This post about the decision to move the Flint Farmers' Market originally appeared on March 8, 2013.
I'm happy to admit that I was definitely wrong about the economic perils of moving the market. Given Flint's history, I was reluctant to mess with something that seemed to be working. But I've been to the "new" market several times and it seems to be thriving and creating another positive place to gather downtown. And downtown is the obvious focal point for reviving Flint's overall economy. (If not reviving, at least making it somewhat less bad.)
This is a minor point, but I will say I find the new market's ambiance a little lacking compared to the old market. But that's probably just my fond memories of going to the market with my family talking there. The new market appears to have had a happy ending.
If you want to keep the historic Flint Farmers' Market from moving, sign this petition.
Why should former residents of Flint have a say in the future of the Farmers Market? Talk about making no sense at all.ReplyDelete
Flint has more former residents than current residents. Many of them have a very strong emotional attachment to the city, despite its well-documented problems. They are looking for ways to help their old hometown. Many of them still live very close to the city. They are looking for reasons to come to Flint and spend money. Given all its troubles, Flint needs all the help it can get. So I would say Flint Expats, especially those who live close to Flint or visit it often, should be included in the discussion.Delete
It's also worth noting that many of the individuals who make decisions about things like moving the Farmers' Market do not live in Flint. They live in Grand Blanc or Flushing or Fenton.
Flint's problems require regional, if not national solutions. It doesn't help to exlude people who have a real connection to the city, even if they no longer live there.
Market surveys show the majority of Saturday customers(which is the busiest day) come from the surrounding areas. To say they are not a part of the community would be a foolish idea. According to Tim Herman, the market averages 1700 customers a day and with the move it will average 3400 customers a day. Those numbers simply are not true. People need to ask themselves why spend 20 million on a move when a 5 or 6 million renovation at the current location would make more sense.Delete
My guess...the Market management should have better numbers...is that about 50% of the current customer base is suburban.Delete
This shouldn't be a democratic process, and it shouldn't be decided based only on social theory, or only on strategic plans to surround the Mott
Foundation Building with successful ventures and provide UM Flint students with access to fresh vegetables and a colorful place to visit. The key factor in this discussion should be: what do the customers want?
If 50% of the customers are suburban, and if some of them like the current location *because* it's a social island populated only by Market patrons who are socially much like themselves, and if the gain from new downtown customers would only partly offset the loss of suburban customers who would stop coming, the question must be asked: what percentage of business decrease would cause vendors to go elsewhere, and how much change to the customer base and vendor selection would it take to break the magic spell of success?
> According to Tim Herman, the market averages 1700 customers a day and with the move it will average 3400 customers a day. <Delete
Wowzers, that's hard to believe. What does that data count as a "customer"...a street person wandering through? Folks that walk through for visual fun but don't buy anything?
The number of bodies is relevant, but the important number is dollars spent. Vendors aren't there to deliver fun--they care about daily revenue. If they can make more money for the same work at a competing market, they'll move.
It's inescapable to me that this move is occurring for sociopolitical reasons related to Mott Foundation's preference for a nicer neighborhood around their building + UM Flint's desire for more student amenities + a triage approach to saving the best of Flint and semi-abandoning the rest...not because the Market is broken and needs fixing.
