EDMORE — Slow and steady.
That’s how Edmore village officials have been approaching a longterm project to transform a historic former factory into a year-round market and tourism destination.
The Edmore Downtown Development Authority (DDA) is developing the former General Bag Corp. building and property into a four-season shopping outlet at the Fred Meijer Heartland Trailhead
Improvements are being partially 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.
Edmore Village Manager Karl Kluwe said the amount of vendors at weekly farmers market doubled this summer to as many as two dozen.
Amish men from northeast of Edmore were hired to complete a $90,000 roof project on the old factory building, which included taking the old roof off in sections, removing decking and rafters and installing new hand-sawed rafters, a support system and decking with insulation, along with a new metal roof.
“They took white pine from the area, milled it themselves and engineered it in the Amish craftsman way,” Kluwe said. “We’ve got the roof to secure the building, now we can focus on getting the outside work done.”
Ongoing outside work includes a major drainage and elevation project being done by Foors Services Inc. of Vestaburg, which submitted a bid of $42,900. Two weeks ago, workers began digging through several concrete foundations in the front of the old factory in order to lay a new drainage system and elevate the land. They are expected to be finished with the project by mid-December.
“It was quite a process,” Kluwe said. “We wanted to get this done before the snow flies. We’ll see where we are with possible grants. I would say by fall of next year we should have the outdoor part of the market up.”
The goal of having a year-round market on the property will not likely be a reality for six or seven years. The location includes a large picnic pavilion, restroom facilities and the old 30,000-square-foot bag factory building, which will one day be transformed 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 to fund the remainder of the project, which includes updating electrical and partitioning the interior of the factory structure. 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, according to DDA President Jack Miller.
“We’re keeping things stable and financially sound, making sure that we keep making steady progress,” Miller said. “We don’t want to overstep our finances. We positioned our finances so that if grant money becomes available we’ll be in a position to receive it. We feel it’s a worthy project and in the long term it will help Edmore by providing jobs and recreation and other opportunities. Like any project, it has to be sustaining in some form. Our goal is to make sure that it’s going to work and that it’s sustainable and will endure for the long run.”
If the grant is not approved, the project will continue to move forward, but may take up to 10 years, instead of six or seven.
“It’s a longterm project,” Kluwe summarized.