Seattle-like public market could become reality in Austin



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Posted on September 25, 2013 at 6:29 PM

Updated Thursday, Sep 26 at 11:16 AM

AUSTIN -- It's a world famous attraction in Seattle -- and soon Austin could have a public market of its own. Right now it's little more than a vision, but city and business leaders, along with farmers, took the first steps to explore the possibilities on Wednesday.

The exact location of where the market would be is still unclear, but developers say downtown would be the ideal spot. Growers say while the current farmers markets are great, this is what they've been waiting for.

"Local" and "organic" are two words many Austinites love to hear.

"We sell organic vegetables! We've always been organic for 20 years," said David Pitre, who owns Tecolote Farm, just a few miles east of the city limits.

On Tecolote Farm you'll find everything from veggies to piggies.

"When we first started, most people had never heard of organic, and those who did thought it was some kind of hippie thing," Pitre said. "There must be 20 markets now and each one's little, and each one is dividing up this one slice of pie. We haven't been bringing more customers out."

Pitre says that's why the city is ripe for something new.

"For 20 years I've been dreaming for a big, dynamic market in downtown Austin," he said.

That dream could become a reality.

"The market is the hub that brings all of things back together again," said David O'Neil with Project for Public Spaces.

O'Neil has been involved with more than 200 public markets. He spent Wednesday morning hearing from city leaders, the Downtown Alliance, vendors and farmers. They're starting the conversation for a public market in downtown Austin.

"More people are going into downtown Seattle to go to the Pike Place Market than are going to entertainment and sporting events combined," O'Neil said.

At this point he's not sure where in downtown it will go or exactly what the permanent market will look like.

"There are a lot of ways it could go for Austin with just some simple sheds, a market hall or even something more elaborate as a mixed use development with transportation, housing," he said.

"I would love for it to grow and grow and grow," Pitre said.

Pitre says Austin's food economy has lots to bring to the table, and eventually this public market could be the centerpiece.

The cost will depend on where the market is and how big it is. But O'Neil says it would likely be publicly funded through the city or federal government. Once established, the market will sustain itself.