I guess as someone who both lives and works downtown, I see it from a different perspective. You are correct the the busiest day is Saturday. I think the idea is that the market will be busier the other days of the week after the move. As someone who goes during the week and not just the weekends, it's pretty slow there.. even in summer months. I think I can say better (since i'm right here) that once it moves, not only will it be busier, it may lead to opening more days. That can only help the vendors who are set up there as that is how they make a living. That is what a farmers market really is. Not a building, but a collective of small businesses that are making money to feed their family's.Delete
You are all hitting on the biggest concern many vendors have. What do the VERY LOYAL customers want? Will they follow vendors to the new location? Fair or not, some people simply will not shop in the downtown area. And, unfortunately, there are many homeless people who will want to hang out there--which is what put a McDonald's out of business. Can you think of any other city where a McDonald's can't survive?? Anyway, we're trying to be positive. But, this move could be a disaster. There has to be something going on behind the scenes. Why else would they want to mess with one of the brightest spots in this city? Most beloved market in the country. One of the Top 10 markets in the U.S. as rated by CNN. Come on! Don't move it, improve it!!Delete
The following numbers have been released by URC as their selling points for moving the market. Again I must state that these are URC numbers. 5000 workers and residents daily, 30000 students daily. One million visitors annually from downtown events. The market currently has 270000 potential retail customers annually. Now let's do some simple math. 5000 multiplied by 5 days gives equals 25000 potential retail customers a week. 25000 multiplied by 52 weeks gives you 1,300,000 potential customers annually. 30,000 multiplied by 5 equals 150,000 potential customers weekly. and based on 36 weeks 5,400,000 potential customers annually. Add the 1,300,000, 5,400,000 and the 1,000,000 together and you have URC's claim that downtowm Flint currently has 7.400,000 potential retail customers annually. The latest data I have from Genesee Valley is from 2009. They average 25000 potential retail customers a day. Using the same simple equations based on a 5 day week that translates to 6,500,000 potential retail customers annually. Based on Tim Herman's own numbers downtown Flint is a retail mecca. This is what they want the fine people of Genesee county to believe and the exact reason why retailers are NOT fighting to get in on the action.Delete
Most Flint Expatriates outside Genesee County are probably in Oakland, Macomb, Wayne, Livingston, Washtenaw, Ingham, Clinton, Lapeer, Kent, and Grand Traverse Counties, if they are still in Michigan. Other states would often include Texas, Florida, and California.ReplyDelete
This is hardly scientific, but this blog has had more than a million hits since 2007. After Flint, Grand Blanc has the highest number of hits. So there are a lot of folks living very close to Flint who have an interest in the city. They're not all in far flung locales. And many who are return to Flint periodically to visit family and friends.Delete
I reckon that a demographic breakdown of F.F.M. patronage would show Flint residents first of course, followed by residents of Grand Blanc and all of the other ring-suburbs.Delete
One of the F.F.M. management's jobs has to be to keep the Market so successful that a competing Market in Grand Blanc, much closer to that market-segment and to the Fenton area with their significant disposable incomes, isn't able to attract vendors away from F.F.M. A few vendor shifts might cause a "tipping point" shift in who's successful and who's not.
I'm sure if nothing changes with the existing F.F.M., other than progressive improvements, vendors won't willingly move. If however a move to downtown turns out to cause too many customers to stay away...well, I wouldn't roll the dice on that, but maybe the Uptown people are more into gambling than I am.
Uptown is rolling the dice for the benefit of their real estate investments, not for the benefit of their city. Most of these guys live in Fenton, Grand Blanc, and elsewhere.Delete
If the move turns out to be a failure, it is a huge loss for the city of Flint... but for Uptown just another bump in the road.
Former residents should do it to help those of us still here! Thanks!ReplyDelete
Messing around with one of the few local success stories,one that has withstood the tests of time,economic ups and downs,population shifts, and changing consumer tastes seems very risky.....if not foolhardy. Ask yourselves who wants this move,and why before you decide whether or not to sign the petition. If it ain't broken,don't try to fix it. Call me paranoid, but I can see this move going bad in the not too distant future.ReplyDelete
It's amusing that the March 8th MLive/FJ story about the move said that the two March 13th "community open houses" about the move are for "supporters to give suggestions for the new location".ReplyDelete
No need to get input from opponents as to whether the community wants this to happen, eh, Mr. Herman?
You are correct sir. This is all about a very small percentage of the community as a whole. It's hard to believe that Mr. Cannibal I mean Mr Herman has stooped has low as this. Resorting to cannibalizing another Flint neighborhood for the good of downtown. I hope some people start wising up to this guy!!Delete
Can't help but remember the same market studies that led to Auto World and (more importantly) the destruction of the I.M.A. Auditorium. How many of the same people are involved now?ReplyDelete
I get both sides of this discussion. The move probably has to do with the owners of the Market and the new building are the same. And I get that the Market has been there for 70 years. But the move has to happen.
The time and effort to renovate the current building doesn't make sense for me, for me, if it does for you, cool! But the bathrooms are a disaster. My wife doesn't even want to take my 5,3, and newborn inside them, and then there is the stairs or the cramped main floor stalls. Standing in line at the cheese stand is miserable in the middle of winter with 90 degree heat blowing on you, while 20 ft. away it's cold. And the parking lot is a mine field.
