Brunswick Farmers Market could be in new locale by 2015

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BRUNSWICK — The Farmers Market could lose some Maine Street visibility when it moves away from its long-held spot on the Brunswick Mall by 2015.

But a proposed new location next to Brooks Feed & Farm on Union Street could allow the market to stay in one location year round, with improved parking.

Those details and more were discussed by project manager Maina Handmaker at Monday’s Downtown Master Plan Implementation Committee.

Handmaker said a $15,000 feasibility study on the Brunswick Farmers Market Associations’ proposed move is expected to be complete by early December, but a public outreach campaign could begin by this weekend.

Grant-writing and fundraising campaigns would then begin sometime in 2014.

The proposal would have the Farmers Market lease space from Brooks in and around two historic freight train sheds, and next to the long-term parking lot for Amtrak Downeaster riders.

Handmaker said a lease is still being negotiated.

The study, which was funded by the Brunswick Development Corp., is being done by Theodore & Theodore Architects of Arrowsic. When it’s finished, it will include schematic designs, cost assessments and a long-term business plan.

Handmaker said the project will happen in separate phases, starting with landscaping and then renovations of the train sheds.

Tom Fair, of Applewald Farm and president of the Farmers Market Association, said the group has been leasing the mall space from the town since the 1986. 

The Farmers Market is currently held on Tuesday and Friday mornings from spring to fall every year, and then moves to Saturday hours only at Fort Andross, at 14 Maine St., during the winter.

The proposed location would be less visible to motorists driving to and from Bowdoin College, Harpswell or Cook’s Corner, but it would improve several problems the Farmers Market experiences at the Brunswick Mall, Fair said.

For instance, the Brooks location would provide more reliable shelter than the tents that are currently used during inclement weather.

“We had at least eight to 10 days of rain at the Farmers Market this summer,” Fair said. “It was just another issue we have to deal with.”

Other issues include traffic and parking congestion on Maine Street.

“In the past many local business owners have complained about parking being taken up on Tuesday and Friday,” Handmaker said.

The new location would provide more ample parking for customers and the market’s 15 vendors, who would be able to access the rear of one of the barns from an adjacent lot.

“The idea is to have a good setup, so the public’s safe and we’re safe,” Fair said.

According to the feasibility study’s proposal, the new location will help increase market sales, create new jobs for participating farms, expand the walkable downtown area and create opportunities for hosting community events.

“The new Brunswick Farmers Market will extend the Maine Street Station development across Union Street,” the proposal says, “completing the pedestrian thoroughfare from Maine Street and creating a more diverse economic climate in central downtown Brunswick.”

The new location will also relieve the town from paying for additional maintenance at the Brunswick Mall, and open the space for lease to other groups.

For more than 10 years, the Town Council has grappled with how to balance use of the mall and preservation of its space. In 2011, the Farmer’s Market had to move from one corner of the mall to the other because of degradation to the land.

“I think (the move is) a step in the right direction, ” Fair said. “It’ll be good for us and the grass, and the town will be happier in the long run.”

Dylan Martin can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or Follow him on Twitter: @DylanLJMartin.