Joycott gives boost to one local business - WCSH Channel 6
Peanut butter combos a slice of life in remodeled Public Market House - Portland Daily Sun
New Business Open in Portland's Public Market House - WMTW Channel 8
Public market rises to new level - Portland Press herald
Public market idea gaining again - Portland Press Herald
Tied to a City, a Farmers’ Market Proves Hardy - New York times
'Mini' may be better for public market shops - Portland Press herald
The second floor of the downtown building opens to the public Friday, a milestone for the operators.
By MATT WICKENHEISER, Staff Writer
PORTLAND — After months of construction, the second floor of the Public Market House is ready for prime time.
The building at 28 Monument Square became home to several businesses that needed new space after the landmark Portland Public Market closed three years ago.
Three of those businesses – K. Horton Specialty Foods, Maine Beer and Beverage Co. and Big Sky Bread Co. – banded together to form Market Vendors LLC, and leased the basement and first and second floors of the building.
They operate a community kitchen in the basement, and the first floor is jammed with their businesses and other vendors that lease space.
Since moving in, they have envisioned opening the second floor to additional vendors. On Thursday, they plan a private opening. On Friday, the public will be able to use the second floor.
The space is open and inviting, comfortable and eclectic. Months of work have produced refinished wood floors and a brightly lit area overlooking Monument Square. Local artwork hangs on the red-brick walls.
"It's sort of the fruition of what we want to be as a public market," said Kris Horton, president of Market Vendors. "We see the market as a community meeting place."
A glass-fronted elevator facing the square will go between the ground floor and the second, and up to condos on the third and fourth floors.
The opening of the second floor gives customers access to restrooms for the first time.
At least two of the three vendors that will open on the second floor plan to be in business early next week.
Market House Coffee has its supplies, and its space is built out, with plumbing and electricity working. The business needs only to train employees and get inspected by the city, said co-owner Bill Milliken.
Milliken and Andrew Braceras, who own Maine Beer and Beverage Co., decided to open the coffee shop, featuring Rock City Coffee Roasters coffee out of Rockland.
Peanut Butter Jelly Time also is set to go, with some minor punch-list items left, according to its owner, Steve Miner, who hopes to be open by the end of next week. Miner's business is focused on inexpensive sandwiches -- a variety of peanut butter and jelly offerings, fluffernutters and others -- as well as a cereal bar.
The other business, Pie in the Sky Pizza, could open in the next several weeks. It still needs an oven, and there's other work to do, said its owner, Martha Elkus.
Elkus owns Big Sky Bread. Her plan is to partially make the Tuscan-style dough for the pizza shop at Big Sky's off-site location, and finish the process at Monument Square.
Horton said the second floor hadn't been used for about 30 years and was a "disastrous mess."
Various potential vendors visited the space during construction, she said, but many had difficulty envisioning businesses there.
She said at least three or four other vendors could easily fit on the second floor, while leaving room for about 50 people to sit and eat.
Milliken said he and Braceras plan to hire at least a few more people, for operations at the coffee shop and the beverage store on the first floor, calling the overall enterprise "a little economic engine."
Market Vendors had several coffee shop owners look at the space, but no one would take the step, Milliken said.
So he and his business partner decided to branch out into coffee.
"We felt that coffee was needed up there," he said. "We think it's going to be a destination, a hangout."
Miner, owner of Peanut Butter Jelly Time, said he worked in finance for eight years in Massachusetts, but ultimately found it "unfulfilling." He planned to open a similar business in that state, then found the space in Portland through Craigslist.
He said he plans to operate on an "economy pricing model," offering two sandwiches and a beverage for $5 to $7.
Horton said the vendor space, the kitchen for
Public Market House businesses and others, and vendor tables that are occasionally on the square provide an incubator space to help small businesses grow in Portland.
Staff Writer Matt Wickenheiser can be contacted at 791-6316 or at:
Copyright 2009 by The Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram. All rights reserved.
Portland, ME. The Public Market House on Monument Square announced the opening of the second floor of its location at 28 Monument Square along with three new retail businesses: Market House Coffee, Pie in the Sky and Peanut Butter Jelly Time.
The press conference and ribbon cutting by Mayor Jill Duson is at 6 PM on December 3.
