- Michael Cooper Staff Writer
A historic building in downtown Springfield could be returned to its original use — a yearround indoor marketplace and commercial kitchen.
Local leaders are examining opening a farmer’s market at the former Myers Market building at 101 S. Fountain Ave., which most recently housed United Senior Services before it moved to another downtown location.
A City Market Committee has been established with members that include the city of Springfield, the Greater Springfield Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Clark County Combined Health District, the Ohio State University Extension Office, nonprofit SpringForward and vendors.
“To have a destination marketplace for our town, I can’t imagine how wonderful that would be,” said committee chairwoman Deb Titus, who also operates Mad Sweet Heat, a local business that sells candied jalapenos and relish across the state. “We’ve got to get in on the cutting edge since so many others are trying to do the same thing in surrounding counties. We need to one up our game.”
Employees from the visitors bureau visited North Market in Columbus last weekend to research what a similar site could look like in downtown Springfield. They’re also going to research the Second Street Market in Dayton and Wooster-based Local Roots, which has both a commercial kitchen, market and cafe.
“We want to gather as much information as we can,” Schutte said.
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The visitors bureau operates the outdoor farmer’s market in the summer. It could transition into an indoor market this fall or winter, Schutte said, but a lot of pieces have to fall into place.
“I see them creating an audience for each other,” Schutte said. “They’re very complementary in almost every way.”
United Senior Services left the 100-year-old building on High Street in October after leasing the space from the city since 1981. The organization recently moved to the former Eagles property on West Main Street after a $6.7 million renovation there.
The building had been eyed by the Dayton-based Boonshoft Museum of Discovery, which previously had a location at the Upper Valley Mall. The museum drew more than 25,000 visitors in 2014 and 21,000 visitors in 2015, but closed the location due to declining foot traffic.
Museum leaders had considered reopening at a location in downtown Springfield but decided against that because of the cost to redo the building. The museum’s board wanted to raise $4 million for the project, including $2 million for renovations and $2 million for an endowment.
The city has shown the building to about five or six interested parties since it became available, Springfield Assistant City Manager Tom Franzen said, but there’s no timetable for when it could become occupied. He’s aware of the idea to make it an indoor market, he said, and the city is open to working with everybody.
“People have different ideas from business incubators to food concepts and offices,” he said. “It’s been a whole mix. We’re early into exploring those options.”
The market isn’t listed on the Springfield Register of Historic Places because it’s a government-owned building. The building is valued at nearly $900,000, according to the Clark County Auditor’s Office.
“Obviously, it has a value,” Franzen said. “It’s a great location as a real asset, but it can also be much more than that. It can be a hub of activity that could drive existing companies, as well as maybe draw additional investments downtown.”
SpringForward — a non-profit focused on targeting investments on existing properties to revitalize the city’s urban center — is in in the early stages of looking into purchasing or leasing the building, said Ted Vander Roest, executive director of the Springfield Foundation.
“We haven’t gotten that far, as far as the details are concerned,” he said.
Mad Sweet Heat made its first retail sale at the Springfield Farmer’s Market in June 2015. The Myers Market property is a great location for the project, said Titus of Mad Sweet Heat. The site could include retail sales, food, artisan craft shops and food trucks.
“We want to attract people to the downtown area and they have to have something to come to,” Titus said.
A subcommittee is working on a social media feasibility study to see if a yearround market and commercial kitchen is viable, she said.
Clark County residents who manufacture retail products must go to Columbus or Dayton to use a community kitchen, Titus said. The community kitchen would allow home chefs to produce retail products, she said.
“Some of those people want to take it on to a retail level and they can’t until they have the commercial kitchen,” Titus said. “Right now, it’s in the infancy stages.”
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