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Idea for produce market ripens

If federally funded plan is OK'd, Saturday Market would move

If backers of a proposed Portland Public Market get their way, the Pike Place-like bazaar could push the Portland Saturday Market closer to the river.

The proposal, which has emerged as the top candidate among public market proponents, would bump Saturday Market from its current Ankeny Square location on Southwest First Avenue between West Burnside and Ankeny Street across Naito Parkway to a site farther east under the Burnside Bridge.

In so doing, the Portland Public Market could be built on the same swatch next to the Burnside Bridge, as well as on the 55 S.W. Ash St. site of the Portland Fire Bureau's headquarters. The fire bureau could move, making the space available for part of the public market, said Ron Paul, the city's special projects coordinator and a leader in the Portland public market movement.

The plan could spur a new market district in an area besieged in recent years by drug dealers. What's more, the recent movement indicates that the public market plan, first floated three years ago, is finally taking hold.

The U.S. House of Representatives also is considering an appropriations bill that would include $100,000 for design and engineering of the public market.

The Ankeny Square plan fits a Portland Development Commission proposal to improve several blocks across from Gov. Tom McCall Waterfront Park. PDC believes the area's redevelopment could include housing and more retail outlets.

'We think it's woefully underdeveloped, so we're looking at making it a much higher quality part of our urban fabric,' said Abe Farkas, PDC's development director.

Paul Verhoeven, Saturday Market's executive director, said he's amenable to the market district plan, even if it means moving his vendors across the street.

'Vacant lots work well when you turn the space into the market, but the other five days a week, it's been kind of a problem,' Verhoeven said. 'And with artisans making products the other five days, it can't ever be a seven-day-a-week market.'

Public market backers also are considering the Immigration and Naturalization Building, at 511 N.W. Broadway, as a potential site. With an $18 million remodeling tab, though, the Broadway site is considered expensive.

Funding looks likely

Rep. David Wu, D-Portland, a supporter of the public-market plan, included the $100,000 allotment in the U.S. House bill's early version, meaning it likely won't be struck from the bill at the last minute, according to an aide.

'It's much easier to defend money that's in the bill in its first version than when it's added after the fact,' explained Cameron Johnson, Wu's press secretary. 'It's a good bet that it'll stay in' the bill when the full House votes on it later this summer.

A 'feasibility committee' began exploring the market concept three years ago. Paul, who began his market pursuit while serving as chief of staff to then-Commissioner Charlie Hales, said the market would accommodate produce, fish, meat and specialty food vendors.

The market could resemble Seattle's Pike Place Market, which allows vendors to sell wares in an open-air setting.

Paul said he believes developers could even add decking to the Burnside Bridge's lower level. The added level could contain shops, he said.

'It would be like an ode to the Ponte Vecchio, in Florence, Italy,' Paul said.

Contact Andy Giegerich at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .