Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Is the Flint Farmer's Market Headed for a New Home?

Rumors are flying around Flint that there is serious talk of moving the venerable Flint Farmer's Market from its current and longstanding location on the banks of the Flint River to a downtown spot, with the possibility that the market might move into the old Flint Journal printing facility, which is now empty.

This sounded far-fetched to me when I first heard it. After all, the market seemed to be thriving the five times I've visited over the past few years on trips to Flint. Given Flint's economic track record, why mess with something that appears to be doing well? And why destroy one of the few icons of old Flint that's still more or less the same as it was when the city was thriving? Hey, while we're at it, let's get rid of Halo Burger and the Citizen's Bank Weather Ball.

Then again, the market is managed by Uptown Reinvestment Corporation, the non-profit entity that's been involved in several downtown redevelopment projects over the past few years, including Blackstone's Pub. Uptown Reinvestment is closely linked with the Mott Foundation and the for-profit Uptown Developments. In fact, Uptown Reinvestment floated the idea of relocating the market back in 2003 in a document outlining its vision for Flint entitled Initiatives for Uptown: Flint Uptown Reinvestment Strategy:
"Relocate the Farmer’s Market to the current bus transfer station (between Harrison and Wallenburg Streets): The reinvestment strategy calls for a new residential neighborhood on the east side of downtown. The relocation of the Farmer’s Market would be an excellent amenity for the adjacent residential neighborhood and would be seen as a neighborhood amenity. Moreover, the Farmer’s Market will generate more activity and people for downtown, particularly on weekends."
Sources indicate that the bus station location has now been abandoned for the old Journal press building. Some vendors at the Farmer's Market are against the plan and would like further investment in the current historic location instead.

Uptown Reinvestment purchased the Journal building and the printing facility shortly after the newspaper moved to a smaller location on Saginaw Street.

The rumors prompted an update on the Farmer's Market Facebook page today:
Some questions about have been tossed around regarding the Market moving. A proposal was put forward at an Uptown Reinvestment Corporation board meeting to explore possible uses for the new and recently vacant Flint Journal press facility. One of about a dozen options listed was the Flint Farmers’ Market. The board will be working to identify the best use of the space and will be seeking input from the community at large and the organizations that may be considered as future tenants. At this point we are just one of many options and once we have more information we will communicate with all of our stakeholders. Thank you for your understanding, we hope this helps clear up an confusion.


  1. The Mott Foundation backed a project called AutoWorld. Why wouldn't they get behind moving the farmer's market?

    1. Actually ruth Mott foundation and uptown are best of buddies and both want the market to move. This is a horrible idea and people need to protest the move before they put all the vendors at the market out of business.

  2. I know of some people now who don't go into Flint because they've reinstated metered parking. So it's obvious that Flint isn't trying to give people incentives to come downtown as it is.

    If this reinvestment firm was smart, they'd try a new day in the new venue thereby creating a satellite farmers market model on a different day. Then they would see their market in the new location, because it would be added value to an already amazing model.

    My guess, is that no one would come. They are trying to repair a neighborhood on the East side that's been cut by an expressway. No one wants to walk across an expressway to get their groceries.

    I do see the need for groceries downtown however, so I think a smaller satellite model is the best way to proceed. If they come, then you can grow.... but they should start small... not rip apart what already is successful.

    1. Metered parking is only on Saginaw St (and on some of the perpendicular streets for about 1 block) during weekdays (before 6 pm at that). Parking is free everywhere on evenings and weekends (they often leave the Rutherford gates open too), and parking is free on any side street during the weekdays.

      Nothing wrong with trying to create a little revenue along 'high-demand' parking corridors. During the day, I park for free on Beach or Harrison and walk the one block. At night, there are always spots open on Saginaw.

    2. Will the Farmer's Market be open at night? That would be different.

  3. I can see the upside as it would pull more people downtown, but there's also a few down sides, given the hassles of dealing with downtown, especially on the Tuesdays and Thursdays they are open.

    I get out of work at 4:30, and the market is usually winding down for the day by then. It's easy where it is to go there quick, park, and get what I need before they close up. If I'm looking at trying to find a parking spot, and going further across town, I'm probably skipping my trip there on the weekdays.

  4. I would hate to see anything happen to this vibrant and awesome farmer's market. I moved to Virginia Beach in 2002 and you would think with the wonderful weather we have here that it would have an awesome farmer's market. It's awful. I miss the Flint Farmer's Market. I truly wish VA Beach would take a cue from what they're doing up there and change the state of affairs here. They try, but it doesn't hold a candle to Flint.

  5. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

    Leave well enough alone.

    Never revise a running system.

    Don't change a winning team.

    Etc., etc.

  6. I should point out that there are two press plants buildings on the previous Flint Journal site. So say the old press plant is not accurate based the statement: "new and recently vacant Flint Journal press facility". So they are talking about the newer press building, not the adjuct press building along Harrison Street.

    Also, the site comes with its own parking lot.

  7. Update, Vendors have been told to either get on the bus or stay home!!Must make financial commitments by the first of the year!!Have been told this is in the best interest of downtown and that is all that really matters.

    1. That's very unfortunate.

      Even the darkest clouds are pretty under the right circumstances, though. It'll be a great opportunity for Fenton.

  8. I see this move as positive. It is currently 1 block from Chavez, and if it moves it would be... 1 block from Chavez. So you would not have to come in to downtown if you did not want to. It would also be an update for the power in the current building, which is not new to say the least. It would be one block from the UM-Flint dorms, and 3 blocks from the Riverfront student housing. So more student friendly. Also it would be 2 blocks from S Saginaw street. Speaking as someone who works downtown, I know I'll be going to eat there more often and popping in to grab a banana or something healthy for lunch.
    I know many people have an attachment to that space, but the market is more than a building. To me it's just the market coming back home to where it started.., in Downtown Flint.


Thanks for commenting. I moderate comments, so it may take a while for your comment to appear. You might enjoy my book about Flint called "Teardown: Memoir of a Vanishing City," a Michigan Notable Book for 2014 and a finalist for the 33rd Annual Northern California Book Award for Creative NonFiction. Filmmaker Michael Moore described Teardown as "a brilliant chronicle of the Mad Maxization of a once-great American city." More information about Teardown is available at www.teardownbook.com.