City Leaders, Vendors Differ on Dallas Farmers Market Plan

Private developer plans for a new Dallas Farmers Market that were unveiled Wednesday thrilled city leaders but raised concerns among vendors.

The $64 million project would add apartments, restaurants, stores, a parking garage, athletic fields and public gardens to the fresh food market, most of it with private investment.

"I'm more excited about this than any of the other proposals I've seen for this area," Councilwoman Sandy Greyson said. "I think this one has a real chance of success."

The city plans to sell most of the 12-acre site to the development group, which includes housing, restaurant and marketing specialists.

One of the existing produce sheds and all of the streets and plazas would remain city property. The shed would be renovated to add more stalls and remove inside covered parking, and produce vendors would be consolidated in that shed.

Two other sheds where produce is currently sold would be demolished and replaced with more than 200 apartments and a parking structure for residents and visitors.

The city has invested millions of dollars on past market improvements, but it still operates at a loss.

Jim Ingendorf owns a wholesale produce distribution warehouse across Harwood Street from the market.

"This farmers market has been steadily going down here for the last six years and has been really going down for the last six months," he said.

Ingendorf's warehouse backs up to The Bridge, a homeless shelter that has been a source of concern for market neighbors.

The city plans to move The Bridge entrance away from the market to help support the revival plan.

"What is proposed is going to be a tremendous help to what is currently going on here," Ingendorf said.

But vendors said they fear they will be shut out of the new market.

Benny Rubio, whose family has sold produce there for three generations, said developers and city officials have not been open about how vendors fit into the new project.

"This is what I've done since I was a baby and what I'm continuing to do, and the only thing that we want is opportunity," he said. "We want to be a part of this place."

City officials said fresh foods would still be the center of the market and the main attraction for the rest of the development.

"This is going to create a successful situation for everyone because, right now, the farmers market is not the destination that we want it to be," Councilwoman Angela Hunt said.

Ingendorf said most of the remaining produce vendors are now dealers, saying very few actual growers come to the Dallas market to sell their products anymore.

"They go to other markets and I think the business model here is to bring them back to this one," he said.

City Council votes on elements of the plan are scheduled over the next few weeks. Sale of the land is scheduled in July.

Completion of the project would take years.

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