Plans pitched last year to develop a lifestyles market and year-round farmer's market in Rochester have been revamped as a city center concept that has been put on hold, Rochester Downtown Development Authority (DDA) board chair Mark Albrecht told city council members on Monday, October 22.
"We will not move forward with this phase, but we are 18 months smarter," Albrecht said while presenting an update to the market concept, which has gone through several iterations and phases since first discussed in early 2017.
Looking at the success of the DDA's seasonal farmer's market, a visioning session was held in April 2016, with concepts discussed presented to city council later that year. In January 2017, the DDA worked with consultant and former Rochester City Manager Jaymes Vettriano, to develop a pro forma model of a 19,000-square-foot model of a market on the current farmer's market site. Subsequent schematic designs were drawn up by Saroki Architecture, with construction and cost estimates presented later in the year.
At the time, the concept was to incorporate traditional farmer's market vendors, as well as fresh offerings, such as a fishmonger, meat market, fresh dairy, spice markets, a kitchen area and a business incubator.
Albrecht said the concept was abandoned by the end of 2017, as a review of the costs and conceptual site plans proved to be too challenging, including issues with parking and the physical location.
In 2018, the DDA was approached by a silent investor who pitched moving forward with the market concept, which the investor would then run. A closed session meeting with the investor in May 2018 determined that proposal also had too many unresolved issues, including land ownership, costs and timing. Albrecht said the board and investor parted ways, but a third phase started in June of 2018, which involved creating a city center concept.
Under the city center concept, a new space would need to be located, which would incorporate a full-time farmer's market, green space and event space. The DDA contracted with AKA architects to develop a concept plan and a presentation was made to the DDA board in October.
While considering the concept, Albrecht said the DDA board again determined the costs to be too high.
Albrecht said the board in 2019 will explore a scaled down version of the city center concept, which could include a covered farmer's market, green space and a special events area. However, he said that process will be transparent and done in conjunction with the city council and Principal Shopping District (PSD).
As part of the project process, the city has approved the DDA to set aside $500,000 to explore the idea. That amount includes setting aside $250,000 in 2018 and $250,000 in 2019.
Albrecht said the DDA has spent a total of $28,500 of the money in 2018 to conduct due diligence for site evaluation and costs.
"So, what if the concept doesn't work out," he said. "The money goes back to capital improvement projects in the city, within the DDA district."
City council members expressed interest in hearing about the next steps in the process.
"I'm kind of disappointed we won't try to pursue part of that – the idea brought forth in that town center is just what we need," said councilwoman Ann Peterson.
Councilman Dean Bevacqua said he appreciated the transparency and fiscal responsibility in exploring the project, but stressed the importance of keeping a clamp on the $500,000 already budgeted.
"When things don't go the way we planned, they usually turn out better," councilwoman Kim Russell said of the different versions of the market project. "With that said, I don't want this to go on into infinity. I think it would be a good idea to have a benchmark."
Albrecht said there has already been discussion on the next steps, but the board felt it was premature to present any ideas at this time. Rather, he said, the DDA board felt it prudent to see how new developments will play out through the end of 2018 and present any new concept in March or April of 2019.