The city’s plan to build a public market, which would feature food and wares from local restaurants and businesses and create a strong downtown center, got a big financial boost Thursday from the federal government.

The U.S. Commerce Department announced it would award $3 million to the Dickinson Economic Development Corp. to help it a build a 30,000-square-foot building billed as the Gulf Coast Market.

The money is being awarded through the commerce department’s Economic Develop Administration. Federal officials and elected leaders said they expect the market to help Dickinson recover from the severe damage caused by Hurricane Harvey, according to a statement announcing the award.

“The Trump Administration is committed to helping communities rebuild in the wake of natural disasters,” Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross said. “The new market will help fuel a thriving small business hub in an area experiencing economic distress due to Hurricane Harvey.”

Congress set the money aside for hurricane recovery work under a budget bill passed in 2018. The city’s Economic Development Corp., which is funded by local sales taxes, is expected to contribute $1.3 million to the project, according to the federal government.

The market would help create nearly 400 jobs, the commerce department said.

The public market concept was first pitched to the public in January 2018. The city’s Economic Development Corp. and a private consultant described the idea as a public marketplace in the style of Seattle’s Pike Place Market that would feature locally-owned restaurants and stores that catered to organic and health-minded food sellers.

The project has churned through the city planning process over the past 18 months. The proposed site for the market changed from a former school building, to a 4-acre plot of empty land across from Dickinson City Hall.

There’s been some public skepticism about the public market and in March the city held a forum to allow residents to sound off about the proposal. At that meeting, City Administrator Chris Heard told residents the market, if built, would not increase property taxes. If the market fails, the debt would fall to the corporation, not the city, Heard said.

The city applied for a grant from the commerce department in March, said Alison Benton, the interim economic development director for the Dickinson Economic Development Corp. She and other city leaders learned about the commerce department’s award Thursday when it was announced in a press release, she said.

The grant doesn’t guarantee the market will be built, but it does help the project get closer to reality, Benton said.

“This is absolutely the start of helping people feel comfortable about continuing with the project,” she said. “It definitely gets us way past the thinking stages.”

The next step for the market project is to create an advisory board and to write a business plan for the market, she said.

City officials hope the market will be an economic engine for Dickinson, which was badly flooded during Hurricane Harvey in August 2017. The August 2018 dropped 50 inches of rain on the city, and flooded the bayous and creeks that flow east toward Galveston Bay.

Hundreds of homes were swamped by Harvey’s floods, as were around 160 businesses, according to the city. Most, but not all, of the flooded businesses have reopened, but the city is very much still recovering, Dickinson Mayor Julie Masters said.

The hope is that the market will be the start of a real downtown area for Dickinson, Masters said.

“We’d like to, like most cities, have a downtown center,” Masters said. “This project would really be a catalyst for that.”

John Wayne Ferguson: 409-683-5226; john.ferguson@galvnews.com or on Twitter @johnwferguson.


(7) comments

James Lippert

Another perfect example of government investing in a commercial project that many local private business people know is a poor bet. Millions of our tax dollars down the drain, a belly full of pork for the selected few and a failed business venture await.

Gary Miller

James> Catered to organic and health-minded food sellers. Sounds like the food police would prefer failure if they can't control. Let the market decide. That's the American menu for success.

Michelle Aycoth

Hope it works out for Dickinson they need something positive.

Andrew Aycoth

David Schuler

Four hundred semi-full-time jobs sounds great but at $15/hr suggests a annual payroll of Nine Million Dollars (30 hrs/week * 50 weeks * 15 dollars * 400 jobs). For that payroll to be viable, the entire complex and and related infrastructure would need to generate annual sales in excess of Eighteen to Twenty Million Dollars Does that pass the smell test? I say nay nay! This whole thing is patent nonsense that only the government would propose or fund. Just make sure enough funds are set aside to tear the thing down when it fails in five years.

Randy Chapman

Hey Julie Masters, why don't you fix the damn streets that are completely destroyed in Dickinson? It's been this way since Harvey, and nothing has been done, save throwing a few handfuls of fill into them, which has now eroded. The speed limit needs to be changed to 10 miles per hour on California due to potholes. Even better, if you can't fix the streets, de-annex the area and others until you find something you can do, and let the County maintain the roads. A good attorney could probably document the conditions, and start billing the City for negligence and damage to vehicles.

Chris Tucker

The Dickinson Public Market would be built by the Dickinson Economic Development Corporation which is primarily funded by retail sales tax revenue for purchases which occur in Dickinson. By state law the revenue has to be used for Economic Development and can not be used for any other purpose such as streets, ditch cleaning, infrastructure, etc. No City money would be used for the project so it would not negatively impact any efforts by the City for other services. The Public Market (and no it is a not a Farmer's Market) would generate additional sales tax revenue from people outside of our community which hopefully the City would use for the streets and infrastructure. It is viable and positive project which would not only enhance the quality of life in Dickinson but would bring us the sales tax revenue we so desperately need to improve our City. In regard to any issues you have with the Mayor and City Council I would suggest you attend the City Council meetings and sign up to speak in the Public Comments portion of the Council Meeting where you have 3 minutes to voice ANYTHING you wish without interruption. A couple of things....get there early enough to sign up, be concise, be respectful. Then stay for the entire meeting so you are aware of what is REALLY happening. Feel free to call or email the Mayor and City Council (their information is on the City website.) Oh yeah....go vote! Nothing is going to change unless you make your position known by voting. The Mayor and Council need to be repeatedly reminded who they represent.

Randy Chapman

The point being that Dickinson has it's priorities all screwed up. Nothing to do with where EDC money is spent. And yes, some infrastructure will cost the City money. Odds and ends are always there that have to be addressed with City expenditure. I really don't think addressing City Council or the Mayor needs to happen. They're aware, but just flat refuse to make the appropriate repairs.

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.

Thank you for Reading!

Please log in, or sign up for a new account and purchase a subscription to read or post comments.