While not endorsing a plan in Dickinson to build a public market at this point, city leaders should take the next step and start a formal planning process.
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 last month from the federal government.
The U.S. Commerce Department announced it would award $3 million to the Dickinson Economic Development Corp. to help it 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 in 2017, according to a statement announcing the award. Dickinson’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. That money, by law, can only be used for economic development and cannot be used for other projects, such as street repair.
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.
But we understand some people are skeptical, which is why the city and the Dickinson Economic Development Corp. should take the next step and create an advisory board to create a business plan for the market.
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. Pike Place Market is a neighborhood of hundreds of farmers, craftspeople, small businesses and residents that was formed more than 100 years ago.
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. The grant doesn’t guarantee the market will be built, but it does help the project get closer to reality, Benton said.
The city held a public forum in March about the concept.
The next step should be to come up with a business model and hold more public forums.
But if the federal government is willing to kick in $3 million, it seems there’s no reason for Dickinson leaders not to move forward.
• Dave Mathews