After years of fits and starts reminiscent of the Big Dig, it looks like Boston finally has definitive plans to create a public food market in the city in 2012. As the Boston Globe reported in its Saturday edition, the 27,500-square-foot market will be located near Faneuil Hall and Haymarket on the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway and feature around 100 food vendors.
The market will be open seven days a week and will focus on fresh produce, meat, seafood and locally-produced items, with minimal space allocated for prepared products like sandwiches and pizzas. The project is estimated to cost $8.5 million, with city administration covering $4 million in expenses.
City officials and residents are speaking highly of the project so far and rightly so, I think. The market will offer a public space for members of the Greater Boston and Massachusetts community, as well as tourists, to come together to explore and celebrate its local harvest. Producers and consumers will be able to connect more directly, facilitating transparency and trust. Sales will help to support local producers as well. Finally, as Douglass mentioned in the quote above, the market will help to display Boston as a food source and destination with a market rivaling those of other major U.S. cities.
The Project for Public Spaces, a consultant for the project, has conducted significant research on public markets, including The Benefits of Public Markets and New Research on Marketplaces as Catalysts for Community Development, and finds that public markets offer benefits far beyond the obvious.
What are some of the downsides of the public market? The plan includes limited space for the actual vendors, so there is a barrier to how many people can sell their goods. The proposed site for the market also has poor infrastructure to house a public market, with one loading dock, 310-space parking garage, and limited cooking exhaust outlets.
Nonetheless, Boston’s future public food market looks to be a promising project, one that will no doubt fundamentally affect the food supply chain and how food business – and eating – is conducted in Massachusetts.