Revitalization

Temporary Farmers Market Opens

By Jason Leach
Published April 24, 2009

Hamilton's Farmers Market has reopened in its temporary location and it's a wonderful space that will serve customers and stallholders well for the next year and a half.

I walked through to pick up some groceries after work today and was really impressed with the layout and the familiar market feel. I was a little worried that it might feel like hanging out in a mall, but the open space, seating areas and excellent layout are perfect for our Farmers Market.

The next move will be even more exciting at the end of next year, but a big kudos to all parties involved with the smooth transition to this temporary location.

Jason Leach was born and raised in the Hammer and currently lives downtown with his wife and children. You can follow him on twitter.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted April 24, 2009 at 11:03:00

I went there this morning hoping to get some photos, but alas my camera batteries gave up the ghost on me. I have to say that I'm already far more impressed with the 'temporary' location than I ever was with the old facility, with its Parkade aesthetic, awkward multi-level layout and wildly inconsistent lighting.

It doesn't hurt that they've consolidated the various types of vendors so they're easier to find, but the real benefit is the coherence of the space: open, bright, continuous, and integrated more closely with its surroundings.

I know there was some fear and grumbling among the stallholders as the renovation plan was developed, but I got a really strong sense of excitement and enthusiasm from vendors and browsers alike.

One stallholder told me she wants to start a petition to make this location permanent. (She suggested putting a casino where the final market is supposed to go, but my issue with casinos is a separate matter.)

Honestly, I don't know why Yale Properties didn't make this move years ago.

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By jason (registered) | Posted April 24, 2009 at 11:25:06

No way would I support a move to make this location permanent. There is absolutely zero room for expansion. Zero streetfront presence as there will be in the renovated market along the renovated York Blvd. The seating areas are as good as they'll get.
It's a nice temporary space, but anyone who thinks it would be a good permanent space needs to think of the future having our market become a main attraction and centre of activity in the city. The city did a lot of great work on the reno plans and York streetscape plans. We're going to see a forlorn freeway downtown turned into a people place with ample room for outdoor stalls, vendors, festivals, and pedestrian life. As I mentioned in this blog, the next move will be far more exciting than this temporary one. I'm glad the temporary space works well and is going to be enjoyable to use for the next year and a half, but I'll be really excited to watch the new market/library/York St take shape over the next 18 months and I'm sure there will be a huge buzz in this city on opening weekend in the newly expanded, people-friendly Market later next year.

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By beluga2 (anonymous) | Posted April 24, 2009 at 17:22:47

It took only a few hours for that characteristic market-stink to waft through the place. I love it.

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By davekuruc (registered) | Posted April 25, 2009 at 12:28:49

I already miss the old market. The sense of place. The levels and perspective. I am not into this temporary market at all.

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By Tecumseh (registered) | Posted April 25, 2009 at 16:36:16

I was just chatting with Bob Bratina today down at the market and he loves the new location. He said that he thinks the temporary location is better than the old spot. I mentioned how the York Blvd changes and the market re-design would make the old place a lot better, but he wasn't convinced. He suggested that when it came time to move back to the old location the stall-holders wouldn't want to! He said the business was better in the new spot already, being closer to the office buildings. He said something about maybe using the original spot as an art market or something else.

I personally think the new spot's just fine as a temporary location, but as Jason mentioned, there's no street presence, and that's pretty important. Jackson Square and the City Centre both turn their backs on the street, but the market renovations go a long way to fixing how that super-block relates to the street. Leaving the farmer's market buried in the mall would pass up a great chance at re-engaging with the street.

I do like the wide aisles and logically organized layout of the temporary spot though.

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By davekurucstinks (aka. g.) (anonymous) | Posted April 25, 2009 at 16:38:11

i like the new market despite some serious opening day stumbles. i wouldn't go far enough to suggest that it become a permanent location without massive reconstruction of its street sides, but it does highlight some of the design flaws inherent in the old "new market."

the refreshing things about the temporary location are its single level, relative openness, and overall more human scale. it is a vastly more consistent space that while being smaller than the old market has more usable space.

i feel that long term the market should be in a stand alone single story at grade building with a good relation to the street surrounding it. something with lots of natural light, space for outdoor stands and activities in the summer, maybe a skating rink in the winter, and integrated transit stops, perhaps a hub if you will.

from the get go the old market was a compromise, a market shoe horned by shady business deals between the city and developers, (imagine that!,) into a space that was far from ideal. of course, the market adapted and most came to find a way to call the market home but as always at a certain price.