The Market House opened in September of 2006 after the closing of the Portland Public Market and is operated by three former Public Market Vendors. From the beginning, there were plans to expand to the second floor with more vendors but the economy and renovation issues delayed the expansion for several years. Now, the construction is almost done and the three new tenants are completing their build-out and preparing to open.
“I think it is a sign of our success and the strength of our grassroots concept that we are expanding during this recession,” said Kris Horton, President of the Market House. “And all of these businesses are small concerns where the owner is in the store.”
The three new vendors are all new, small businesses that represent a retail success story in these trying economic times. Market House Coffee features coffee from Rock City Coffee Roasters, Pie in the Sky serves Tuscan-style pizza made with Big Sky Bread Co. crusts and Peanut Butter Jelly Time offers over 100 different combinations of the all-American classic.
The three businesses will share the second floor with seating overlooking Monument Square, bathrooms, day tables and space for 2-4 more small to medium-sized vendors.
The Market House is also supporting the local community by displaying art from various artists including three charcoal on panel pieces entitled “I ought to have my head examined” James Barner, an acrylic on canvas piece entitled “Portland Perspective” by James McGreal, a three-panel piece entitled “Resurgam” by Jack Walton, and a series of black and white photographs by Uilani Walton. The Market House intends to permanently display art and participate in Portland’s first Friday art walks.
Now that it is finishing its third year of operation, the Public Market House is setting its eyes on the second floor as part of its natural growth. Up from a low of three vendors just two years ago, there are now ten operating businesses in the Market House - the original three: Maine Beer & Beverage Co., K. Horton Specialty Foods, and Big Sky Bakery. Also Spartan Grill, a former food cart on Monument Square, and several users of the Community Kitchen including Kamasouptra, Local Sprouts, a fresh pasta wholesaler and most recently an Iranian bakery.
The Market House is also accepting applications for more vendors for the second floor, as well as day table vendors and users of the community kitchen.
Horton said, “MaineLovesFood and the Public Market House look forward to working together to promote all that is good in the local food and business community."
Tough Economy Not Deterring Some Businesses From Opening Shop
PORTLAND, Maine -- Portland's Public Market House is ready to expand and budding entrepreneurs are ready to open shop despite difficulty to obtain a loan in a lingering recession.
The outdoor farmer's market bustled Wednesday at Portland's Monument Square. Inside the Public Market House, four vendors have been successfully doing business for years.
Kris Horton, who owns K. Horton's Specialty Foods, is an original vendor at the Public Market House. The market's mission is to serve as an incubator for small businesses while providing a space that allows for low overhead.
"The view over the square from here is gorgeous. So, we think there is going to be a strong draw for coming up here and spending time up here," Horton said.
Horton said word of the expansion has generating quite a bit of interest, even in the midst of a recession.
"What it does is it allows people to open very, very small businesses. We've even had interest from businesses in the Old Port who are feeling the prices are too high," Horton said. "Times are tough and they'd like to downscale."
The business owners have been talking about expanding the Public Market House for years. Now that it's ready to expand up to the second level, they're soliciting vendors. However, some have asked whether this is a good time to take the leap for start-up businesses."
I think it's always a good time to start a business," said Mark Delisle, state director of the Small Business Development Center, a service geared toward helping start-up businesses launch.
Delisle said budding entrepreneurs should not be deterred by a bad economy.
"I think, if you look historically through all these down periods, these recessionary periods, there are always bright spots, always businesses that have launched in those windows of time that have gone on to become huge successes," Delisle said.
Businesses already on board to open up in the Public Market House include an espresso bar, a pizzeria and a Massachusetts man who hopes to make a splash with his peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches. There's room for three or four more businesses willing to open up shop.
Copyright 2009 by WMTW. All rights reserved.
By David Carkhuff
On Thursday, the transformation of the Public Market House in Monument Square begins in earnest.
Work will start Thursday evening — after the market's business hours — on restoration of the historic facade and a new, glass-faced elevator, which will boast a view of the square as customers cruise between floors. Meanwhile, the Market House developers are looking for businesses interested in moving into the second floor, which is being renovated to accommodate new shops.
