By STEVE BROWN
EVERETT, Wash. -- Snohomish County and a developer are building a 60,000-square-foot, multiple-use complex that will include a year-round farmers' market and commercial kitchen.
It is expected to open for business in July 2014.
"This has been seven years in the works," county agriculture coordinator Linda Neunzig said. "The emphasis will be local with a region-wide market, not just for Snohomish County but the whole Puget Sound area."
Twenty farmers have already signed up, and a jurying process will be used to select who will participate.
"We're talking with people, working to meet their potential needs," she said.
The Grand Avenue project, between Hewitt Avenue and Wall Street in downtown Everett, will include 90 retail spaces of varying sizes for farm producers. Products at the market will likely include produce, meat, dairy products and specialized products including flowers, beer and wine.
A large commercial kitchen and processing facility will enable farmers to make value-added products to sell at the market or elsewhere.
The center is part of Snohomish County Executive Aaron Reardon's goal of encouraging agriculture.
"People want to know where their food comes from, and when they shop at this farmers' market, there will be no question that what they're getting is fresh and local," he said. "We've worked with farmers for years on ways to keep agriculture in this county economically viable."
Snohomish County is the state's third most populous county, and Everett ranks sixth in size among cities. Boeing and biotech are the biggest employers, Neunzig said, but agriculture has held its own against urban growth.
In addition to the farmers' market, the new facility will include space for cafe-style and full-service restaurants. The $53 million project, which also includes a 110-room Hampton Inn hotel and 220 luxury apartments, is fully funded through the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program.
Created by Congress in 1990 and administered by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, EB-5 offers permanent resident status to foreign investors. Minimum requirements are a minimum $1 million investment -- or $500,000 in high unemployment or rural areas -- and creation of at least 10 full-time jobs.
The county sponsors the Focus on Farming Conference, celebrating its 10th year this fall. The topics explored in six industry tracks have drawn participants from across Washington as well as from Oregon and Canada, Neunzig said.
"This was traditionally dairy country," she said, "and now there is more niche farming and more agritourism. There's both organic and conventional, small and large farms."