Boston Gets a Marketplace, Farmers a New Market

By Miryam Ehrlich Williamson 

A year or so from now, Massachusetts farmers, cheese makers, bakers, and others out to please the palates of locals and tourists alike will have a new outlet for their products. After years of talks, debates, and the occasional argument, the non-profit Boston Public Market Association has nailed down a pledge from Gov. Deval Patrick for up to $10 million to develop the kind of marketplace that gives visitors memories to take home and talk about for years.

In the process, of course, those visitors leave money behind to gladden the hearts of the farmers, cheese makers, bakers and all the rest. The association’s web site, which hasn’t yet caught up with the news of the governor’s pledge, paints a delicious word picture of what’s to come.

Imagine fresh fruits and vegetables from nearby farms, poultry, eggs and dairy products – plus fish and seafood from Boston and New England ports! Fresh-from-the oven bakery goods, maple syrup, honey, preserves and dozens more specialty food items from local producers. An indoor year round public market could also offer colorful cut flowers, plants, nursery products, wreaths and floral decorations for every occasion and holiday season.

Imagine a market that offers locally grown, healthy, affordable fresh food.

Imagine a landmark that serves as a meeting place for all Bostonians and a showcase for the area’s diverse products. Imagine a place of food, fun and festivity, where rural and urban exchange occurs; where shoppers learn and even see how their food is produced, where Bostonians and visitors can enjoy a taste of the seasons and experience the spirit of the region.

Imagine a place that opens new windows of opportunity for farmers, vendors and artisans, where ethnic goods are sold and cultural exchanges take place each day, where civic conversations begin and dialogue grows.

Imagine that the setting for all of this is a truly public space. Imagine a Boston public market.

They’ve got me excited, and although it’s just under a hundred miles away, I haven’t been to Boston for years. Once upon a time I rode a commuter train and worked in an office a short hop from where the new market will be. Maybe this will be what gets me back there.

The sticking point for several years was location, but once it was chosen I can imagine a chorus of Bostonians saying, “Of course. That’s the place.” Even I know right where it is, and though I haven’t seen it since the Big Dig – which is what discouraged me from going there if I had an alternative – got finished I’ve seen enough photos to join in the Of Course chorus.

The site will be steps away from historic Fanueil Hall, already a tourist magnet; close to the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway – named for the mother of Jack, Bobby, and Teddy, and sic others – a family-friendly walkway that yields an occasional glimpse of Boston Harbor;and sited in a five-year old building that has never been used, except for its parking garage. Already the Blackstone Street location boasts a seasonal vegetable and fish market. Now the marketplace will be open year round.

Planners say they will model it on the Reading Terminal Market in Philadelphia, and the Ferry Building Marketplace in San Francisco.

The market’s advent will close a significant gap in the Boston landscape, says the Boston Globe.

The lack of a central market has long been a black mark on the city’s food scene. The last traditional market closed in the 1950s, when buildings in Faneuil Hall Marketplace fell so deeply into disrepair that the federal government threatened to close them, forcing most of the vendors to leave.

For decades, Boston remained one of the few major American cities without a venue to showcase its local foods and agricultural products. Seattle has Pike Place; Baltimore has Lexington Market; Cleveland has the West Side Market. Even Portland, Maine, has a standing public food market.

Of course, such an undertaking is never simple. Of the promised $10 million, only $4 million are to be released soon. Estimates put the cost of opening the market at $7 million, so the Boston Public Market Association has its work cut out for it. Private sources and government grants will likely be sought. But with the state’s commitment backing up the association, prospects seem bright.

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One Response to “Boston Gets a Marketplace, Farmers a New Market”

  1. Sounds like a dream about to come true!

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