As city leaders work to revitalize downtown Salem, some neighbors are concerned about the possibility of a new building that would be constructed above the farmers market.
According to city manager Kevin Boggess, the city requested proposals from developers to make the most of several downtown properties. One developer, Live Oak Partners, has expressed interest in the space above the farmers market.
“We do have workers we have to pay,” said Natasha Jax of Greenwood Farms, one of the vendors.
Jax said she is concerned about the idea, and she is not the only one.
“This is like the heartbeat of our downtown,” said Stella Reinhard, a Salem resident.
Stella Reinhard created a Facebook page and an online petition, which asks for a public hearing and a conservation easement to protect the farmers market. She said she is not opposed to a new building downtown – as long as it’s somewhere else.
“Let’s enhance our market and continue to build on its frequent successes,” she said.
Up to 25 vendors line the tables of the Salem farmers market when it’s open. According to city leaders, no decisions have been made regarding the property, and it would likely be several years before anything there is changed.
“We’re all customers of the farmers market down here,” Boggess said. “We want to keep a farmers market in Salem.”
Live Oak Partners has not yet proposed anything specific for the property, Boggess said. He believes there is potential to improve the farmers market and add a new economic driver to the neighborhood.
“Using this particular site to get something more than just a parking lot and a farmers market would be great,” he said. “If we can make parking, parking deck, farmers market and build up above it, that’s kind of what we’re looking at.”
Vendors we spoke with said they are keeping an open mind to changes at the farmers market – as long as they’re for the better.
“We would just like to keep our customer and client rate as good as possible,” Jax said.
If the developer chooses to move forward, city leaders would collect public input before any final decisions are made, Boggess said.
A new building would not be constructed at ground level on the farmers market property since that area is considered a floodplain, he added.