The plan to open a year-round public market on 10th Street just south of downtown has fizzled.
A nonprofit entity that bought the former postal annex at 10th and Pierce Streets, and was behind the public market effort since at least 2014, declined to provide details. But spokesperson Kristin Williams offered a brief written statement Wednesday confirming the decision.
“Due to a variety of factors, it has become clear that now is not the time for the public market,” said Williams, who also works with the Sherwood Foundation. “As such, the board has decided to discontinue its efforts.”
Board members had been fundraising for years and had set a fall 2018 opening date. A Facebook page shows renderings of the proposed Tenth Street Market and said it was to provide access to fresh, healthy food from locally owned and operated businesses. It said the market would bring together people from all backgrounds, offering educational programs on food preparation and nutrition.
Vendors were to accept public benefits including food stamps. The marketplace was to be mostly indoor but also spill outdoors, and was to provide a gathering space for public and private events.
Already, $3.4 million had been raised to pay for the 67,000-square-foot structure and initial design and engineering work. Other fundraising had been underway — with a goal of $18.6 million.
Negotiations had started with “anchor tenants” essential to a public market, merchants such as a butcher, a baker and seafood supplier.
As late as July, Vic Gutman & Associates, as project manager, still was giving tours of the 108-year-old facility that served early on as a streetcar barn and, later, as the postal annex. Vic Gutman, who organizes area farmers markets, planted the seed for the public market and helped assemble the nonprofit board.
Williams did not elaborate on plans for the structure.
“The Board of the Tenth Street Market is grateful for so many people who put time and effort into this concept,” said the statement.
Neither Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert nor City Planning Director Dave Fanslau was aware of the board’s decision, said a mayoral spokeswoman.
City Councilman Chris Jerram, whose district includes the 10th Street site, said he was not made aware of any change of plan, either. However, he said it would not be that surprising, given challenges including neighborhood demographic shifts that have made it more attractive for for-profit development.
With downtown grocer Patrick’s Market announcing its closing, Jerram said constituents are asking about options. Patrick’s at 1416 Howard St. was to close by the end of September.
Jerram said that at least two private developers have inquired about building a market in the downtown area that could lure a grocery chain.
Any new downtown store likely would not resemble those of west Omaha, Jerram said, but he said a smaller-scale neighborhood market seemed viable.