"We'll be opening the doors mid-July. We have one definite vendor and possibly two near the end of the week," Kris Horton, president of the Market House, said Wednesday. "We're still looking for vendors, we do have space, depending on how much space they want, for five to seven total. We'll have wonderful public seating looking over the square and public restrooms."
Now that the planning board has accepted renovation plans, Horton said customers can expect to see activity in front of the building.
"They'll box off the area where the elevator will go, and there will be two new temporary doors put in during the summer. So our shops are going to shift a little bit to get ourselves prepared for the mid-July opening," she said.
The elevator will become part of the front facade. It will reach to the fourth floor and provide access to the lower level, where someday the market might set up a cafe, Horton said. The plans are endless.
"We're hoping to get an entertainment license so we can have acoustic musicians and we could have art shows up here, all those dreams that we've had of what the market could develop into are beginning to happen," Horton said.
Change has come in steps.
A few weeks ago, the Market House reached a tenant's agreement to expand onto the second floor of its building, Horton explained. With that clearance, she welcomes candidates to apply to rent space.
Possible uses are diverse — massage booths, clothing and prepared food are among the options.
"It's very open. We want them to be supporting our goals of being a Maine business," Horton said.
"We're very interested in calling out to potential business owners, either to potentially downsize into our space or expand a branch of what they do in our space or build a business for the first time,"she said.
"We've got some pretty exciting times ahead," she said.
"The mission of the Market House is to carry on the vision of an in-town public market in Portland by providing a community gathering place that celebrates Maine people, food and agricultural traditions while joining the ongoing efforts to revitalize Portland’s downtown, incubating small businesses and involving the international community," states the Market House's website (www.publicmarkethouse.com). "Established three years ago by four displaced vendors of the former Portland Public Market, the Public Market House has steadily grown and is now in a position to expand. This is a positive event in the face of the grim, economic news that has dominated the media of late."
The top floors have not been used for over 30 years so they're undergoing renovation now, Horton said.
The façade of the historic building will be restored to its original condition with the help of a grant from the city of Portland’s façade program, operators of the Market House reported. The third and fourth floors will be completed as residential condominiums, Horton noted.
"We're going to have windows twice as big as they are now, we're going to have new doors and a permanent sign, so we're very excited about it," she said.
© The Portland Daily Sun. All rights reserved.
PUBLIC MARKET HOUSE EXPANDS
The Public Market House on Monument Square in Portland is announcing its expansion to the second floor of its building at 28 Monument Square and the creation of 4 to 5 new vendor areas to occupy the new space. The mission of the Market House is to carry on the vision of an in-town public market in Portland by providing a community gathering place that celebrates Maine people, food and agricultural traditions while joining the ongoing efforts to revitalize Portland’s downtown, incubating small businesses and involving the international community. Established three years ago by four displaced vendors of the former Portland Public Market, the Public Market House has steadily grown and is now in a position to expand. This is a positive event in the face of the grim, economic news that has dominated the media of late.
The Public Market House is currently comprised of three original vendors of the former Portland Public Market: Big Sky Bread Co., K Horton Specialty Foods and Maine Beer & Beverage Co. occupying the first floor of its building. The Market House also has two subtenants, Spartan Grill, also on the first floor, as well as Local Sprouts and a commercially licensed community kitchen located in the lower level. The Public Market House also rents day tables to small, local businesses on Monument Square. Now that it is finishing its third year of operation, the Public Market House is setting its eyes on the second floor as part of its natural growth.
Along with the completion of the second floor, there will be other renovations and construction taking place. The façade of the historic building will be restored to its original condition with the assistance of a grant from the City of Portland’s façade program. An elevator will be installed, and the 3rd and 4th floors will be completed as residential condominiums. All of this activity also compliments the other renovations in the areas to the Portland Public Library and the former Portland Public Market, which will house a credit card processing company. “I think it is a sign of our success and the strength of our grassroots concept that we are expanding during this recession,” said Kris Horton, President of the Market House. “Three years ago, a lot of people had written us off.”
The Public Market House is accepting applications for new vendors to occupy the new vendor areas. Each area is approximately 380 square feet and will share seating, bathrooms and common space on the two floors. Consideration will be given to vendors who sell locally grown, produced or value-added products, with preference given to food vendors although the Market House will consider any proposal. Interested parties can call Kris Horton at 207-807-8207 or go to the Market House website where there is more information and applications: publicmarkethouse.com.
