With the loss of City Market, 104 Street looks at what to do next
People may still picture 104 Street in downtown Edmonton as a street teeming with Saturday farmers’ market shoppers weaving between white-capped stalls holding samples of fresh baking in their hand. But all of that will change this year.
In March, the downtown community learned its weekly (in summer) City Market was disappearing, at least on 104 Street, at least for now. The Market needed a slightly larger year-round home and found one in the historic GWG (Great Western Garment) building, at 97 Street and 103A Avenue, where it will now open Saturday and Sunday every week, rain, sun, or snow.
But while some have worried aloud with concerns about what the future holds for downtown’s most important high street and its businesses, many on the actual street remain sanguine.
“We were doing Jim Dandy before the market came,” said Ed Fong, co-owner of deVine Wines and Spirits on 104 Street.
Fong agrees that the City Market, which moved to 104 Street in 2004, gave some of his neighbours a boost, like coffee retailer Credo. But for his business and others, “it was at best revenue neutral,” he said. “We lose the people that park in front of the store and buy three cases of wine because they think there’s no parking.”
Still, some with a stake in the future of 104 Street see the street as a venue. For them, the City Market’s move requires thinking to create new opportunity.
The 104 Street Action Committee met the first week of May to lay out the options for future programming. As The Yards went to press, the group was floating ideas of a smaller market, a night market, performing arts, a series of mini al fresco events, more car shows or block parties. The Downtown Business Association was also in talks with the organizers of 124 Grand Market, who have been keen to gain a foothold downtown.
Whether this planning means the street will continue to close to vehicular traffic remains to be seen until a proposal is submitted to the City, Fong said, adding there’s “no rush” to close a deal.
Ian O’Donnell, executive director of the DBA, sees the City Market move to The Quarters as a win-win for 104.
“Let’s create something new on 104th that’s going to be great and bring in a new crowd,” he said. “But let’s support the decision [City Market made] and ensure we have a great downtown, year-round farmers’ market that’s open two days a week now.”
O’Donnell believes the City Market’s new building is a positive as well, but will take some leg work to rebuild their brand in their new home.
Plans are already coming together for complementary programming nearby, in Churchill Square, where arts groups—including the Art Gallery of Alberta, Citadel, and Winspear—are looking to expand their presence.
“The question is really, how do you replicate some of that more urban experience along 103A Avenue when there’s not much east of that at the moment?”Ian O’Donnell
Beyond the aesthetic of the 118-year-old GWG building, City Market spokesman Dan Young said the move will take time to catch on, but said there’s opportunity in the area.
He believes development similar to what 104 Street saw during the market’s tenure there could now be in store for The Quarters. The idea isn’t to replicate that, he said, but to build a new atmosphere in a less developed part of downtown.
The market running two days a week is going to make it happen all the faster, he added.
Fong said the City Market move was all for the best — construction was starting to limit the street’s capacity for the market and retailers alike.
“Their ability to stay on this street, the time was up,” he said.