open, Blanchard said. That will depend on the amount of produce and other items the market vendors have to sell. Just as now, the market will have space for produce and food vendors as well as artists and craft makers, he said.

Regardless of Fort Wayne Public Market’s plans, The History Center will continue to host the Barr Street Market in the future, Todd Maxwell Pelfrey, the history organization’s executive director, said Friday.

The History Center, 302 E. Berry St., owns the market area, which is just south of the museum and is Fort Wayne’s oldest public space, Pelfrey said. The location has served as a public market area much of the time since 1837, and will do so again this season.

Barr Street Market vendors sell produce, baked goods, other food items, crafts and art from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays from mid-May through late September. The History Center has partnered with YLNI to organize the market.

“A great number of vendors and many thousands of market-goers continue to cherish the Barr Street Market on that site,” Pelfrey said. “We are committed to continuing the Barr Street Market indefinitely.”

Some other local spring-through-fall farmers markets include:

• South Side Farmers Market

• Historic West Main Street Farmers Market

• Georgetown Square Farmers Market

• New Haven Farmers Market

• Salomon Farm Park Farmers Market

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