City officials take steps toward constructing farmers market pavilion, ice rink

The Michigan Economic Development Corporation recently expressed their interest in assisting the city of Big Rapids with developing a covered space for the farmers market and other community-based activities, and city officials and other community residents are now working together to finalize plans and obtain funding to get the project off the ground. If plans and grant applications are approved, construction on a new facility could be underway as early as next spring. (Pioneer file photo)

BIG RAPIDS — The downtown Big Rapids farmers market may soon have a new home.

City Manager Mark Gifford explained city officials and members of the Big Rapids area community have long discussed the possibility of finding a covered location for the farmers market, and this dream is one step closer to becoming reality.

At the end of May, the city received a call from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) regarding their interest in working with the city in creating a space for the farmers market and other community-based activities, Gifford said

Now, city officials and members of an advisory board organized to work on the project are developing plans for the space and working to apply to the state for grant funding.

“We’re all pulling together and trying to make this happen,” he said. “It’s really exciting.”

Gifford said the current plan for the structure includes a pavilion which would provide cover to the farmers market vendors during the spring and summer, while still allowing it to be an outdoor space.

While the pavilion would be used for the market seasonally, Gifford said, during the winter, the space would be turned into a public ice rink, complete with rink temperature control capabilities.

He added the space also could be used for hosting events such as the annual chili cook off.

City officials and members of an advisory board are working to develop plans for a pavilion which would serve as a covered location for the downtown farmers market, as well as an ice rink during the winter. Members of the Big Rapids City Commission are expected to consider approving an application for a Michigan Economic Development Corporation grant for the project at an upcoming meeting. (Courtesy photo)

Plans for the potential farmers market pavilion place the structure directly across the street from Big Rapids City Hall, immediately north of Bernie’s Place on North Michigan Avenue. The facility could include space for public restrooms, a food prep area, outdoor fireplace, Zamboni garage and a picnic area.

Josh Pyles, farmers market manager, said a space like this will not only benefit the market vendors, but will create many new possibilities for the city and area residents.

“The number of opportunities that will come available for this pavilion outside the farmers market are almost too many to count,” he said.

Pyles noted a downtown ice rink would be a valuable addition to the city’s recreation efforts.

“I think an ice rink would just add to our downtown atmosphere, especially during things like the Festival of Lights,” he said.

Gifford said preliminary estimates set the project cost at approximately $2.9 million. However, if received, the MEDC grant would cover 90 percent of the expected cost.

The remaining 10 percent would be split between fundraising efforts and city expenses, Gifford said. He noted the cost estimate is not final, as the designs for the pavilion have not been confirmed.

He added city officials are expected to consider approving the application for the MEDC grant at an upcoming Big Rapids City Commission meeting.

Although still in the beginning stages of planning, Gifford said if funding, plans and other necessary steps are approved, construction could begin in the spring of 2020.

“We all see the benefits that happen in the community on Tuesdays and Fridays with the farmers market, and this would only add to it,” he said.

For more information or to share thoughts or ideas regarding this project, call Gifford at (231) 592-4058 or email mgifford@cityofbr.org.

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Posted by Taylor Fussman

Taylor is the city/county reporter for the Pioneer and Herald Review newspapers. She can be reached at (231) 592-8362 or by email at tfussman@pioneergroup.com.

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