Year-round farmers market to open at Electric Works

FORT WAYNE, Ind. — The Fort Wayne Public Market (FWPM) formally announced its formation and intention to become a tenant at Electric Works. The organization discussed its plans Monday at a public event in the former GE Club, where it also announced it has signed a letter of intent with RTM Ventures, the joint venture leading the development at Electric Works.

The Fort Wayne Public Market is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that grew out of collaboration between Young Leaders of Northeast Indiana (YLNI), Fort Wayne’s Farmers Market, and the City of Fort Wayne’s Public Market Taskforce. The primary goal of the FWPM is to implement and operate a year-round, permanent, indoor-outdoor public market in downtown Fort Wayne.

The FWPM board of directors have been meeting regularly since May 2017. In September 2018, the FWPM plans to assume administration and management of both the Fort Wayne Farmers Market and the YLNI Market. The two existing markets currently operate on Saturdays during the summer, on the southeast and northeast corners of Wayne and Barr streets, respectively. By joining forces under the governance of the Fort Wayne Public Market, both downtown markets will expand their capabilities to better serve the Northeast Indiana community.

“The overwhelming success of the current Saturday markets has shown that Fort Wayne is ready for something bigger,” says Jered Blanchard, President of the Fort Wayne Public Market board. “By moving into a permanent location at Electric Works, we hope to create an exciting and unique destination for regional residents. With this move, the engaging, friendly culture of the farmers market can be experienced all week long, in any weather. It also lets us provide many more opportunities for local farmers, vendors and entrepreneurs.”

The FWPM board chose Electric Works because it was centrally located, easily accessible and could be built to accommodate a wide variety of needs. It also offers flexibility as the market grows and increases food access downtown.

“Great cities have great public markets. We welcome the Fort Wayne Public Market to Electric Works, as an important part of creating a thriving and vibrant district in the heart of the city, ” says Jeff Kingsbury of the development team. “Partnering with committed community organizations like Fort Wayne Public Market, Electric Works can help address community health as a key to Fort Wayne’s continued revitalization—and this is an important step toward that vision.”

Mayor Tom Henry said it was exciting to see even more than interest, with the formal letter of intent. “That usually means that there’s someone there that really wants to do something, so that’s great. It’s real good news.”

Blanchard said although it isn’t a grocery store, it addresses that need developers and city leaders often hear from people downtown. “We recognize that Fort Wayne has food deserts and the access to fresh local food is limited.”

He said they have to make sure the days they decide to be open will work with the vendors. “It’s a big jump for vendors to go from one day a week to multi-days. So we want to make sure that we’re able to grow with them.”

Boards members said it’s a way for those vendors travelling to stay in town. “We’re excited that they can be in Fort Wayne all week long. It’s really exciting,” Stephanie Veit said.

The two existing downtown markets will continue to operate independently until September 2018. Until construction is complete on the Electric Works campus, the Fort Wayne Public Market will remain on Barr Street during the summer.