Eat Drink RI Central Market would be somewhat similar to the soon-to-be-open Boston Public Market
By FRANK CARINI/ecoRI News staff
PROVIDENCE — The only locally sourced year-round market of its kind in the United States is scheduled to open July 30 on Hanover Street in Boston. David Dadekian, the founder of Eat Drink RI, wants to open a similar market here. But first, he needs a location.
Before he can start meeting with potential investors, Dadekian said he needs to know how much it will cost to build from scratch or renovate an existing structure. The latter option is likely out of reach, he said, since most available buildings in Providence are in bad shape.
The local food economy advocate has three locations in mind: the “Shooters” site at the head of Narragansett Bay; a parcel on the I-195 land; and a West Side property. He’s waiting for the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) to release a request for proposals (RFP) for the Shooters site.
About 60 miles to the north, the Boston Public Market will be selling locally produced food five days a week, and will give patrons an opportunity to taste and learn about New England’s bounty. The 28,000-square-foot market above the Haymarket MBTA station will feature some 200 small food businesses. Everything sold at the market will be produced or will originate in New England, according to Boston Public Market CEO Liz Morningstar.
Dadekian’s idea is largely modeled after New York City’s Chelsea Market and the Ferry Building Marketplace in San Francisco, and would feature primarily local products. He said the new Boston market’s business plan is interesting, and the store will be good for the region. He also said he likes how the Boston Public Market has incorporated education into its mission.
Morningstar has said the Boston Public Market — some 15 years in the making — is a civic resource that will educate the public about food sources, nutrition and preparation. In addition to 35 vendor stalls, the market will include a 3,200-square-foot demonstration kitchen, and Morningstar has predicted the market will support more than 200 jobs and provide a home for the local food economy.
“People get it,” said Dadekian, referring to the public’s growing understanding of the importance local food plays in terms of both economics and health. “Local food is building a food tourism industry.”
Dadekian believes an indoor market in Providence would boost Rhode Island’s economy, increase the overall health of the population and reduce the state’s carbon footprint. The 2014 Rhode Island Foundation Innovation Fellowship recipient’s plan is to create a centralized culinary hub — a complete business-to-business and business-to-consumer center and a tourist destination.
The Rhode Island Foundation awarded Dadekian $300,000 to start putting his idea into action. To find a market location and navigate the world of development, Dadekian has been working with Eric Busch, a local real-estate planner and consultant.
Besides the three sites currently under consideration for the Eat Drink RI Central Market, Dadekian and Busch also looked at the Superman Building on Westminster Street and the Cranston Street Armory. Neither works for different reasons. Dadekian said it’s cost-prohibitive to bring the Armory up to code, and the Superman Building’s location isn’t made for deliveries and lacks parking.
“They are both cool, iconic buildings, but they don’t make sense for us,” he said.
Located in downtown Boston’s emerging Market District, next to the Haymarket pushcart vendors and the historic Blackstone Block, the Boston Public Market sits on the Rose Kennedy Greenway and the Freedom Trail. On-site bicycle parking is available and two Hubway stations are nearby. The market’s Hanover Street location was built as part of the Big Dig, and the ground floor had been vacant for 12 years.
The Boston Public Market is a public-private partnership made possible with the support of the state and the commitment of some $9 million in private philanthropy from many donors, including the Henry P. Kendall Foundation, the John W. Henry Family Foundation and the Manton Foundation.
Dadekian is hoping to create a similar partnership and market here.
“We need to keep the momentum going,” said Katie Kleyla, Eat Drink RI’s director of development. “The need and desire for a market like this in Providence has been acknowledged.”