Public market idea gaining again
Tenants of the Public Market House in Monument Square say business is good despite a poor business climate.
By BETH QUIMBY, Staff Writer
May 28, 2009
PORTLAND — The concept of a public market where people can shop and meet appears to be alive and well in Portland, even though several such places have come and gone over the years.
After months of planning, the owners of the Public Market House, at 28 Monument Square, are moving ahead with an expansion that will include new shops and public eating areas.
Construction is scheduled to begin within days.
The owners say their businesses have grown every year since they moved three years ago from the former Portland Public Market, despite the sour economic climate.
"We are thriving," said Kris Horton, president of Market Vendors, which operates the Public Market House.
Horton said the expansion will include a second floor and four or five new shops – averaging 380 square feet of space each – as well as new public restrooms and eating areas looking out over the square.
Horton and her partners are meeting with potential businesses.
Horton said they hope to fill the space with businesses that sell locally grown and produced products.
A butcher, a flower shop, a home-made clothing shop and a soup restaurant have shown interest, she said, and the space will be available by midsummer.
The Public Market House grew from the ashes of the Portland Public Market on Cumberland Avenue, which closed in 2006.
The Public Market House has since added the Spartan Grill, which sells Greek takeout, and Local Sprouts, a licensed community kitchen that's available for use by other food businesses.
The Portland Public Market was funded by the late philanthropist Elizabeth Noyce's Libra Foundation. It was styled after a European public market where shoppers could pick up fresh meat and produce several times a week, but it never managed to make money.
At first, it prohibited most vendors from selling ready-to-eat food. By the time the rules were relaxed, the market had lost much of its customer base.
The owners of the businesses at the Public Market House said they did well in the Portland Public Market and are continuing to grow at Monument Square, which draws business from office workers and people who live downtown, and features a weekly farmers market in the summer.
Horton said the expanded space should attract new and existing businesses, even in a down economy.
"For a start-up, it offers low overhead, and it's a wonderful place to downscale to," Horton said.
Janis Beitzer, executive director of Portland's Downtown District, said the expansion will promote entrepreneurship in Portland.
"They are incubating small business," she said.
The building is owned by Alan Mooney, who is developing residential condominiums on the top two floors and restoring the building's facade to its original late 19th century look with a $21,600 federal Community Development Block Grant.
Mooney is adding a glass-enclosed elevator.
"These guys are creating a great business dynamic," Mooney said of the Public Market House tenants.
William Milliken and Andrew Braceras, co-owners of the Maine Beer and Beverage Co., said the fact that their business has continued to grow during an economic recession is proof that Portland can support a public market.
"It's really exciting. It's fulfilling its promise," Braceras said.
Staff Writer Beth Quimby can be contacted at 791-6363 or at:
© Copyright 2009 by The Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram. All rights reserved.
Kris Horton, the co-founder of the Public Market House, has farmed, raised three children, and now is the most prominent cheese seller in Maine.
Idealism, Opportunity Build Hot New Market
April 26, 2007
PORTLAND, Me.—Kris Horton is the most prominent cheese seller in this newly vigorous New England coastal city, and not just because her store’s coolers are so full of specialty cheeses. It is also because her shop is located in the new Public Market House, which she organized and helped open in September.
The seven-month-old market, a product of civic idealism, entrepreneurial opportunity, and economic desperation, occupies the basement and first floor of a partially renovated, four-story, 136-year-old building at 28 Monument Square, which until last summer was an eyesore. Ms. Horton led a vocal and active public campaign to establish the new market after the Libra Foundation sold the larger Portland Public Market, two blocks away, where Ms. Horton and other food and farm product vendors had worked since 1998.
The experience of being forced out of the larger market was one of the most bruising of Ms. Horton’s life, she said. But she discovered new comfort and resilience in the steady flow of customers that now buy from K. Horton Specialty Foods and three other small food and farm product retailers—A Country Bouquet, Maine Beer and Beverage, and Big Sky Bread Company—that, as a partnership, now manage their new home at Portland’s center.
