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Wednesday, December 16,2009

Past and present

The new city market is bare and waiting for new vendors

by Neal McNamara

Hanging on the wall in the office of what is now the “old” Lansing City Market is the front page of the Lansing State Journal from Aug. 26, 1938. The centerpiece of the page is an aerial photo of the City Market, which had just finished being constructed at a cost of $65,000. In the photo in the distance behind the then-new market is the Ottawa Power Station, still under construction.


Contrast that to Tuesday as officials from the Lansing Enter tainment and Public Facilities Authority gave tours of the new $1.79 million Lansing City Market, which sits on the edge of the Grand River just south of the old market. And, in the distance, across the river from the new market, was the Ottawa Power Station, still under construction.


LEPFA CEO Scott Keith was the official tour guide of the new market, which, at this point, is a cavern with a concrete floor that features views of the Grand River and a few pieces of construction equipment tucked into one corner.


But it was easy for Keith to project what the new market will be like once it’s filled with vendors for the Jan. 1 “soft” opening — the actual grand opening won’t be until around Easter. In the development agreement for the new City Market with developer Pat Gillespie, the city was supposed to have vacated the market by Dec. 1 else the two parties would have to enter into a lease. Lansing Economic Development Corp. CEO Bob Trezise says that an agreement was worked out with Gillespie to hold that off until Jan. 1, so that market vendors would not have to move during the holiday shopping season.


Gesturing heavily from in front of the south entrance to the new market — the doors that face City Market Drive — Keith pointed to the east facing wall where a bakery will go, followed by Hill’s Cheese and Otto’s Chicken. On the west side of the market, facing the river, one corner is carved out and blocked off by temporary white walls, which denotes the future home of a restaurant operated by the owners of Williamston’s Riverhouse Inn.


In the center, when patrons enter from the south entrance, Keith gestured, would be a popcorn vendor.


“You’re going to walk in and see the popcorn, and you’re going to see the cheese,” he said.


Looking north from the south entrance — the length of the market — the middle will be filled with backto-back vendors, and each wall, east and west, will be filled with vendors, too. There will be two pathways running the length of the market.


Other new additions to the market, Keith said, include a fish vendor (dubbed “City Fish” after a former fish place in downtown Lansing) and the possibility of a wine store. Keith said a wine vendor from Flint’s city market was interested, but has been reluctant due to finances. Still, the possibility is there: On Monday night, the City Council approved an ordinance that would allow the sale of alcohol at the market, including packaged goods. That ordinance would also allow the yet-to-be named restaurant from serving alcohol..


The new market will also feature new hours. The market will be open Tuesday through Saturday 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Right now, the market open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, and from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays. Unlike now, vendors will be required to be at the market during business hours. They can also elect to be there outside of normal hours, Keith said. They would not be charged extra rent for this, he said, unless it causes a spike in utility bills or requires more security.


This Saturday — which is its last — the old City Market will host a “goodbye” event. Keith said that 70 former vendors would be on hand to say goodbye. According to the development agreement between Gillespie and the city, he has 60 days upon completion of the new market to demolish the old one. Saturday’s event will also a “stone soup” fundraiser for the Volunteers of America.


Attendees can purchase a $5 bread bowl filled with soup with proceeds going to the organization.


The caption underneath the 1938 photo of the newly completed old City Market noted that it was finished ahead of schedule, enticed thousands to come out for its grand opening, and replaced the older city market that once sat at the corner of Grand Avenue and Shiawassee Street.


“The new structure is said to be the most modern in the state,” read the caption. “And it has accommodations for double the number of sellers who could operate at the old vending place.”



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