Fresno looks at possibility of downtown public market

January 10, 2013 12:33:41 AM PST
The City of Fresno is looking into the possibility of using food to spur economic development. An expert on public markets was in the Central Valley Wednesday to explain how the markets work and what it takes to build them.

Public markets are places where individual businesses sell local foods. Pike Place Market in Seattle is probably the most well-known public market in the world but some believe the concept will also work well in Fresno. "Every part of the country has its own unique community and assets. And a lot of what we're doing is trying to understand what those are here. The eventual plan will relate to agriculture," said Ted Spitzer with Market Ventures Inc.

The City of Fresno brought Spitzer to Fresno to meet with both community members and city officials. The goal is to bring individually owned businesses together where they can sell fresh or prepared local foods.

Donna Mott's business, Ooh De Lolli, sells gourmet ice pops, or paletas. She's currently a mobile vendor but said she liked the communal concept behind the markets. "I've never been to Pike's Market. I've seen it on TV and I can feel the energy through my TV, if that's possible. But that's where I'd like to sell, that same type of arena," said Mott.

The plan for a Fresno market is in its very early stages but the city has already identified the former Gottschalks location in Downtown Fresno as a possible location. It's already city owned and it has parking. Funding would come through private investors and any grants the city may be able to receive.

Fresno's Downtown and Community Revitalization Director Craig Scharton believes the public market's success could be just what downtown needs. "It's economic development because you have a lot of locally owned businesses who have the opportunity to make money and hire people. And its revitalization because you're bringing all these people to this one place to eat," said Scharton.