Hamilton Farmers Market on the afternoon of September 17, 2022 at 2:24pm. Credit: Joey Coleman

A decision on renovating or moving the Hamilton Farmers Market will be considered later this year.

City councillors voted 14-0 today to hear more from Market vendors and stakeholders on a consultant’s proposal to renovate or move the Market.

The Farmers Market Board of Directors will discuss the report at its next meeting on June 5th at 5:00 p.m. at City Hall.

The decision follows the tabling of a fourth consultant report on the future of the struggling downtown Hamilton market, which has been plagued by misbehaviour and non-compliance with rules by a few long-time vendors.

Council is being asked to spend $200,000 on a new consultant to provide options and costs to renovate or move the market.

During a meeting Monday, councillors expressed strong support for the Market and a willingness to spend money to support it.

Councillors are concerned regarding how the Market will fare during the coming years as construction projects occur in the surrounding neighbourhoods and streets.

There will be the development of the Downtown Entertainment District, condos built at the soon-to-be-demolished City Centre, and the construction of light rail transit on King Street.

“There’s not a lot of institutions within the City of Hamilton that are 185 years old,” says Ward 10 Councillor Jeff Beattie. He says the City should be “prepared to take a small loss in the beginning” by funding improvements to attract more revenue for the Market.

Ward 2 Clr Cameron Kroetsch agrees with the consultants that the physical design of the Market needs to be improved.

“There’s so many nearby things that are going to change physically here in the very near future,” he says, adding “the timing makes sense” for an updated design and vision for the Market.

“I am glad we are turning the page,” says Ward 7 Clr Esther Pauls on the new direction.

Pauls was the sole Councillor on the Market Board during COVID and reminded everything that the old Council denied Market vendors access to COVID rent relief funds.

“I want to do whatever it takes for the Market to thrive, not just simply survive,” says Ward 9 Clr Brad Clark.

Pending Construction Challenges and the Market

“The next 10 to 15 years will not be good to the Market,” he says of upcoming construction projects.

Clark wants to look at different temporary locations for the Market, including the foot of James Street at the waterfront or the Pier 8 Discovery Centre, as a construction mitigation strategy.

“I’m hoping that our staff are looking for those temporary locations because if it is the intent to leave the market as it is during the construction phase, I fear we’re going to lose more vendors.”

Market Governance Needs to Be Solved

The Market needs a “champion” on City staff, says Mayor Andrea Horwath. “If we do not have someone passionate with the reins, it will be done at the side of somebody’s desk.”

Clark says Council needs to have a pending separate report on Market governance done before working on the visioning of the Market’s future.

“In the ideal world, we would be looking at governance and resolving that issue. And then, with the new governance structure, going through a mission and vision strategy.”

“I think it is premature to spend $200,000 without having [the governance] study.”

Is There a Future for Farmers at the Downtown Market?

Clr Beattie, a farmer himself, says, “The farmers, the actual agriculturalists. They only want to be at a farmers market one day a week” because direct-selling farmers prefer to move between multiple markets each week.

“They travel throughout Southern Ontario. They’ll do this town or city on this day, a different town, a different city on another day. And that’s how they’re geared to operate.”

The consultants note farmers prefer outdoor markets, “where they can just pull up their pick-up truck and ideally backup to their space” with easy offloading and setup, says consultant Kurt Wheeler of Public Spaces.

It is a challenge for an indoor downtown market to attract farmers.

Beattie adds, “if you look at the roots of the market, it was never meant as a every day of the week proposition.”

The governance report is expected to arrive at Council during summer. The report back on this report is expected to be during the same meeting.

The Market will continue to operate with reduced COVID hours during summer.

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Published: May 9, 2023
Last edited: May 9, 2023
Author: Joey Coleman
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