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Portland market backers take next step


By KELSEY THALHOFER



Capital Press



A $25 million capital campaign will soon be under way to fund the construction of new public market in downtown Portland.



The market is expected to add over 100 jobs in local agriculture, project leaders said.



Multnomah County commissioners voted in June to sell the 3.12 acre property at the west end of the Morrison Bridge to Melvin Mark Cos. and the James Beard Public Market Foundation, to make way for the the James Beard Public Market. The property, which will be purchased for $10.4 million over 37 months, is currently occupied by parking lots.



The $25 million project cost includes the land purchase, the farmer's market and the construction of a 17-story high-rise. Project leaders hypothesize that the funding will be evenly split between private philanthropy and public grants and organizations.



"It will pull through a tremendous amount of products," market director Ron Paul, of Ron Paul Consulting, said. The market is expected to bring in $22 million annually in its early years, and Paul cited an estimate from local economic consultant ECONorthwest that it will create 250 jobs within the market.



Citing Seattle's Pike Place market model, which provides funding for low-income housing and resources for the city's homeless population, Paul said the Portland market also aims to assist the city in this way. "We do want to work cooperatively with the missions and the homeless shelters in the area," Paul said, including offering jobs to low-income individuals and donating extra food to homeless shelters.



The market is named for James Beard, a pioneer in the American culinary industry who was born and raised in Oregon.



"James Beard was, in some estimation, the father of American cooking," Paul said, noting that Beard's mother frequented Portland markets during his childhood. "He was the champion of using local food wherever you are." Beard died in 1985 at age 80.



Paul said he expects the county to return a signed development agreement within the next week, after which the group will begin a 37-month capital campaign and design period. The market's nonprofit board will also select 110 permanent vendors during this time. The group plans to widely announce the vendor openings in two to three years, at which point they will begin accepting proposals.



An estimated 18 months of construction will follow, and Paul said the market will likely open in 4 1/2 years.



Paul said farmers could vie for permanent vendor slots, either individually or cooperatively. They could also occupy one of 30-40 "day tables" at the market. Day table vendors will likely be able to reserve spaces online.



Permanent vendors will pay rent based on their size. Project leaders plan to keep day table rates competitive, considering the volume of sales and table rates at the Portland Farmer's Market.



Paul said the market hopes that the day tables will be a collaboration with Portland Farmer's Market.



Portland Farmer's Market executive director Trudy Toliver said the last official talk of a partnership was in a 2004 agreement draft, and noted that the farmers' market is now led by a different group of people, who will review the draft this summer before committing to an official partnership.



"I think we have somewhat similar value sets, so that gives us a good starting place," Toliver said of the farmers' market and the new public market. She noted that one priority for her team will be the employment of local vendors. Public markets in some cities start out using local vendors but eventually transition to outside vendors.



Paul said local vendors are an intrinsic part of the plan. "We have been both consistent and steadfast in our vision for this market being a home for locally owned and non-franchised vendors."



Whether or not the groups forge a partnership, Toliver is optimistic about the market destined for Portland.



"I definitely subscribe to the 'all boats will rise' approach," Toliver said. "It provides additional sales outlets for local vendors."



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