GLADSTONE - The Gladstone Farmers' Market will soon be undergoing a facelift thanks to a grant awarded last week by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.
The $50,000 grant will be joined with $69,740 of local funding to modify the farmers' market site from a parking lot to a multi-use facility including a raised platform for performances, built-in seating, flower beds and movable furniture.
"One of the things that this grant required was other uses for the area, so we're looking at using this area as a social gathering place," said Renee Barron, director of community development and zoning administration.
The farmers' market location in the 900 block of Delta Avenue will still be used as a parking lot when the market is closed for the foreseeable future, but the site may transition into a more permanent gathering place.
Farmers' markets in Gladstone are held in the space Mondays from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. during the summer.
Aesthetic upgrades are also included in the plan for the farmers' market space. One major inclusion is a section of railroad track that will be embedded into the concrete the length of the market. According to Barron, this is a tribute to the city's identity as "where the rails meet the water."
"I think a lot of times in Gladstone we complain about the rail system. It's loud, it's messy, but we wouldn't be here without the rail system," she said.
MEDC awarded $200,000 in grants ranging from $10,000 to $50,000 to communities through the Farmers Market Grant Program. Each community needed to have an existing farmers' market that had been in operation for a minimum of four years to qualify for the grant.
"Michigan ranks fourth in the nation for the number of farmers markets," Jamie Clover Adams, director of the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development said in a press release. "Our farmers markets are a great place to sample the diversity of our agriculture and get a taste of Pure Michigan."
In the Upper Peninsula, the Marquette Farmers Market also received a $24,537 grant through the program. Other communities receiving grant money were Delhi Charter Township, Boyne City, Port Sanilac, Gaylord, Chelsea, East Lansing, Grand Ledge and Canon Township.
A total of 24 farmers markets filed for grant funding through the program, requesting nearly $678,000. Representatives from the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development and the Michigan Farmers market Association participated on the grant scoring team.
"A lot of times when you look at grants, it's trying to make your round peg fit their square hole, but really this was perfect for us," said Barron.
Gladstone's proposal received the second-highest score of all proposals submitted to MEDC. The $50,000 grant received by the farmers' market is also the largest amount of funding awarded to a farmers' market - $15,000 more than the grant of the next highest award recipient.
"We were awarded the highest amount ... we also have the highest amount of (community) match as well," said Barron. Local funding for the project is expected to come from the Gladstone Downtown Development Authority.