By CHELSEA DAVIS Courier staff writer
---- — OTTUMWA — Market on Main is one step closer to being realized.
Two years ago, Market on Main received a $500,000 Community Development Block Grant from the state to create a “sustainable community demonstration project.” The 12,000-square-foot facility, located at 327 and 331 E. Main St. (formerly the “Plum Crazy” building), is undergoing renovations that include interior gut rehabilitation as well as exterior improvements.
All excess expenses are the sole responsibility of the Ottumwa Property and Redevelopment Company (OPRC). In its entirety, the project is expected to total $1.2 million, though the project has already received that amount in donations from nearly 20 different organizations, grants, foundations and individuals.
At the City Council work session Monday night, the council unanimously approved the plans, specifications, form of contract and estimated cost for the market’s rehabilitation.
“Why this is important is not only looking at food insecurity issues, but how far families have to travel to find food, and also supporting local ag and food producers,” said the market’s director, Heather Ware.
Once completed, the year-round farmers’ market will house 15 “market booths” for local vendors, farmers, producers and artists.
The static market will function “as close to a full service as possible grocery store downtown,” Ware said, helping to eliminate downtown’s status as a food desert, where “access to food is not available within a half-mile radius,” according to OPRC.
Five hooded spaces will give small business entrepreneurs help in developing business plans.
“This will help them through that initial period of opening a business,” Ware said.
A commercial kitchen will be available for all vendors for food preparation as well as seminars provided by ISU Extension. The educational kitchen will be used for cooking demonstrations and, obviously, educating the public about the market’s products.
The final piece is the outdoor green space, an area dedicated to live entertainment, social gatherings and raised-bed gardens.
Councilman J.R. Richards asked if there would be any possible negative impact on other local grocery stores, such as Hy-Vee or Fareway. But in fact, Ware said Hy-Vee is partnering with the market to work with the youth educational garden, providing a $5,000 grant.
Councilman Bob Meyers praised Ware, OPRC and the market’s volunteers for fundraising and working on gutting the market to cut construction costs.
“It’s had a very positive impact already,” said Councilman Brian Morgan. “A lot of local organizations and private citizens have banded together. The money that’s being raised and all that’s been done by you guys ... it’s taken any heat off of the city.”
The council also approved the appointment of Nick Klimek to the position of city planner, effective June 1, due to the retirement of Dave Shafer, who has been with the city since 1989. Klimek has worked for the planning department since 2010 and has worked alongside Shafer for the past two years to train for the position.
The public is invited to attend an input meeting on the Parks comprehensive plan as well as the city’s general comprehensive plan Tuesday and Wednesday, all at Bridge View Center.
The Parks plan meetings will be held at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday and 1 p.m. Wednesday. The general city meetings will be held 5-7 p.m. Tuesday and 5-7 p.m. Wednesday.