|Plans to convert the city-owned former Òbus barnÓ building on Ellis Street into a year-round indoor market have gained initial support from Penticton city council.|
Barb Haynes, executive director of the Downtown Penticton Association, said Monday plans call for the city-owned former "bus barn" on Ellis Street to be transformed into an indoor market.
The initial estimated project cost is $320,000. The DPA has applied for a $160,000 infrastructure improvement grant from the Western Diversification Fund, with the city being asked to match the amount.
Council has already agreed to advance $25,000 for construction drawings for the indoor market, with a final decision on the remainder on hold pending ratification of the 2013 city budget.
Haynes emphasized that the project will not require any tax revenues. City funding would be taken from "density bonusing" fees paid by developers for projects which exceed the maximum allowable floor area ratio permitted under city zoning bylaws.
The amenity contribution capital reserve, which was initiated a few years ago, now has $325,000 available for use.
Anthony Haddad, the city's director of development services, said city policy calls for 50 per cent of money in the fund to be allocated to public amenities (such as the indoor market) and the remaining 50 per cent to affordable housing.
Pending final budget approval by council, Haynes said it's hoped construction could start as early as January to get the former bus barn ready for public use.
"Right now the building is not a place that you would go in," she said. "There's grease pit and it's very much a bus barn."
Plans call for the large garage doors at the north and south ends of the building to kept open, along with a new main entrance way on the west side next to Penticton Creek.
Haynes said the indoor market proposal has gained a lot of community interest since being proposed as part of the city's downtown revitalization study and planning charrettes.
The indoor market would not compete with the popular Saturday morning community and farmers markets on Main Street, she said.
"It won't be open during the Farmer's Market, so Saturday mornings the markets will be open on Main Street, just as they always have," she said. "The bus barn wouldn't open until noon that day."
As part of their tenant package, bus barn vendors would be given an opportunity to join the community market on Main Street on Saturday mornings, if they wish.
Haynes added the indoor market will provide a venue for grocery purchases downtown. Downtown has been without a full-size grocery outlet since the Super Valu store on Martin Street closed in 2005.
Although there are a number of larger supermarkets elsewhere in the city, the likelihood of attracting another major chain store downtown seems remote at this time.
"The only way a grocery will happen in the downtown is if we put it together on a market style," she said.
The indoor market is also being viewed as a first step towards developing a special creekside cultural corridor along the north end of Ellis Street.
"We're looking at trying to establish that opportunity of creating Ellis Street as a cultural area," she said. "I think the bus barn market feeds into that beautifully Ð highlighting food and wine and that kind of activity that is very much a part of arts and culture."
Haynes is now into her last week as head of the DPA, before assuming her new role as general manager of the Challenge Penticton triathlon on Dec. 10.