Flint Farmers' Market: Flint, Michigan
In an area well known for being devastated by the exodus of manufacturing, the Flint Farmers' Market is a historical and cultural gem of the Flint, Michigan, community. The market is a unique place where members of the Flint community can come to shop for local, fresh and seasonal produce; meet friends; and be surrounded by the vibrancy of their community, the vendors and visitors in the market.
The Flint Farmers' Market is bordered by East 1st Street (North), East 2nd Street (South), Stevens Street (East), and Harrison Street (West).
From 1920 to 1940, the original Flint Market was operated in downtown Flint at the corner of Harrison and Union. Congestion created by the market became a nuisance to merchants so it was moved out of downtown to sit on the banks of the Flint River. For many years, the market flourished, but by the 1980s the quality of the market saw a decline in tandem with the automotive industry and the City of Flint in general. In the late 1990s, the market had become the home of a predominantly flea market-type business.
Beginning in the early 2000s, the revitalization of downtown Flint became the project of the nonprofit organization, the Uptown Reinvestment Corporation (URC). Over the course of 10 years, the URC worked to repair the reputation of the market. The success of the market is in part due to the confidence that was rebuilt in the community. This outpouring of confidence and support was the missing piece that helped to make the Flint Market an integral aspect of downtown Flint's revitalization and a centerpiece of the Flint community.
After 70 years, the Flint Farmers' Market relocated to the former Flint Journal printing facility, returning to its birthplace in the heart of downtown. This new building offered the revitalized market a new beginning in a space that is more than double the footprint of the old market. The 50 vendors inside the building sell a variety of products. From fruits and vegetables, to meat and poultry, to breads and baked goods, and cheeses, the market has the capacity to service a customer's grocery store needs (as well as an indulgence or two.) From May through October, the outdoor pavilion provides space for 25 produce and flower vendors, and on Saturdays art and craft vendors also inhabit the space.
The Flint Farmers' Market has also provided many people in Genesee County unprecedented access to fresh and locally grown foods. Twenty-five businesses at the market accept the SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) Bridge Card, and the Double Up Food Bucks program allows patrons to double the value of their purchases (up to $20 per market visit).
The Flint Farmers' Market represents the importance of planning in community building. This landmark market has had a home in Flint for many years, and provides local businesses, farmers, and vendors the space to share their products and their work with their neighbors, friends, and visitors.
Defining Characteristics, Features
Combine healthy food choices, adaptive reuse, and a strong local community presence, and what do you get? An incredible public arena that is helping to revitalize downtown called Flint Farmers' Market.
- Flint Farmers' Market is helping to connect marginalized groups to healthy food choices. Market vendors accept SNAP benefits and have additional programs unique to Michigan such as "Double-Up Food Bucks" that assist poorer residents in accessing fresh produce. This is a major problem in Flint where, according to the USDA, many areas of the city have moderate to severe food desert conditions.
- The market is bringing activity back to what was a depleted downtown. In its 100-plus year history, the market has changed physical locations several times, and in 2014 moved back into the core of Flint. The current space occupies what used to be the old Flint Journal printing facility in the heart of the central business district. Not only is the market's appeal bringing people to shop, it is also a shining example of adaptive reuse. The printing building was bought in 2012 by a redevelopment organization, and the market became its primary tenant.
- There is a strong sense of community surrounding Flint Farmers' Market. On social media, there are many accounts of healthy relationships between vendors and their customers. Many have known one another for years, and the fact that these relationships have survived through the various location changes speaks to the importance of this market to the entire community.
- The Flint Food Works is a unique venture with the goal of providing a facility for food-based business to establish their products and develop a business. The Food Works provides a culinary incubator and low-cost, full-service kitchens for rent.
- Flint Handmade hosts a Summer Arts & Crafts Street fair at the Flint Farmers' Market every Saturday from early June to late August.
- In partnership with Michigan State University, a class called "Preserving Summer's Harvest" is offered at the market to teach the fundamentals of food preservation. Attendees learn the basics of making jams and jellies, canning food, and pickling.
- The Sierra Club hosts a Flint Farmers' Market Urban Hike, an easy one-mile hike that starts at the entrance of the market.
Pertinent Plans and Documents
Master Plan for a Sustainable Flint. Describes Flint Farmers' Market as being part of the Flint Health and Wellness District (p. 218)
Upcoming/Planned Planning Activities
- Just outside the market boundaries, (Harrison Street) will be the site of the first protected bike lane in Flint. A road diet will be conducted, and the four-lane roadway will be reduced to two lanes with on-street parking and a protected bike lane. This capital improvement project will also create added accessibility and access at the major intersections that feed into the market (Kearsley Street, 1st Street, 2nd Street, and 3rd Street). This $200,000 project supports multiple modes of transit sharing one roadway.
- As part of the multi-use and shared space facility, Hurley Medical Center has just opened up a Hurley Children's Center in the top floor of the market. This facility will help bring individuals to the market and expose them to healthy produce and programs that promote active and healthy living. The center will prescribe fresh and healthy food for child patients that will be available for pickup right downstairs at the market. It's a $2 million dollar project that repurposes 10,500 square feet of previously unused space. It contains 24 exam rooms complete with a private entrance and private parking for patients and their families.
- The market is located just directly south of the Flint River, where significant renovations to revitalize the riverfront are under way. Underutilized for many years, the Flint River was identified in the Imagine Flint master plan as a key asset and opportunity for economic development and quality of life progress. Currently under a $600,000k renovation, the Flint Riverbank Park will host a kayak and canoe livery, ADA accessible entrances, and improved safety elements. Future plans for further river revitalization are being explored.
- Just to the east, a former vacant building that fronts Chavez and Stevens, the Program of All-Inclusive Care (PACE) Center for the Elderly opened over the past few months. The nearly $4 million project targets the unique health care needs of area senior citizens. A subsidiary of Genesys Hospital, the project is located in the former International Institute. It has brought an additional 70 workers to the city center and serves about 225 individuals daily.
- Just to the southeast of the market, located along 2nd Street, the Capitol Theater has sat vacant for nearly two decades. It was recently announced that $21 million in funds has been secured to restore the building and open it within 24 months. The 1928 facility can seat over 2,000 individuals and is one of the best-preserved but unrestored theaters in the Italian Renaissance style, with ceiling and walls that evoke images of old Italy. In addition to the performance seating, the facility will include 25,000 square feet of refurbished office and retail space.