unfortunately, the real reason the market won't be moving further than the periphery of jackson square any time soon is a quite limiting contract with yale properties negotiated when jackson square was being developed, guaranteeing that the city will keep the market attached to the mall for 99 years. what the city or the farmer's market got in return for this generous concession was to be shackled to a model of retail that would see its fortunes waning quite quickly. the asset of the 80's quickly turned into a liability in the 90's as shoppers stayed away from downtown in favour of the new suburban malls.

imagine, for a moment, a new building for the market and the old market turned into a grand entrance and reading room for the library. the soaring ceilings dressed up in warmer cladding, the ramp completely ripped out and instead a mezzanine encircling the entire space with wide stairs descending to connect the different levels.

anyway, enough pipe dreaming for today, bottom line, it will never happen, but at least the city is showing some level of commitment to the market with its long overdue renovations.

go check out the market. the stall holders could use the support in this time of great upheaval for them.

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By jason (registered) | Posted April 26, 2009 at 08:03:58

I love the thought process of some folks involved with the market. Let's move it into an old mall with no market-feel, no character and no drawing power just to save joe-lazy a 2 minute walk from his office tower.

If they ever pulled off a stunt like that, I'd instantly become a regular at the Ottawa St Farmers Market.

Thankfully, we know it won't happen. The $10 million is already designated, design work done on both the street and facility.
Still, it's funny how some people think.
You've got work beginning to turn the market back into what it historically was - the central gathering/shopping spot in our downtown, and some people want to stay in the shell of an old mall. Lol.

As I said, it's fine for a temporary location, and rather stunning that this much space was sitting empty in Jackson Sq, but it would be one of the crummiest market locations in Canada if they were to make it permanent.

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By garybutterrum (anonymous) | Posted April 26, 2009 at 13:35:38

I personally think they should "sink" the market once and for all. Make the whole thing a giant dollar store and casino and see the people flock back to downtown Hamilton. Now that will save this forsaken city. Free Flamborough!

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By gary buttrum (anonymous) | Posted April 26, 2009 at 15:45:07

i hope the person who posted as garybutterum was trying to be funny. unfortunately some people reading this might actually think i posted that and not understand that it was, i assume, an attempt at sarcasm. i'm not impressed.

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By garybutterrum (anonymous) | Posted April 26, 2009 at 17:25:38

j/k lol. but seriously did I read somewhere last week one of the market stallholders throwing around the idea of turning the market space on york blvd into a casino?

When will this city learn? Dundas forever!

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted April 26, 2009 at 22:46:56

In my comment above, I wrote, "Honestly, I don't know why Yale Properties didn't make this move years ago." I have since been advised that does not own or manage the Market, but merely has a contract from the city that the Market will remain in Jackson Square. Sorry for any confusion my offhand comment may have caused.

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By FenceSitter (anonymous) | Posted April 27, 2009 at 10:08:12

I have not visited the temporary market yet. Since leaving my downtown workplace yet I have not visited the Farmers Market for 2 years. Yes, great urban promoter I am!! But a comment anyway.

If the temporary location proves to be a success, maybe it is an opportunity to think outside the box in Jackson square. Is there demand for an additional (mini) market somewhere in the vast empty spaces, even close to the current food court. Maybe one that caters more to the lunch crowd ie pre-prepared or cooked fresh lunches/snacks, those not typical of the current food court.

A nice trendy sort of flea market?

What about hours?? I know there is the issue of the workers and farmers, but I would like to see some expansion or variation of hours. Could the market sustain an extra day, say the missing wednesday. What about late night market on Thursdays.

How about allowing smoking in the mall, that will double the crowds inside!! (bit of a joke and sad observation here).

I am a big fan of the St Lawrence Market and make an effort to get there the odd time I find myself in downtown Toronto. Hamilton market seems to lack something. The enthusiasm of the stall holders will hopefully carry into the new renovated space and change this. The plans do look great.

Has anyone come across great markets from other places that hamilton could learn from?

I think I better get down to the market soon!

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By Food Courtier (anonymous) | Posted April 27, 2009 at 10:22:01

"Is there demand for an additional (mini) market somewhere in the vast empty spaces, even close to the current food court. Maybe one that caters more to the lunch crowd ie pre-prepared or cooked fresh lunches/snacks, those not typical of the current food court."

The secondary food court in the basement of Hamilton City Centre (old Eaton Centre) already fits this bill. Independent small businesses selling mainly ethnic fast food - Mexican, West Indian, Middle Eastern, etc.

