Close to the centre of my little city of Fredericton is a special place that opens it's wares every Saturday morning all year long.......Boyce Farmer's Market. Like many towns and cities, it is where people congregate to buy locally grown or locally created products. Farmers from up and down the valley rely on the Market to sell their goods to the crowds who make a point of starting their weekend at this downtown location since 1951 when the land was donated by Walter Boyce for this very purpose. Market vending has been going on in this city since the early 1800's in different locales all within walking distance of the present location. It has always been a key component of the best that Fredericton and the Saint John River Valley have to offer.
Boyce Farmer's Market is also the place where vendors test the waters with new products which include organically grown produce to fancy cupcakes to hemp clothing to jewelry and in fact this particular market is a perfect place to find out if your business plan is viable. Several small business have begun at a small stall over a stretch of Saturday mornings. Local authors, artisans, cheesemakers, knitters, and even jugglers are enthusiastic players that add richness to the fabric which continues to ensure that the farmers are the heart and soul, the raison d'etre of this community.
It is the historical touchstone of this community. It is the crossroads chosen by the residents that pulls together people from all corners of the area..............urban, rural, acadmic, blue collar, political, business.......farmers, artists, musicians, tourists, babies, families, entrepreneurs, students, kids, politicians. Arguably, it is THE year round tourist attraction in the city. The Boyce Market represents the merging of the Saint John River Valley in a way that nothing else does.
But, guess what? It's up for SALE!
It's no wonder that people around here are both worried and angry that there is a possibility of ruining such a remarkable historical establishment. Yesterday, York Development, owners and landlord of the Boyce Market, announced that they are planning to put the place up for sale. They are not interested anymore in managing the property as they have set their sites on the ever expanding possibilities in the nursing home "industry" now that the provincial government is opening up the $$ coffers to build more of them.
The City of Fredericton, presently in the throes of a municipal election has turned down the offer of being the first to bid on it. Not interested they have said.........they are into too many other projects right now to even consider it. So, it's going to be up for grabs for anyone with the cash. This piece of downtown property has the potential to be a KA-CHING goldmine for some real estate developer. For $1.5 million bucks, the humble buildings could easily be torn down in favour of a condo development with a blink of a greedy eye.
Granted the place sits idle most of the week, except for the odd event in the evening. It's used as a parking lot for civil servants from Monday to Friday which must bring in some money. From my vantage point I can't imagine the place brings in a truckload of money. So, why would anyone in their right mind fork out that much money when it would really only be considered a good deed? It has to be viable, but I believe it can be if dedicated people rallied to help develop a business plan to use the premises when it is not being utilized on Saturday mornings.
This is one issue which the people of this Valley can't sit back and allow someone else to take it on. Markets represent community........ ideally, they are an example of grassroots cooperative interactions. It's the basis for the very basics of economics. Everyone needs to take ownership, to speak out that this is an untouchable commodity........ priceless in value, necessary for our downtown core to retain any sense of vibrancy. Our elected officials, who are all up for re-election are being extremely myopic if they think that the only role for them would be to buy the place. Their role is to invite many key players to a planning meeting to LEAD this change in order to ensure our Market remains exactly where Walter Boyce wanted it...........in the very heart of our town.
Our Market needs to be tied into the BIG picture planning already in play. We need to look at HOW we can retain it's integrity while moving forward with viable ideas that would support it's vibrant vitality. This can't be left to a handful of people behind closed doors. This has to be an integrated community driven initiative that represents exactly what our Market represents......a pulling together of all the grassroot people from all facets of this community.
Game ON! I'm more than ready to get involved. I'm FULL of ideas! How about YOU?