Nelson’s downtown Wednesday market will be moving to the 400 and 500 blocks of Hall Street this summer.
A recent letter from the EcoSociety to the city requested a move from its current location on the 400 block of Baker Street to a combination of the 500 block on Hall Street (Hall St. Plaza) and the 600 block on Baker. The letter stated that the group has more than 20 prospective vendors on a waiting list and needs more space.
At its Monday meeting, council rejected the idea of putting the market on the 600 block of Baker.
Jesse Woodward, who runs the markets for the West Kootenay EcoSociety, is disappointed. The organization wanted that block because, combined with the Hall St. Plaza, it would have allowed the market to grow by about 20 per cent.
He said it was clear that “the city wants to populate and program Hall Street, as a whole. It was a bit of a forgone conclusion we would be put there. Ultimately the city has total control over where these markets are.”
Using the two blocks of Hall will give the EcoSociety room for about 56 vendors, as opposed to the current 50 in its current location in the 400 block of Baker. Using the 600 block Baker plus the plaza would have given the market space for 68 vendors.
Woodward said the EcoSociety is pleased to be able to use amenities such as the public washroom and drinking fountain, electrical outlets in Hall St. Plaza, and IODE Park.
Before applying to the city to move, the EcoSociety surveyed businesses on the 600 block of Baker about the prospect of the market being moved to their block.
“There were some very loud business business owners who said absolutely not. They made themselves quite clear,” Woodward said.
Lack of business support was one of the disadvantages of the 600 Baker option discussed by council on Monday. Other perceived disadvantages included traffic congestion, the need to reroute transit, the handicapped spaces in front of the pharmacy, a greater loss of parking meter revenue, and a greater number of storefronts impacted.
The stated advantages of the two Hall blocks include: least number of business (store fronts) impacted, Baker will remain open, transit does not have to be re-routed, lesser number of parking stalls eliminated, lower average usage of parking stalls, lower number of disabled parking stalls, and provision of amenities (electrical outlets, water fountain, public seating, IODE park).
The current location of the market takes up 10 parking stalls, the 400 and 500 block Hall will use 31, and the Hall-Baker option would have used 40.
In its location at the 400 block of Baker over the past eight years, the EcoSociety has paid the city $180 weekly per market stall for an annual fee of $2,880. Lost parking meter revenue has been $1,600 for a net revenue to the city of $1,280.
On Monday, council agreed to charging a fee of $251 weekly or $4,016 annually for the new location. Lost annual parking meter revenue will be $4,960, for a net parking meter loss to the city of $944. The loss for the Baker-Hall option would have been $1,472.
At the council table, Councillor Anna Purcell questioned moving the market at all. She said she likes its visibility at Ward and Baker.
“There is something I like about the centrality of it. (That is) the heart of downtown and there is something subversive and interesting to me about allowing the public to occupy the public realm in this really full-bodied way. The streets and the sidewalks are public realm and mostly they are for cars and shoppers, but we have this very temporary moment set aside in this very prominent, visible part of town.
“I reminds me of initiatives like Critical Mass or Take Back the Night where people get to embody their city in a way that is different from normal. I not totally against it moving but there is something about not sequestering it off to the edge of town.”
Councillor Janice Morrison wondered why not move the market to Victoria Street, thereby also inviting people into the increasingly business-oriented alleys.
“Why is Victoria not at the top? Nelson is a city where we also use our alleyways, and I like the idea of there is Baker then the alley and then Victoria. I do not want to use the alleys (for the market) but there is the idea that you move people off of Baker a bit and then they use the alleyway too.”
City manager Kevin Cormack responded that Victoria is not being considered because there is no shade, there are residences, and it would not increase the size of the market.
This summer the Wednesday markets will run for 16 weeks starting June 13.