New building has better facilities, will be more spacious, and endless possibilities. Public meeting room, more venders, more variety. I get the nostalgia from the past, but we need to think about the future. The old building can still be renovated and used for something great. But the past is just that, the past. Let's do something that will attract more people downtown, maybe not what they are predicting, but more. Let's continue the trend of awesomeness happening, not hold on the great past we had that is now gone.
Operative summation: "Let's do something that will attract more people downtown".Delete
I don't think anyone suggests that the existing facility isn't old, and wouldn't benefit greatly from some investment. The new location will need investment, too; likely it's already had at least $2 million spent on it.
Obviously, though, this is a done deal...so I guess we'll see if this time, suburban shoppers have changed their minds about downtown.
Thank you, Jay. I agree with you on this. I love the Farmers' Market, but I've come to believe this move might be really good. I regret the process, which was made, apparently, without consultation -- but I think the possibilities are interesting, and I like the idea of the old Flint Journal building, a symbol of one "dying" business, being re-invented for something so lively and potentially robust.ReplyDelete
A few thoughts, most of which echo what's already been said:ReplyDelete
1. This decision was made by a small group of Flint movers and shakers with virtually no public input.
2. The half-hearted attempts to get input now are nothing but window dressing. This is a done deal. (Having worked in academia I can spot this a mile away.)
3. Given Flint's recent economic history, this is an extremely risky endeavor. I get no sense that any real research on consumer trends has been conducted. To a certain degree, this is a gamble, a leap of faith. (Yes, this sounds a lot like AutoWorld, which was orchestrated by some of the same forces pushing this move.)
4. For this to succeed, a large number of suburbanites will have to set aside their longstanding fears of downtown Flint. Flint's history of racial polarization will also have to be reversed, to some degree, to entice many suburbanites to visit a market downtown.
5. Once again, Flint is rejecting the importance of place and history in creating consumer loyalty. I believe many people go to the market because it's the market where their parents and grandparents went.
6. This isn't the market's fault, but Flint residents outside downtown feel they are being abandoned in favor of downtown interests. This does not seem to be a misplaced belief. Just take a stroll through Civic Park. (Also note that the current location of the market is being described as the "North End" or, in the Journal, the "North Side." This has long been code for many in Flint for an undesirable neighborhood with racial overtones. (Let's set aside the obvious fact that the old market is a few blocks away from the new one.)
7. Having said all that, this would be pretty great if the market thrived downtown. I think it's a risky move. I wouldn't do it. But I sure hope it succeeds. And if it doesn't, let's hope all the people who made it happen stand up and take responsibility for killing one of the rare Flint survivors. It's on them now. Again, let's hope for Flint's sake that this works.
I 99.9% agree with everything you've said, Gordon, but I have a quibble with the use of "racial polarization".Delete
Yes, Flint has a *history* of racial polarization. Clearly that was one factor in the suburbanization of Flint and thousands of other cities starting in the 1960s, along with the rise of the multiple-automobile family (which Flint helped create), economic effects as much of the working class became middle class, changed preferences in house styles, etc. But those considerations haven't been, and I don't think currently are, relevant to the Market.
The Market's clientele is racially mixed. It's also economically mixed. What it's not is social-group mixed. The present Market location is a "social island". Few people walk there, and no one passes through on their way to somewhere else, or ends up there because they don't have any better place to go. Everyone that shops at the Market at present is a *Flint-Farmer's-Market-type person*.
There are essentially no street people of questionable mental and physical state, and essentially no petty criminals. Purse snatchings and assaults are at least rare.
Yes, it's true that when suburbanites stopped going downtown in the 1970s, they probably noticed that some of the street people and petty criminals had skin tones differing from their own. The key to that situation, though, was that those suburbanites didn't like being around street people or exposed to petty criminals, and their generation's mobility gave them the ability to go somewhere else to shop, just as they'd gone somewhere else to live.
I think the history of the Market...racial and economic mixing with no one caring...proves that, at least among Market patrons, it's not about race.
The question, rather, is whether the Market's management has planned ways to operate such an open-boundary business while isolating their customers from street people and petty criminals, including in the parking areas.
I'm not completely optimistic, but I hope there's a willingness to give the new location a try. It'll only take one or two purse snatchings or some other social problem, though, to cause today's suburban shoppers to decide to shop somewhere else, just as their parents or grandparents did.
