I think I caught the public market bug when I studied abroad in college. It seemed like every city or town had the one place where everyone did the bulk of their grocery shopping. There were other small stores and even a few chain supermarkets, but at least a few times a week and especially on the weekend, everyone would flood the public market to shop, eat, socialize, and enjoy all the benefits of city life.
This was always something I thought Boston lacked that seemed like a natural fit. Needless to say, I was pretty excited a couple years ago when I first heard about the possible development of a public market for Boston, but things seemed to kind of bounce along with no real progress. It seems like there is finally something really happening: a vendor has been selected to develop and operate a public market along the Rose Kennedy Greenway.
The proposal isn’t perfect, so let’s get the bad out of the way before we move on to the good. First, this building doesn’t exactly scream “public market.” Public markets in other cities really stand out (see the photo above). What stands out about this building is how ugly it is. Second, there is the inherent tension between this market proposal and the weekly outdoor Haymarket operated by the Haymarket Pushcart Association. I don’t want to see the Haymarket go away, and I think a year-round market that offers more than just the produce you can find at the Haymarket would actually be a good complement to what’s offered there. Third, I’ve got my fingers crossed that some marketing guru somewhere gets paid to come up with a name for this project. If it just get’s called “Boston Public Market,” I am going to be pretty let down because that is way to similar to Boston Market. If they use the sign pictured below, I’ll probably just call it “The Tomato” instead.
Now the good stuff: I’d say most importantly this project is going to bring even more people to the Rose Kennedy Greenway. I personally love the Greenway, despite some of its flaws. I know it wasn’t developed in the way it was initially planned to, but I think the space it has opened up in the city was needed, and if they can do a little more design on some of the parcels, it will really be another gem in Boston’s emerald necklace. This project does a lot to help activate the Greenway, getting people walking from the North End to the market, and just generally bringing people to an area that right now is acting as a barrier between everything that happens on the Greenway and everything going on around Government Center and Faneuil Hall.
This project will also help out local farms and other businesses whose products will now have a year-round location to be bought and sold from. The farmers’ markets that spring up seasonally around Boston are excellent, but my desire for artisanal breads and locally sourced produce does not stop when it gets cold out. Once completed, the market will be another way for Bostonians to support farm-to-table efforts already underway.
Finally, this is one of those things that I think tells people that Boston is taking itself seriously. Once this gets built we can take ourselves off the list of major cities without a public market. The market obviously fills a need in that regard, but I think it can also be a space that will really bring residents together. Food is one of those universal things, and a space like this will no doubt get sued by residents from every walk of life. If done well, this market can be a catalyst for other people-focused developments in the area, and the idea of a “market district” can really start to come to fruition.
The public market isn’t the only thing being planned for this section of the Greenway. Next up on the list of proposed developments is a museum being proposed for the spot right next to the future public market. The aptly named Boston Museum organization submitted a proposal for the site over a decade ago, but nothing came of it. Their website indicates a new proposal has been submitted and will be unveiled later this week, so check back for more info as it becomes available.
- Nick Downing, Future Boston Research Coordinator