KELOWNA - The days of jaywalking across Dilworth Drive to shop at the farmers' market are coming to a close.
After ten years of discussion, Kelowna will finally be getting a permanent, year-round, Granville Island-style public market. And for a city with some of the best growing conditions in the world, the time is ripe.
On the corner of Springfield Road and Dilworth Drive, just across the street from the existing parking lot site owned by Orchard Park Mall, will be a new market development complete with its own parking.
Green City Acres farmer Curtis Stone sits on the board of the Kelowna Farmers' Market Society and says the project is close to being a done deal with the City.
The negotiations have been lengthy, he says.
"There's so much red tape with these things," especially since the proposed site belongs to the Agricultural Land Reserve. The project has the green light from city councillors but is waiting on zoning approval before getting the development permit.
What exactly will the new market building have to offer?
Access to fresh, local produce from a green grocer seven days a week, in addition to larger market events. Stone expects the market grocer will buy food from local farmers, forming a coop, rather than having franchises or corporations set up shop.
Land use planner Greg Sauer says the buildout will happen in two phases: the first will be an open air venue and the second a permanent building structure.
That means more space for vendors and shoppers alike.
With trees and open green space, the new market will create a park-like atmosphere where people can hang out and relax. Stone says it will be a welcome change from the frenzy of the existing market, where "you get your stuff and get out... It's too congested in this parking lot."
Many vendors have to compete for a spot at the existing market.
"The lineup spills onto Dilworth," Stone says. Anyone from concession merchants to jewelry designers who don't have a season's pass for the market are currently lining up at midnight on Fridays to get in for the Saturday market.
And it's not just vendors flocking to the venue. Stone says their Kelowna market has some of the highest attendance numbers in Canada. In 2012 the Wednesday and Saturday markets pulled in $10.7 million for the economy with over 110,000 visits that year.
The benefits of having a market site can't be measured in the sale of fresh greens and carrots alone.
"It's a cultural experience," Stone says. With our fair share of strip malls and box stores in Kelowna, Stone says we could do with more multi-cultural venues.
"The farmers' market is very cultural," he says, with vendors from Palestine, Africa, South America and Europe whose work showcases a simple, time-honoured tradition: "You make something - you sell it."
As for the project's timeframe, Sauer says "it could be as little as a month away," but ultimately depends on how soon the applicant can secure the lease.