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Hub food market could open in 2012

Design, management to be addressed after consultant is hired

By Casey Ross
Globe Staff / November 27, 2010

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Massachusetts officials next week will begin a study to determine the optimal design and management of a new public food market planned for a vacant building along the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway in downtown Boston.

The first step will be to hire a private consultant to conduct the study. The consultant will have until April 1 to make a recommendation.

Supporters want the facility to be a window into the region’s farming heritage and burgeoning food culture, featuring products from local growers, dairy farmers, ranchers, and seafood merchants, among others.

State officials said the consultant will host several public meetings to discuss design options and develop a financial plan that will determine how many vendors can operate and in what variety. The Patrick administration has committed to spend up to $10 million to help with the renovations of the state-owned building, which sits above the Haymarket MBTA Station at the corner of Blackstone and Hanover streets.

“It’s a great location for a very vibrant public market,’’ said Phil Griffiths, Governor Deval Patrick’s undersecretary of environment. “We don’t envision it being an extension of the tourist market at Faneuil Hall. We want it to provide fresh, local products.’’

After the consultant provides a report, state officials will hire a manager to operate the facility and a builder to complete the renovations. The market would open in the summer of 2012.

The lack of such a facility has long been considered a cultural black eye for Boston, one of just a few major cities in the country without a standing public food market for local products. Seattle has Pike Place; Philadelphia has Reading Terminal; Cleveland has the West Side Market.

Longtime supporters are urging the state to move swiftly to open the facility, saying it would provide a needed urban sales outlet for Massachusetts farmers and other food producers, many of whom rely on sales from out-of-the-way farm stands and local markets that lack the daily traffic of an urban location. The market’s planned site on the Greenway is adjacent to tourist magnets like Faneuil Hall.

“I think we have reason to believe Boston is an extremely strong site for a market,’’ said Donald Wiest, president of the Boston Public Market Association. “My hope is that the consultant can turn around the report on an efficient basis so the project’s momentum can continue.’’

The state has received four bids for the consulting contract, which is expected to cost up to $150,000. The bidders are: Project for Public Spaces of New York; Public Market Development of North Carolina; Market Ventures Inc. of Portland, Maine; and the Urban Marketing Collaborative of Toronto.

Casey Ross can be reached at cross@globe.com.