Van Turner remembers visiting "produce row" as a child almost daily, selecting fresh fruit and vegetables from local vendors and carting them back for use at his father's grocery store.
"I would go from one vendor to the next to pick up what I needed," the Salt Lake City councilman said.
Turner's trip down memory lane during a City Council work session Tuesday afternoon was triggered by talks of creating a year-round public market, building on the popularity of the seasonal Downtown Farmers Market at Pioneer Park.
Ted Spitzer, a public-market consultant and president of Market Ventures Inc., said Salt Lake City is ripe for a year-round market and that it would be a "significant benefit to downtown Salt Lake" if developed correctly.
"Developing a public market in any part of the country is a challenge," Spitzer said. "It's never an easy undertaking or a slam dunk."
At the direction of the Downtown Alliance, Spitzer conducted a feasibility study for a year-round market downtown, analyzing comparable public markets, looking at possible sites, and estimating costs and revenues of such a venture.
"Salt Lake City has the preconditions for successfully developing and operating a public market," he concluded, "assuming a site can be acquired and funds for capital costs can be raised."
A review of 29 downtown sites produced two locations that Spitzer said would best meet the size, parking and other criteria for a successful market: the old Ford parking garage and adjacent lot on the southeast corner of 300 South and 400 West, and the central warehouse district just west of The Gateway between 100 South and 200 South.
Both sites are in close proximity to Pioneer Park and could be linked with the Downtown Farmers Market, which runs Saturdays from June through mid-October.
That seasonal activity has "helped create the culture here of market shopping," Spitzer said.
"Produce row" was a hub of activity in downtown from the 1920s until the late '50s, Turner said. A mix of traditional shops and outdoor vending carts lined 400 South between Main Street and West Temple, he said.
"We're kind of recreating that with a new spin," Turner said.
Spitzer estimates that a Salt Lake City market would generate about $14 million in annual sales, drawing shoppers from throughout the greater Salt Lake City area.
"People will drive 20 to 30 minutes to shop at a large, successful public market," he said.
Another $2.7 million annually is estimated to come from tourists, Spitzer said.
The Downtown Alliance will continue to study the project, said its executive director, Bob Farrington. The next steps include doing a cost analysis and exploring possible funding sources.
Turner suggested that the city's redevelopment agency get involved in the site acquisition."I'll be interested to see how this develops," he said.
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