ERIE Street Market could be and should be one of downtown Toledo's brightest jewels. But Mayor Jack Ford was right to reject a consultant's $5 million plan for improvements in favor of a more practical approach that involves using city personnel.
Inspired by U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur's interest and the consultant's report, Mayor Ford proposes tapping his cabinet for a manager who will report directly to him on the public market's progress. An experienced market director will be needed to revive and save Erie Street Market. That person would have to work quickly to upgrade the market's attractiveness.
Mr. Ford's decisions followed the release of national public market consultant Ted Spitzer's report. Hired last summer by the city for $80,000 to recommend improvements, Mr. Spitzer's ideas mostly involve reorganization. However, in this economic climate, the city is in no position to spend $5 million on the market.
But with backing from Congresswoman Kaptur, whose support has brought federal funds to the market and the Farmer's Market, Mr. Ford intends to use some of the consultant's suggestions, such as moving the food bay. He wants to put the food bay where the Superior Antique Mall is now. Skylights there will definitely brighten it and put it closer to the Farmers Market, which is outside. The mayor intends to relocate the antiques shop either within the market or in the Warehouse District.
Keeping the antiques shop in or near the market is preferred. That's unlike Mr. Spitzer's plan, which was to take the antique mall out of the market completely. That was curious, since the antiques mall draws customers. Mr. Spitzer also wanted to put new produce stalls on the Market Street side of the site, with food vendors next to them, and to move Libbey Glass to the antiques shop location.
Now, Mayor Ford faces a tall order, as he proposes having market improvements finished within a few months. Yet to save Erie Street Market and to improve its visibility and viability, work must be done quickly.
Although market vendors are understandably cautious, the public is still interested in the market, and the return of warm weather will draw shoppers. But if another summer passes and the site is considered bland and unappealing, its future could be bleak.