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By Market Go-er (anonymous) | Posted April 27, 2009 at 11:05:56

I visit the Market almost every weekend (love that bacon!) and I have to say although this temp location is GREAT, it's clearly only a temporary location.

The only issue I have is with the wonky floorplan layout (and, not to stray from the topic, but the entire layout of Jackson Sq in general).

The temp location is just a preview of how fantastic the NEW Market will be; wider aisles, electricity/running (fresh) water to all stalls, and of course more open/public spaces that the current market has NONE of!

The new features, along with an architecturally pleasing frontage and an AWESOME York Blvd streetscape will mean that not only will those thousands of people who have been frequenting the Market for years will still flock to it, but all those outsiders will be able to discover a great, pedestrian-friendly public meeting space where they can shop for local, fresh & amazing foods!!

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By Jelly (anonymous) | Posted April 27, 2009 at 11:34:06

Whether anyone likes the new location or not, what's most important is that we support the vendors and keep the market busy- I hope we don't lose any vendors during the renovation because people are less inclined to use the new space. Truth is, regardless of what space the market inhabits, the people and stallholders are what makes the market what it is.

I made a visit over the weekend, and I have mixed feelings. The new market is definitely better than what I expected from a temporary space- I was expecting something close to the temporary mall the city made for businesses whose properties were expropriated in order to build the mall- from what I've read it was a series of portables on a muddy lot.

That said, I'd hate to see this become the permanent location. The old space had it's problems, but it also had it's advantages- abundant natural light (in some parts), two levels, street access and a real sense of flow- no matter where you entered the market, you could walk in one big circle and see everything. I don't get that same sense in this space, things seem a little jumbled.

I hope the tenants are able to get used to this space over the next 18 months and make it work, but I think it lacks real vision to expect that they get used to it as a permanent location. It's good to see a part of Jackson Square that has been shut off for the better part of a decade in use again. However I'd much rather see York street come to life again than just an amputated section of the mall.

Lumping the market in with the mall seems to devalue the market- the market is a long-standing part of what makes Downtown Hamilton great- it needs it's own dedicated space, to be set apart from all the dollar stores and presented as something we're proud of. As Farmer's Market Santa, I wouldn't have it any other way. ;)

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By Jelly (anonymous) | Posted April 27, 2009 at 11:37:14

Oh one more thing- it seems funny to me that maps of the new location weren't available- a schematic that points out where the vendors have relocated in the new space. If the city doesn't do this at some point, maybe that could be a good feature in the next H, Dave? Maybe it could help you stay positive... ;)

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By FenceSitter (anonymous) | Posted April 27, 2009 at 16:06:25

Re: comment by Food Courtier

Yes, you are correct. A completely different and refreshing experience from the Jackson food court.

How has the City of Hamilton temp relocation affected you down there??

Re: >>save joe-lazy a 2 minute walk from his office tower...

I agree with you completely on the above comment Jason. But one must know his customer or potential customers. When I worked downtown in the Bell building, I had 30min for lunch. And I mean 30min. Big brother would be onto me if i logged on back to my workstation a mere second late.

This left me with very little time to head down to certain areas of the mall (I am refering more to City Centre), to support the local (non corporate) entities in the mall (Even harder for the hardy smokers who needs half that time to suck back 1 or 2 cigarettes, then line up for 10min at Tim's).

How many other workers in the complex suffered the same issues.

All of my visits to the Farmers Market were before or after work. The problem here, maybe a sad reflection of society and brings us back to sprawl and long commutes, is that most people I worked with did not live locally (I normally walked or hopped on a bus) and wanted to get out as soon as their shift ended.

There are countless reasons people do or do not shop at Jackson Square, or any other Mall/Big box strip. There may be hundreds of lazy-joes who just need the right incentive to stay and shop a while.

Mall owners tend to be experts in extracting value from a piece of land/building through rent, but very poor on the customer experience and marketing side.

Plus there are two owners of the adjacent malls, does this have an impact?

Jackson square is probably in better shape than many downtown mall in Canada/US. There is hope yet.




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By joe-lazy (anonymous) | Posted April 28, 2009 at 23:41:12

Hey jason, it's joe-lazy here, fresh off my fat ass in one of our fine office towers here in downtown hamilton. I'll have you know that many of us no-good mountain-commuting fat asses shopped at the market just as often when it was in its old location. No need to get all assumptive there pal.

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