A few businesses on the 600 block Baker St. are disappointed that council rejected their block in favour of two blocks of Hall St. for the Wednesday markets even though more businesses on their block were for the market than against it. They are concerned that their voices were not heard.
At its Feb. 5 meeting, council decided to move the market to the 400 and 500 blocks of Hall St. instead of a second option of the 500 block Hall and the 600 block Baker.
Before council’s decision, the EcoSociety, which runs the market, canvassed the 17 businesses on the 600 block Baker. Thirteen responded – eight in favour of having the market on their block and five against.
Cartolina’s owner Fiona Richards wrote to council staunchly in favour of having the market on the 600 block Baker.
“We were encouraging and supportive,” she told the Star. “We thought it would really enhance our block. It brings in tourists, it brings locals downtown, but also the market vendors spend money at the end of the day downtown when they have some cash in their pockets.”
In fact Richards would like to see the market even bigger than either of the options city council considered.
“Why not the 600 block and the two blocks of Hall,” she said, “and make it this fantastic regional market where the whole town benefits for so many reasons.”
Among the five 600 block Baker businesses surveyed by the EcoSociety that were against the market, four wrote to city council explaining their concerns. Mountain Hound Inn’s letter cited lack of street parking for their guests; Culinary Conspiracy was concerned about competition from vendors, transit, and parking; and Re/Max Realty and RHC insurance were both concerned about access to their business and pedestrian congestion around them, as well as traffic congestion.
Mayor Deb Kozak says the opinions of businesses were only one factor in deciding against the 600 block Baker.
“When council looked at the layout in terms of traffic flow, pedestrian flow and parking, the Hall Street option made the most sense. You take into consideration everyone’s concerns and come to the best compromise.”
This decision against the 600-block Baker was disappointing to the EcoSociety because it would have allowed the market to expand in size to accommodate its large waiting list of potential vendors. The Hall Street option will allow only a slightly larger number of vendors.
Sam Baio, the owner of Valhalla Pure, is also disappointed that the 600-block Baker was not chosen.
“I would love to have the market on the 600 block,” he said. “It would tie into Hall Street wonderfully and it would create a really good flow of business. I have been watching the markets at the 400 block and wishing it would come to our block for many years.”
Baio’s concern about the decision to run the market on the 400 and 500 blocks of Hall Street is the four-way stop and Baker and Hall. He wonders how pedestrian market traffic will interact with cars.
“I think we will have to watch to see how that works,” Kozak said. “We might have to have enhanced pedestrian controls at that stop.”
Nick Diamond, manager of the Main Street Diner, is a fan of the market but accepts council’s decision.
“Baker needs any positive experiences it can have. A summer market is a must, and I support it, and if it is going to be on Baker I would not mind it being in front of my place.”
But he’s not arguing with council’s decision because he recognizes that blocking the 600 block Baker would affect the transit route.
“I think council looked at some concerns and I don’t think they made a bad decision,” Diamond said.