Proposed year-round market in Providence would be like what Seattle and Philadelphia enjoy
By KIERNAN DUNLOP/ecoRI News contributor
David Dadekian has an idea that he believes would boost Rhode Island’s economy, increase the overall health of the population and reduce the state’s carbon footprint. The founder of Eat Drink RI and the 2014 Rhode Island Foundation Innovation Fellowship recipient wants to create a year-round marketplace in Providence that is equivalent to Pike Place Market in Seattle or Reading Terminal Market in Philadelphia.
“My plan is to create a centralized culinary hub for Rhode Island, a complete business-to-business and business-to-consumer center, as well as being a destination for visitors to Rhode Island,” Dadekian said. “This culinary hub would be integral to the way Rhode Islanders eat, and create a model for wider emulation in other regions of the country."
The Rhode Island Foundation awarded Dadekian $300,000 to start putting his idea into action. The fellowships are granted with the goal of improving Rhode Island’s economy. Although his project is still in its beginning stages, Dadekain has begun scouting possible locations and has hired a planner.
“We’re moving forward pretty well,” he said. “I think really the next big hurdle is financing.”
The search for financing will begin after a location is found. But Dadekian is hoping the Ocean State will rally behind the project, because of its benefits to Rhode Island, and help get it started sooner rather than later.
“If you look at what’s been going on over the last ten years, one of the only sectors in the economy of Rhode Island that has really grown is farming, restaurant food, and things all across the food spectrum,” Dadekian said. “Put all the food aspects together its been a dramatic growth, especially in the local food part of it.”
Dadekian, who is a member of the Rhode Island Food Policy Council, expects this trend to continue, with, what he hopes will be, the Eat Drink RI Central Market. He said such a market would create economic growth by creating new businesses and jobs, and by bringing more tourism to the state.
He also believes an increased focus on local food would decrease the cost of health care. It’s estimated that 67 percent of the state’s population is obese or overweight and that about 20 percent of Rhode Island’s health-care costs go toward treating the chronic illnesses that result. Dadekian hopes a central market would increase the health of residents by encouraging them to eat locally and to cook for themselves, rather than buying prepared processed foods.
Dadekian said he is about 85 percent done with the market’s final business plan, but it’s still too early to tell when or if the idea will become a reality. He already has been approached by existing businesses interested in opening locations in the market.
"Food will help Rhode Island grow,” Dadekian said.