Rochester DDA board to explore scaled-down farmers market concept

By: Mary Beth Almond | Rochester Post | Published December 5, 2018

ROCHESTER — Plans for a year-round farmers market have evolved over the past two years, and although the Rochester Downtown Development Authority board hasn’t found the right concept, the idea isn’t coming to a halt just yet.

The DDA and the Principal Shopping District first began looking into the concept following a downtown visioning session at the Royal Park Hotel in April 2016.

The No. 1 thing that came out of the visioning session, according to DDA Executive Director Kristi Trevarrow, was a year-round farmers market.

“Based on the success of our seasonal, outdoor farmers market in the parking lot by the fire station, (we decided) to look at creating an indoor farmers market,” DDA board Chair Mark Albrecht explained.

Last January, the DDA hired consultant and former Rochester City Manager Jaymes Vettraino to develop a pro forma model of a 19,000-square-foot market for the current farmers market site. The board engaged Saroki Architecture to prepare schematic designs and gathered construction cost estimates on the concept later that year.

“We decided at that time that the site had a lot of challenges,” Albrecht explained. “One was the hill — cutting into to the hill to make the 19,000-square-foot market — which was going to drive up the costs. Secondly, was the impact on parking downtown.”

The concept was put on hold until early 2018, when the DDA was approached by a silent investor who wanted to move forward with, and also run, the year-round farmers market. But after looking into the logistics, the second concept was also abandoned.

“We just decided this was too rich for us. This was not going to work out. There were just too many things that — going through the whole approval process ...  who owns what, what part is the DDA, what part is the city, what part is this investor — we just agreed to part ways,” Albrecht said.

The DDA board then forged ahead with a third concept — a city center with a year-round farmers market, some green space and an area for events — and retained AKA Architects to develop a concept plan, which was presented in October.

“The presentation was spectacular … but it’s like Champagne taste on a beer budget. Reality checked in, and when we looked at the numbers, we were getting over the tips of our skis,” Albrecht said.

To date, the DDA has set aside $500,000 — $250,000 in 2018 and $250,000 in 2019 — to explore the idea and has spent $28,500 thus far to conduct its due diligence. But despite three abandoned concepts, the DDA board isn’t quite ready to call it quits.

In 2019, Albrecht said, the DDA plans to explore a scaled-down version of the third, city center concept.

“If the concept doesn’t work, that money goes back into capital improvements within the DDA district,” Albrecht said.

Rochester City Councilwoman Nancy Salvia said she and her husband enjoy traveling to various city centers and markets in their free time, noting that she welcomes the idea in Rochester.

“Thank you for continuing to dream and continuing to vision. I think your vision and where you want to go is right on track with what we want the community to be and what we’re looking for,” she told Albrecht during his Oct. 22 presentation to the council.

“When things don’t go exactly the way we planned, they turn out better,” Councilwoman Kim Russell said.

For more information, call the Rochester DDA at (248) 656-0060.