Farmers market relocation

The Waco Downtown Farmers Market moves to the McLennan County Courthouse parking lot Saturday as work starts on the market's riverfront home. The farmer's market is expected to return to the riverfront in 2019.

The Waco Downtown Farmers Market picked a big weekend to make its move from the riverfront to the McLennan County Courthouse parking lot.

The market will run from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday at 510 Washington Ave., just four blocks from the “Spring at the Silos” festival which is expected to draw thousands of visitors.

But farmers market officials say the more the merrier.

“I think it will be a wonderful opportunity for us to showcase what the market has to offer to local customers as well as to out-of-town friends,” market manager Kristi Pereira said.

The farmers market has typically drawn more than 2,000 people per Saturday to its old Webster Avenue location by the Brazos River, along with about 40 vendors. That site is now closing as the city starts a multimillion-dollar soil remediation project to prepare for a large riverfront development, but the farmers market is set to return to the area in 2019.

In the meantime, Pereira said she expects those vendors and fans to make the move to the temporary site, which will continue to offer a festival-like atmosphere with games, music and picnic tables.

The biggest challenge will be managing traffic and parking, she said. Pereira said there’s plenty of free parking for the new market site with the Dr. Mae Jackson Development Center building’s parking garage on Fourth Street and the McLennan County Archives Building, 215 N. Fifth St. available. Downtown and farmers market volunteers will assist with signs and directing traffic.

Still, she said, “I think it will be a little congested for the first couple of weekends.”

“It will take some practice, but that was the case at the old location,” Pereira said. “Eventually everyone will figure it out.”

She said she is encouraging regulars through social media to cycle or walk to the market if possible. Another option is to take the new Silo District Trolley, which makes stops on Austin Avenue.

Megan Henderson, executive director of City Center Waco and a member of the farmers market board, emphasized that visitors should not park in private lots, such as those serving Café Cappuccino and the ALICO Building.

“We want this to be a good experience not just for the vendors and customers but the part of downtown they’ll be entering,” Henderson said.

Meanwhile, the city has already started cleaning up the riverfront site where Catalyst Urban Development is set to begin a three-phase project late this year.

The city has pledged up to $8 million to clean old waste buried at the site, but City Manager Dale Fisseler said he’s hopeful the cost will be much less. Fisseler said city officials plan to coordinate the cleanup so less work has to be done on the footprints of the new buildings.

“We figure that’s smarter than trying to give them a completely clean site,” he said.

Fisseler said the first phase of the development, which includes restaurants, shops, interior streets, a parking garage, apartments and a renovated farmers market site, is due to be complete by late 2019.

Henderson and city officials said they expect to hold public meetings late this spring on the design of the new farmers market and other public spaces at the development, which is called Brazos Promenade.

Pereira, the market manager, said she hopes the public will continue to support the market in the meantime.

“We will definitely miss our spot down by the river,” she said. “There’s no denying it’s one of the most beautiful markets in the state of Texas. But given the circumstances and the fact that we are supposed to return, the courthouse area is a wonderful relocation spot.”

J.B. Smith is the the Tribune-Herald managing editor. A native of Sulphur Springs, he attended Southwestern University and joined the Tribune-Herald in 1997. He and his wife, Bethany, live in Waco and have two children.

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