Though in 2015 some press breathlessly (cough, Portland Monthly) reported the news of a James Beard Public Market location in the new Morrison Bridge site, I’ve said putting it there was a
silly idea idiocy.
Original plans called for the market at the west end of the Morrison Bridge, across Naito Parkway from Tom McCall Waterfront Park. It was to become the “hub and connector to the surrounding cultural, social, and economic districts”, with two market halls, over 100 vendor stalls, a teaching kitchen, event venue and full-service restaurants. At the time, I asked a few questions:
- Do we really need this? There are a ton of farmers markets in Portland, many more than there were when this project was first conceived. Do the vendors at those markets feel like we need a larger one with a much more expensive overhead? Will they support it?
- I’ve heard lots of people say that it will elevate our food scene, and raise its national prominence. It seems to me our chefs and farmers are already doing quite a good job of this. How big a difference is this market really going to make?
- It is one thing going to the Saturday market, or to our local neighborhood markets, but are people going to be willing to deal with downtown traffic, parking fees and panhandlers on a frequent enough basis to make this a viable project? You’ve got to sell lots of apples to pay the overhead on a building like this, especially with state of the art designs by world-renowned architects.
- Speaking of which, who is going to pay for this. When I read this type of glowing PR, I can’t help but think boondoggle. It makes me nervous. Show me the financial plan. Show me feasibility studies, including impact reports on existing farmers markets and businesses. Will it be financially viable? Are taxpayers going to be paying for any of this? Someone has to put up the money for all of that infrastructure. I don’t see these details on the market website. I’d be a lot more comfortable supporting the market if we had a bit more information. You would think we’d have more details from a plan that was first hatched in the 90’s.
- In an article on this website in 2007, Ron Paul said, “Given that over $2 billion is spent annually on residential food shopping in the metro area, we believe the discussion should focus on how to reach the more than 95% of Portlanders not buying fresh, local and sustainable foods. Creating a public market will help expand the visibility and availability of those foods for a greater number of shoppers and vendors.” Tell me again, how is this downtown market going to help the people on the outskirts of town that don’t currently have access to fresh, local foods. The people in downtown, the 5%, already have these things. It feels to me like we need something like this on the east side, not downtown.
My thoughts didn’t make me any friends in the local food community, and a few people haven’t spoken to me since I wrote the article. According to Portland Architecture blog, the determining factors came down to cost, access and problems with ramps from the bridge. I also suggested the market belonged in a location on the east side, close in. According to Portland Architecture, the area around OMSI is being considered, though a Zidell Yards South Waterfront location is also being considered, which I also think is idiocy.
We will see what happens, but I’m glad the downtown plan has been scrapped. You’ll find a lot more of my thoughts here.