Downtown development leaves Crescent City Farmers Market searching for new home new

The Saturday morning market has been at Magazine and Girod streets for 20 years but is being displaced by a new development.

Unfortunately,this sort of situation is happening across the US, even with markets that have been diligent about making the case for their space. Here is some of the anecdotal background I learned when I joined the organization in 2001 and some that I experienced in my decade there.

When this location was chosen more than 20 years ago, the neighborhood was somnolent and even slightly sketchy. Some of the supporters were concerned about the supposed danger and even advocated for security to be on site every Saturday. Yet, the lack of attention is partly why the founders chose the location. That underused space would allow them to grow as needed in the first few years without too much intrusion on residential areas and could illustrate how markets were social spaces as well as economic drivers for the community. The use of the inside parking area made it especially appealing and allowed for the market to be bustling even when raining.  And of course, security staff was never needed.

As the market grew in size and attention, the founders made another decision: instead of expanding the space into the street or searching for larger spaces to host the Saturday market, the organization opened other markets in other locations, determined to serve as many neighborhoods as possible.  In the spring of 2000, Market Umbrella opened the Tuesday market Uptown which drew weekday shoppers who rarely made the Saturday market. That Uptown market also allowed senior centers and community centers to become partners as they could shuttle their clients to a regular market while they had staff to drive them and could use their new FMNP coupons (the market started around the time when the Senior FMNP began in Louisiana). The Saturday market however, continued to draw residents from across the city and was packed from end to end from the opening bell at 8 am ’til the closing bell at 12 noon.The owners of the lot even built a small permanent toilet for the market and repaired the roof of the indoor space.

In 2003, Market Umbrella added “Festivus, the Holiday Market for the Rest of Us” a fair-trade locally made craft market, held for three days every December next to the Saturday market.  Market Umbrella offered this non-food, pop up market as another way to animate the location and as a way to increase sales at the usually quiet December farmers market. Festivus was a success, drawing 2000 or more shoppers on most of its days, many of whom had never made it to the Saturday market before Festivus.

Even in 2005, Festivus was held for one post-Katrina day on December 10th; that highly successful market day also brought a never-ending succession of long-time CCFM shoppers asking when the market would return to the location. (CCFM was open as of November 22, 2005 but only at the Tuesday location uptown. The original location would return in March of 2006.)

Four or five years after the market opened,  the neighborhood added a major amenity: the D-Day museum opened down the street and quickly grew in size. That museum has added a series of regular weekend events and significant tourism to the corridor (and is now named the National World War 2 Museum) which has had both a positive and a negative affect on the market. It has been joined by  the Ogden Museum, and in the last few years, significant residential  development as well as blocks of retail and even a full-sized grocery store have been added to this old warehouse and office building area.

With all of that new activity, the reality may be that the market should have expected it would need a new location and begin to plan for it long ago. In other words, open-air farmers markets that operate on a handshake and disappear from sight as soon as the bell rings at the end of the market may need to seek out new underused space once enough permanent development becomes attracted to the space originally animated by the market. Or,  it may mean that flagship markets that are determined to stay in their original space may have to do a capital campaign to build some sort of permanent infrastructure and still may expect they have to negotiate for parking, event space and attention, which would require added staff savvy in lobbying and in working with neighborhood groups and developers. Either way, it seems to show the need for strategic planning and constant communication about location at a very early stage of market development.

CCFM has started to search for its new location and hopes to stay near to the original area. However it may not be possible, given the new demand. Either way, Market Umbrella has a new future in store.








What may also be helpful is for markets to do a location scan every five years,  checking in on the changes in the market area and maintaining an eye out for other locations. Source: Downtown development leaves Crescent City Farmers Market searching for new home |


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