The forward march of the new year has meant a new sense of urgency for the group trying to create Colorado Springs’ first public market.
A recently completed business plan and a commitment to be more proactive in securing financing have been steps in the right direction, but opening before the summer, the market board’s original best-case scenario, doesn’t look likely.
“We have a lot of work to do to get open this year,” said Chris Cipoletti, board chair for the market. “We’ve made some pretty aggressive commitments. To make those happen, a lot of work still needs to get accomplished. But our goal is still to open in 2016. Late summer might be doable. I know, if I had that conversation with all of our board members, some would respectfully disagree, but I don’t see how we’ll be open for summer.”
The Colorado Springs Public Market is expected to be a fresh- and prepared-food marketplace, and will occupy the former Payne Chapel at 320 S. Weber St., southeast of downtown. The 6,000-square-foot building already has commitments from several vendors, but renovations still need to be accomplished before it can open for business.
Cipoletti said $1.75 million is needed to purchase the building, which is currently being leased, and to complete renovations.
The biggest challenge has been the money, said market board member and City Councilor Jill Gaebler. The organization needs to raise $800,000 to buy the building, an additional $600,000 for renovations, as well as money for a contingency fund to maintain operational stability during the next four years.
“Funding is huge. We have no revenue coming in except for a few small donations. But we’re still paying rent and utilities. The sooner we can open, the better,” she said.
“Then we’ll have rental income, and we’ll be set up as an enterprise, and will be mostly self-sufficient once we open. That’s important for donors to know — we won’t continue to ask for funding.”
Gaebler said the market will provide fresh and nutritious food in an area surrounded by “7-Elevens and fast food restaurants.”
She said, with new downtown residential options on the rise, a walkable market will be even more beneficial. Cipoletti agreed, adding more people living downtown will only increase the market’s desirability.
“[Downtown housing] will make the market more successful,” he said. “If there is a downtown community and downtown is livable, it will help fuel the success of the market. And it makes downtown housing more attractive because you can walk, instead of drive, to get fresh produce.”
Cipoletti said the public market has commitments from six vendors, including Ranch Foods Direct (their second location), a coffee vendor, and fresh produce and prepared food vendors.
The board is “in conversation with about 50 other vendors,” he said.
Gaebler said several donations have helped pay current operating costs, and she added that the Anschutz Foundation committed to a substantial donation as well. The amount has not been disclosed.
According to Cipoletti, much of the market’s progress has been made thanks to donated services.
“We have a handful of people who have made donations — some board members and some non-board members who are keeping things going,” he said. “But plans and drawings have been donated services. A board member has done a lot of our construction drawings. Almost everything we have is because of smaller donations.”
Cipoletti said the market should have a significant economic impact downtown and throughout the regional agricultural and food preparation industries. He said the public market’s goal is to increase local food consumption to 25 percent.
“If we accomplish that, we’ve modeled 4,000 new jobs, $125 million in additional annual wages and $25 million in additional annual tax revenue,” he said.
“We did a feasibility study for the market and we looked at other markets. We’re a little unique in that most public markets have some public/private partnership, where the city helps with at least the startup costs. For Colorado Springs as a community, good or bad, that’s just not something we do. Our model looks a little different in that we’re looking at private donations, but we have a good relationship with the city.”
Cipoletti projected the market will be solvent within the next three years, with losses the first year to range between $80,000 and $90,000. The second year, operational losses drop to between $10,000-$20,000 and, in its third year, it should start showing reserves “that can be reinvested in the community,” and in growing physical space.
For more information, visit cspublicmarket.com.
The Payne Chapel was one of six properties Gen. William J. Palmer, founder of Colorado Springs, deeded to establish churches in Colorado Springs. It was home to the city’s African Methodist Episcopal congregation until 1986. Most recently, the building housed the Green Man Taproom, and was known for several years as the Carter-Payne Events Center.