City examining proposals for 17th Street Farmers' Market

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Changes are coming to the 17th Street Farmers' Market in Shockoe Bottom. We may soon know what those improvements will be and who will be making them. Last week, marked the deadline for engineering and architecture firms to submit proposals.

City officials are now pouring over those documents in response to a lengthy set of instructions. The goal is to turn the farmers' market into an "urban square that better relates to its immediate surroundings."

"We've got huge potential down here," said Shockoe Bottom Neighborhood Association President and local business owner David Napier. "We've been waiting for it for a long time and to see it actually happening is just great."

The city's bid process is closed, so we don't actually know who submitted the proposals just yet.  You can get a good idea of the goals from the paperwork.

The city's request asks proposals to combat some current problems. Things like the fact that there is paid public parking inside the farmers' market, which doesn't exactly scream, "Hey, I'm a farmers' market for public use!"  Then there are issues with the structure itself. Critics say the roofs and the columns obstruct the views of buildings from one side of the street to the other.

Other problems the city lists include potholes, cobblestone streets and damaged sidewalks, which don't make it pedestrian-friendly.

The city has put aside $1.8 million for the project.  Officials say the space should be multi-purpose, accommodating public art, family activity, outdoor dining and festivals.

"I think it's going to be a game-changer," Napier added. "All of the things that we've wanted to get done in Shockoe Bottom, this could be the catalyst for everything."

The goal is to have construction of the new farmers' market complete in the next two years.

It goes along with plans to transform the Main Street Train Shed and redesign Franklin Street.

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