That's a good distinction to make. It's also important to note that while Flint had a long history of embedded institutional racism, personal relationships between blacks and whites has long been better than many cities, at least in my experience.(For a comprehensive and compelling examination of Flint's racial dynamics, check out "Demolition Means Progress," a dissertation and forthcoming book by historian Andrew Highsmith. A PDF is available online, or wait for the book from the University of Chicago Press.)Delete
I'm generalizing, but I have been surprised at the level of fear many suburbanites have for Flint. Maybe those folks weren't going to the old Farmers' Market, but I don't think it's useful to sugarcoat just how bad Flint's reputation is with many people.
Again, hope this move works. It will be great if it does. But it's a risky move.
Gordy you have the right attitude. Let's hope it works. No one wants to be more wrong than me.Delete
But I've been reading the comments online carefully all over the web, and the pro "move the Market" people have barely a leg to stand on. Especially now that it's been discovered the architect of the so-called "new market" is the wife of an exec at the Mott Foundation. There's your clear motive for moving the market. And why no public input was accepted. It didn't take long for that fact to be discovered.
I feel strongly that many who want to move the market are suffering from
group hysteria, or mass hysteria. It's a technical term meaning "collective delusions of threats to society that spread rapidly through rumors and fear."
I don't think we should deny the validity of the Golden Rule in regard to Flint over the many years that Mr. and Mrs. Mott, and then their Foundations, have been our benefactors: Those that have the Gold, make the Rules.Delete
They've paid for a vast number of good things around here over the decades. It's perfectly reasonable that there have been a small number (quite small, actually) of clinkers, too.
It is, after all, to a significant extent their money that we're talking about. I reckon that allows them to choose whatever architect they want.
I just hope that this project avoids anything like AutoWorld's crippled marketability of its quite nice, technically excellent Imax theater because the architect didn't think to provide for it to be closed off from the rest of the building and accessed via its own entranceway.
I have my fingers crossed that this project will be another of their many successes.
Not much more to add but this; I have severe misgivings about the move,but love Farmer's Market and hope it thrives in the new location. From my perspective the whole thing resembles the hue and cry over the move away from,and demolition, of the old Tiger Stadium. Nostalgia clouded my mind to the fact that it was really an old,poorly designed and inconvenient baseball park. The minute I entered beautiful Comerica Park the misgivings disappeared. I hope that happens to the market now.ReplyDelete
Agreed! I don't think this was the best way to make a decision on a successful enterprise with a rich history, but since it's been made, I hope the new downtown location is a success. If it does thrive in the new location, it will be a huge boost to downtown. Here's hoping for the best.Delete
For the record, it is the more modern former Flint Journal press building that the Farmers Market is moving to. Not the old Flint Journal building where I believe MSU is taking over.ReplyDelete
I like how everyone thinks a privately owned entity should consult the public before moving their operation. Thats like expecting Meijer to put it up for public vote everytime they open a store. It is not owned by the city, it isn't supported by taxes and would have been long closed if it was. If URC had not bought and and saved it, it would only be a memory. It is their market, they can put it where they want. The couple of vendors I have spoke to love the idea.ReplyDelete
Everyone says they don't want to go downtown, really? It is only one exit different off of 475 and just as easy to get to the parking lots, any of them. I for one will be just as likely to go to the market, and more likely to visit other establishments while I am there. The vendors that will suffer the most will be those in University Pavillion simply due to additional quick lunch options.
They are making agreements with the city of Flint, so they have opened themselves up to public scrutiny. (The city agreed not to allow competing farmers' markets in exchange for giving uptown Genesee Towers, for example.)Delete
And after Flint's experience with GM, you'd think you'd be a bit more suspicious of corporate interests.
Finally, if downtown Flint's so desirable, how do you explain the past 30 years?
Moving to an inside location, The farmers market will surely lose its "ambiance"..I think its a lousy idea , but I will still go . Its the only reason I EVER go downtown. Just as long as there continues to be one at all Ill be happy.ReplyDelete
That's sad that they are skewing the old site as the "north end"... I never thought it was the north end... even in the "scary suburbanite" definition sense.ReplyDelete
When you go to the old site, you remember being a child. It's nice to have that feeling in a city whose skyline has more movement than a great lake. But I too was for the old Tiger Stadium. I get it. I haven't been to the new stadium, but I do remember being able to walk really close to the field.. I couldn't afford the tickets in those first few seats, but I could walk by them for a view on my way to the back.
