The Rochester Public Market announced in this month’s issue of Market Matters that they will begin work this spring on a number of renovations and expansions. These changes will include the construction of an additional open-air shed, more Saturday parking, new food stands, more bathrooms and the replacement of the current enclosed winter shed with a brand-new facility. These renovations are expected to be complete by the end of 2016, and the Market will remain open during construction.
It is the Market’s long-term goal to secure funding for additional expansions, including construction of a public indoor space capable of holding 80-100 people. This space would be used for cooking classes, nutrition education and small private functions. Additionally, the Market is interested in incorporating more storefronts on Union Street. They will begin to pursue funding for these additional projects once the current renovations are underway.
Planning for the renovations began in late 2011. In 2012, the Market was awarded $2 million from the New York State Department of Agriculture & Markets in anticipation of their winter shed construction. Over the next two years, the Market gained $1.5 million of funding from the state Regional Economic Development Council and $500,000 from additional state funds. The remainder of the $7.2 million project will be covered by City of Rochester capital dollars and funds.
“The changes all started with redoing the winter shed,” Market Director Jim Farr said. “When the winter shed was built, it was built to accommodate farmers.” Today, however, roughly 40 years since its construction, the winter shed houses a variety of other merchants, including butchers and fish vendors, whose needs exceed what the shed can comfortably meet.
Consequently, the existing shed will be torn down and replaced replaced by a new 13,000 square- foot facility that will include improved water, sewer, utilities, heating/cooling, storage, cooking and product preparation facilities as well as a wider aisle for customers. “It’s something a lot of the vendors have asked for,” Farr noted. “The things that we’re doing really need to be done.”
In addition to the new winter shed, the Market will also be adding another open air shed between the existing outdoor sheds and the row of coffee shops, bakeries and cheese emporia. Construction is expected to begin on this shed this spring and should be completed by the end of the year. During construction, it will temporarily be sealed and heated in order to accommodate the current indoor vendors who will relocate there during the winter shed construction.
While the Market is currently limited in the number of vendors they can host, the 48 new vending spots that the new outdoor shed will allow them to expand and meet the substantial vendor interest. “There’s been a resurgence of the market industry across the country,” Farr said, noting that people are beginning to pay more attention to where they eat and where it comes from.
Sophomore Jordan Polcyn-Evans has worked at the Duke’s Donuts’ Public Market location for the past two years and is excited about many of the upcoming changes. “They’re all really good changes that they’re making,” he said. “They’re going to have double the bathrooms – that’s really, really good… They’re adding a bunch of parking spaces. That’s fantastic.”
While Polcyn-Evans is enthusiastic about the renovations, he also has his reservations. “I just really hope that it doesn’t mess with the aesthetic of it,” he commented. “People love the way it is… It’s a really amazing slice of the Rochester community [and] has its own atmosphere and feel to it so it’s going to be interesting to see what happens.”
Farr recognizes that Polcyn-Evans is not alone in his unease. “For customers and vendors, one of the concerns is we don’t change the character of the market and don’t take away what makes the market special,” Farr said. Those in charge of the renovations are cognizant of this and are dedicated to maintaining the Market’s unique style.
Sophomore and Rochester native Sarah Kingsley grew up going to the Market and is confident that the renovations will not diminish its distinctness. “I would say the character of the market is not going to be squashed,” she commented. “The market is a place that always attracts a lot of artists and families and I don’t think this will change any of that.”
Overall, Farr believes that Kingsley’s positive stance is the predominant one. “It’s really going to add value to the vendors and give the customers more opportunities,” he said.
The Market has changed dramatically during its long history, and the current renovations are all in the interest of enhancing the Market experience and preserving all those things that have made it a beloved Rochester staple.
Rudd is a member of the class of 2017.