The Public Market House is just the latest example of how fresh local food and downtown markets can enhance economic and real estate activity in American cities, big and small. This week in Traverse City, Mich., for example, the Kellogg Foundation’s Food and Society program gathered 600 people from around the country to celebrate the same values and principles that produced Portland’s new market—and hundreds of other entrepreneurial businesses providing safe and nutritious food and a launch pad for related economic development projects.
The three-day annual conference is one of the premier events in a blossoming national movement that is producing the fastest-growing sector of the food industry in the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The movement is also producing farm practices that protect health and the environment, and add economic and social value to communities.
New Life Downtown
"Markets bring life to a city; this one is already a destination," said Nelle Hanig, the business development specialist in Portland’s Economic Development Division who helped accelerate the permitting process to get the market built. "The location of the Public Market House is important to its success. It’s right in the middle of town. It’s becoming a focus of activity and that’s always good in a city."
Although the Public Market House will not rival the size and sales of the older market it replaced, it is generating so much new business activity that a new economic study proposes to promote the new indoor market as the centerpiece of a "market district."
The study, completed this month for the Portland Downtown District, an economic development agency, said the new market is attracting enough shoppers to generate $1.2 million annually in sales. The market district, said the study, might add another covered outdoor market with 25 vendors on nearby Lancaster Lane, as well as producers selling goods on "day tables" in Monument Square. All together, the report’s authors concluded, the outdoor markets could generate $1 million more annually in sales and attract over 1,000 customers a week.
Reaping a Whirlwind
"I believe in the spirit of a public market being a community," said Ms. Horton, while tending to a stream of afternoon customers. "We found out that a lot of other people in Portland feel the same way. People just showed up to help. The Public Market House was born out of a whirlwind."
Several people linked arms at that storm’s center. Mr. Mooney, a prominent engineer, paid $725,000 to buy 28 Monument Square after learning that Ms. Horton and her partners, all of whom he knew, were intent on establishing a new market.
"If I didn’t have a tenant ready to get into the building immediately, I wouldn’t have taken it on," he recalled. "I needed the income to make it work. I knew Kris, knew her business, and I was ready to make a commitment."
Mr. Mooney then turned to two men he’d worked with for years to help advance the project. One was Sam Ladd, the president and chief executive officer of Maine Bank and Trust, who knew many of the vendors involved and quickly authorized a $150,000 loan for demolition and renovation.
The other was Bob Gaudreau, the president of Hardypond Construction, a respected Portland contracting firm that specializes in historic renovations. He and Mr. Mooney met and agreed to a scope of work; the following Monday workers began pulling tons of debris out of the old building. Six weeks later, Ms. Horton and other vendors were back in business in the newly restored building.
"Usually you have more time and you plan and pre-order and prepare," said Mr. Gaudreau. "In this one, you start running and see if you can keep up. We had a lot of interest, a lot of self-interest in making it work. I want Portland to succeed. A lot of that was in the pulse of this work effort."
The Public Market House is located in the same square that has held a weekly outdoor farmers market for decades. Now, the presence of an indoor and outdoor market adds vitality to both. Mr. Mooney said he is planning to spend $300,000 more this spring to renovate the market’s second floor to make room for new vendors, prepare the third and fourth floors for professional offices, and restore the 12,000-square-foot building’s historic façade.
"I knew that there was a lot of energy in Portland to make this happen," said Mr. Mooney, who collects $6,000 in monthly rent from his Public Market House tenants.
Foundation Harnesses Free Enterprise
The $9.4 million, L-shaped expanse of glass and soaring timber beams earned more than $6 million in sales in its first year. The original market was a centerpiece of the Libra Foundation’s novel strategy of using its considerable assets—$220 million—to buy and renovate downtown office buildings to jumpstart Portland’s reeling economy. The foundation—started here in 1989 by Elizabeth Noyce, the former wife of Intel founder Robert N. Noyce—also founded a downtown bank, purchased and renovated seven office buildings, and bought three large parking decks.
When the foundation started its acquisition program in the early 1990s, office vacancy rates hovered around 60 percent and Portland’s economy and reputation were stagnant. This city of 64,000 residents now has stable housing values and rising personal incomes. The historic neighborhoods overlooking Casco Bay and the Atlantic are so popular that office and housing vacancy rates are less than 3 percent. The city is attracting young people, urban professionals, and retirees from Boston and New York.