I wish the market success in its new location. BTW, did someone say that Uptown now owns Genesee Towers?
I find it ironic, that during a time when they are planning to move the Flint Farmer's Market - previously voted as "one of the best" probably more due to it's ambiance than product to a new, shiny, mostly indoor venue...that in Grand Rapids they are spending millions to create an new market with an outdoor area much like our current market...and a glass enclosed area to maintain an "outdoor feel". Now, since rarely do high profile things like this in GR fail, we must assume that they have 1) objectively done their market research and 2) have the support of their vendors, customers and neighborhoods. I wonder how they would react to abandoning a fairly successful market with such public outcry, just sayin.ReplyDelete
My husband and I go to the market nearly every week. I often go myself in the middle of the week. It's very convenient to the freeway (I-475). Easy in and easy out. No one seems to be addressing the problem with traffic movement/control at a downtown location, which is going to be horrific with only one lane each way and a left turn system that seems to confuse many.ReplyDelete
There is also the issue of parking. The latest report is that there will initially be 160+ spaces. That's ludicrous at best. I am not going to walk a half a mile or more to get to the new location.
The outdoor vendor location gives the market that "farm" ambiance. I can get the indoor "feel" at any supermarket. There are a great many small markets in other locals that we will visit and so will many others, not to mention the Farmer's Market in Detroit which is HUGE.
They will lose our business at the downtown location.
As a former Flint resident who now lives in Shiawassee County, I have grave misgivings with the number of free parking spaces being touted by the authors of this plan. I do not have the ability to take the bus in, so this will be a determining factor in whether I continue to frequent the market if it moves. Some of the lots offered seem to be U of M lots that require a permit. Perhaps they will be open on Saturdays, but what about the other market days? As for potential customers in the new location, figures can't lie, but liars have been known to figure.ReplyDelete
My understanding is that the new location will have about 50% fewer on-site parking spaces than the existing location.Delete
Some of the "greater number of parking spaces" are on-street spaces. Those spaces, however, aren't dedicated to the Market. Other persons visiting downtown for some other reason, or who work or live there, might be using them. This of course can be managed by adding fairly expensive per-hour parking meters...but how many FFM visitors will want to pay to park?
The rest of the "greater number of parking spaces" are in a UM-Flint lot, and will only be available on Saturday. I don't know if there will be a charge to park in that lot or not.
From day one there has been nothing but lies and deceit to the public and to the vendors. A underlying fear to speak up about what your true feelings are without any type of repercussions from the management group. There are many hidden agendas that will come out eventually and then people will understand the true reasons for this move to downtown. Do you really believe that Uptown Reinvestment is doing this out of the kindness of their hearts. Wake up is all I can say.ReplyDelete
I never thought Handsome Dick Ramsdell would become a toady for some square-azz Fentonian developers.ReplyDelete
Fight the power Dick, it ain't too late.
I think I know who wrote this. Signed your friend in BocaDelete
It's odd to call the Mott Foundation folks "Fentonian" as a slur.ReplyDelete
First, FFM's suburban customers are absolutely critical to vendor economic viability, no matter where the market is. It's not pro-FFM-marketing to slam the place where a key customer group lives.
Second, if the Mott folks were really Fenton-oriented, they'd just move the market...which, remember, at this point they effectively own...to a location south of Flint, where it'd be more convenient for the Grand Blanc and Fenton customers. *That* would be a Fenton-focused move. But that's not their plan.
Fentonian isn't a slur- many of those dudes from Uptown are from Fenton.ReplyDelete
Selling out to developers is weak. FFM should be a common and should stay put.
Dick is working for the man. Sad.
> FFM should be a commonReplyDelete
That's a good concept, and in fact it was City-managed until 2002. Unfortunately the City was running it into the ground, and it was on the way to closing because there was no more money to cover the losses. If Uptown Reinvestment hadn't taken over, covered the losses and brought in competent management--Dick Ramsdell--it'd be a boarded-up memory or maybe a vacant lot by now.
It's dysfunctional to argue against what provably works and in favor of an alternate approach that was tried and failed miserably. Per Santayana, those who do not learn from history would be doomed to repeat it.
I don't want FFM to move, either, but for sure I'm a big fan of the current competent management that's the reason we still have the Market at all.
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