Edmore Downtown Development Authority (DDA) is moving one step closer to developing the Edmore Marketplace as a four-season shopping outlet. Further expansion on the site — located at the Fred Meijer Heartland Trailhead — hinges on the site survey, bid amounts and grant funding.
Scheduled improvements to the farmers market area — funded by a nearly $60,000 Department of Agriculture Development Grant as part of the Farmers Market Promotion Program — include grading, advertising with signage and printed material, hiring a market manager, creating a website and purchasing an ice machine for fresh produce. The DDA also hopes to build a metal-roofed canopy over the entire farmers market area this fall.
The location includes a large picnic pavilion, restroom facilities and the historical General Bag Corporation building, which was reroofed by Amish workers late last year. Upcoming plans are to partition the old 30,000-square-foot bag factory building into 40-some shops, which will feature turn-of-the-century merchandise, crafts and hand-crafted products.
The DDA is awaiting word on another grant — a Community Development Block Grant — to fund the remainder of the project, which includes updating electrical and partitioning the interior of the General Bag structure. State Rep. Rick Outman (R-Six Lakes) is working hard to help with the grant procurement, Edmore DDA President Jack Miller said.
Miller anticipates receiving news on the grant award by October. Grant recipients must have matching funds of 20 percent. The DDA’s current $150,000 General Fund reserve qualifies for grant funding up to $750,000.
“We need those cash reserves in place to have the matching funds,” Miller said. “The matching funds let people know you’re serious and you have resources available and that you’re committed to the project.”
Miller said they’re proceeding with caution to keep the 20 percent intact, knowing the potential for hidden project costs exists.
“It’s easy on a public project to underestimate your costs and then overshoot your money,” Miller said. “To be prudent in a public project, you have to be patient. There’s got to be clarity and we have to be certain. Once we know what our costs are and we know we have the money, then we spend it.”
Fleis and VandenBrink Engineering, based of Grand Rapids, is preparing the site elevation survey and blueprints for the project. It’s important to have the elevation grade situated so the water run-off goes into the Edmore Village storm drain system, according to Miller. Once the plans are in place from the engineers, the DDA will secure bids.
“Once we get the site work and borings, we’ll see where our budget is and possibly we can construct the farmers market this fall and still have enough cash reserve,” Miller said.
Market manager Aaron Hadley is certain market improvements will serve as an attractant for vendors. Hadley had a glimpse of a larger replica of the future Edmore Marketplace at a recent visit to the Fulton Street market in Grand Rapids.
“After visiting the Grand Rapids market, it is quite exciting to see what can be done with an all-weather facility with electricity,” he said. “That’s our goal, anyway, only on a smaller scale.”
The farmers market is open from 4 to 7 p.m. on Tuesdays and 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Fridays. Hadley expects to see more vendors as the local growing season progresses.
“We hope to have at least 12 (vendors) each week,” Hadley said. “Right now, it changes from week to week. As strawberries and other crops are harvested locally, we look for even more participation.”