Are you keeping up with the Parcel 7 public market debate? Parcel 7 is the 5-story building over the Haymarket T station with 310 parking spaces in a garage, an unoccupied ground floor and unused office space. Let’s review.
Sitting empty for years alongside the Rose Kennedy Greenway, Parcel 7 was designated a few years ago by State and City officials to house a “Public Food Market” on its ground floor, featuring “Made in Massachusetts” food offerings. The market space was chosen close to the Haymarket vendors (which would remain) and near the tourist traffic of Faneuil Hall. The offerings of local food would include vegees, cheese, fish, artisan bread and the like.
Last year, the State rejected two proposals for a public market on the ground floor of Parcel 7 based on questionable financial backing. WinnCompanies had proposed a market with 50 vendors and offered to move its own offices into the upper floors. Hersha Group, a hotel company, also proposed a market, Italian cafe, and a boutique hotel. Hersha wanted to add two more stories to the building. At the time, Banker & Tradesman thought the reasoning for the rejections was suspect and politically motivated (See Questions About For Parcels 7 and 9).
Then, just last week, the Patrick administration threw in $10 million ($4 million now, with the rest phased later) to get the space in shape for the food market, assumed to be setup by the nonprofit Boston Public Market Association. According to a Boston Globe article: “Given the $7 million it will cost to open, the public market association will have to raise millions, from either private sources or government grants, to start construction.”
Hmmm … it takes time to raise “millions,” and probably more than the 12-18 months targeted for opening.
The day after the State’s proposal to inject $10 million, the whole concept became more even complicated when the Boston Herald asked officials what exactly makes a market “public” and what happened to the idea of competitive bidding? On that point, the State’s MassDOT seemed to take a step back, saying “there’s “no guarantee” Boston Public Market will run the future 26,000-square-feet site.” The paper also raised a potential conflict of interest between Greg Bialecki, the State’s Secretary of Housing and Development who also happens to be a founder of the Boston Public Market Association.
Ok, so the Boston Public Market is going to raise “millions” yet it doesn’t even have a mandate for the site and the Mayor’s favored nonprofit has a potential conflict. This is the plan?
Syndicated columnist, Karen Cord Taylor, doesn’t care about a potential conflict. She argues in her column today that competitive bidding is well and good, but we all know the site is going to be designated for the Boston Public Market Association. They are good people that she knows, so let’s just get going before we end up with another Filene’s Hole situation. She even puts her money on the table. “Boston Public Market, since you need to raise $7 million yourselves toward this goal, I’m sending you $500 today to help in a small way. Readers, you should too.”
Maybe we should just listen to North End/Waterfront resident, Bob Skole, who wrote a letter today to the Herald entitled, Nothing in Store. Bob says the State and City should just forget the public market and put the long-awaited downtown supermarket there. Trader Joe’s looked at the site years ago.
“A public market at that site will be another politician-designed, greenie fiasco like the one in Portland, Maine. (Ed: which closed). The North End and West End neighborhoods have been pleading for a supermarket for years, and Parcel 7 would be perfect for a competitively-priced retailer, such as Trader Joe’s. The BRA, which seems to think it knows what’s best for all residents, insists a supermarket in the North End must be a giant, like Stop & Shop. But we will be pushing shopping carts in the Supermarket in Heaven before we get one.”
Now you are up to date on Parcel 7, at least until tomorrow’s news cycle. Go there to park or catch the Green/Orange line, but bring your own food for the ride because there won’t be any vegees, cheese or bread there for a long time.