It’s a project that has been a long time moving from the napkin to the planning board, but the concept of creating a permanent downtown market is slowly moving to reality.
Though it was identified as a project for the Vibrant Penticton downtown revitalization, the idea of converting the old Ellis Street bus barn into a year round public market predates the revitalization committee’s work, according to Barb Haynes, executive director of the Downtown Penticton Association and co-chair of the revite committee.
“Cal (Meiklejohn) and I were drawing on napkins about three years ago, looking at how many ways we could do this in different spots. The bus barn, that wasn’t a thought at the time,” said Haynes. The idea of using the bus barn, she said, came out of a conversation with Mayor Dan Ashton.
Haynes said the downtown is lacking in grocery, but considering the number of grocery stores in the city, it wouldn’t make sense for one of the chains to open another in downtown. But a public market, something that is already successful on Saturday mornings, could address the issue.
“The concept is a Granville Island-style market. That is what we are looking to create; it would provide unique grocery opportunities right here in the downtown. The market won’t be somewhere that you can buy your toilet paper or kitty litter, you are going to have to go elsewhere for that,” she said, adding that it would be, however, a place where people could shop for artisan cheeses, local fruits and produce, fresh herbs and spices, and similar products.
“Think Granville Island, Pike Place Market… some of those. Ours will obviously be on a much smaller scale, but that is the concept behind it, to really create that gathering place, very similar to the Saturday markets,” said Haynes, adding that the year-round market wouldn’t be competing with the farmers’, artisans’ and community markets that take place Saturday mornings from spring through fall.
“It will be open seven days a week but not Saturday mornings to make room for the Saturday market and in particular, the Farmers’ Market,” said Haynes. “The Saturday markets will stay as they are. Our community loves their markets for a lot of reasons, they love to come shop downtown … socialize with their friends, listen to the buskers and the entertainers and that will stay just as it always has and in fact, grow every year”
The DPA has begun fundraising to get the project rolling, asking for a letter of support from the City of Penticton to back their grant application for $160,000 in matching funds from a Western Diversification fund aimed at community infrastructure improvement.
If the DPA bid is successful, the city would need to commit matching funds in order for them to be able to access the funding, which could be used to cover rehabilitation costs for the structure, consulting costs for professionals and technical experts, signage and other direct costs relating to the success of the project.
“It is one of those opportunities that if the DPA doesn’t pursue it, we will never know. I think we have as good an opportunity as anyone,” said Coun. Judy Sentes, one of council’s representatives on the downtown revitalization select committee.
“The outcome would be phenomenal, to see that bus barn become a year round market.”