Four years ago, according to Owen Wells, the foundation’s president, Libra changed course to take advantage of the economic conditions it helped to foster. "We wanted to capitalize on strong real estate markets in Portland," he said.
So, in 2003, Libra sold three buildings and a parking deck for $31 million. Three years later the foundation sold the rest of its downtown real estate—four office buildings, two parking decks, and the Portland Public Market—and turned a $20 million profit.
It’s been almost a year since the old Portland Public Market closed its doors. The windows are streaked and grimy. Inside the bas-relief panel above the mantel of the central granite fireplace is still visible with its sculpted border of food from local fields. Two blocks away, on a bright afternoon, the new Public Market House swarms with customers.
© 2008 Michigan
Land Use Institute.
By KEITH SCHNEIDER
PORTLAND, Me. — Until last summer, the 136-year-old building at 28 Monument Square had been one of the most visible eyesores at the center of this energetic Atlantic Coast city. You would never know it now.
Most days, a steady stream of customers follow their noses, thirst and appetites into the building, home of the new Public Market House, where in a narrow corridor flanked by vendors they can buy fresh-cut flowers, cheese from Maine farms, a sandwich on fresh-baked bread and beer from state microbreweries.
The seven-month-old market occupies the basement and first floor of the partly renovated four-story building at the heart of downtown, which was last home to a failing surplus store.
Kris Horton, whose K. Horton Specialty Foods has become a local landmark, led an active public campaign last year to establish the new market after the Libra Foundation, a philanthropic organization in Maine, sold the last of its real estate holdings in Portland, including the larger indoor Portland Public Market, two blocks away. Ms. Horton and other food and farm-product vendors had worked in that market since 1998.
The new Public Market House, situated in a square that has supported a large outdoor seasonal farmers market for decades, has become the latest example of how fresh local food and downtown markets can stimulate activity in American cities, big and small.
Although the Public Market House is and will continue to be significantly smaller in size and sales than the old market it replaced, it will not be subsidized. Moreover, the Public Market House’s proximity to the existing outdoor Wednesday farmers’ market prompted the authors of a new economic study to propose promoting the indoor market as the centerpiece of a “market district.”
“Markets bring life to a city,” said Nelle Hanig, a business development specialist in Portland’s Economic Development Division, who helped accelerate the permit process to have the market built. “This one is already a destination. The location of the Public Market House is important to its success. It’s right in the middle of town. It’s becoming a focus of activity, and that’s always good in a city.”
The study, completed last month for the Portland Downtown District, an economic development agency, said that the Public Market House is already attracting enough shoppers to generate $1.2 million annually in sales. The building’s owner is planning to renovate the second floor to provide space for four or five more vendors, who could generate a further $1.2 million in sales.
The market district, the study said, might also include a covered outdoor market with 25 vendors on nearby Lancaster Lane, as well as producers selling goods on “day tables” in Monument Square.
The old market’s sale last August and the steady departure of vendors until its formal closing in January stirred passions throughout the city. Downtown workers and weekend shoppers from the suburbs loved the old market’s homegrown vendors and special events.
But vendors paid less than $20 a square foot to rent space in a market that cost the foundation as much as $75 a square foot, said Morris Fischer, president of CB Richard Ellis-the Boulos Company, which represented Guggenheim Real Estate, the New York investment firm that bought the market last August.
“Libra could not get it to a break-even point,” Mr. Fischer said. “Libra supported it for a long time hoping they could make sense of it. They came to the conclusion they couldn’t do it any longer. Others who looked at it said the same thing.”
It seems, however, that the old market may be put to a new public use. On March 19, the Portland City Council approved a measure to ask voters to allow the city to buy and convert the old market into the city’s public library, replacing the current main library building, which is next door. A referendum to approve a $1 million bond is set for June 12. Most observers expect voters to approve the bond.
Voters previously approved a $4 million bond to improve library services, and if the June referendum passes that money would also be used to renovate the market. The balance of the $9.5 million purchase and renovation project would be raised by the library.
Last summer, Ms. Horton and her partners in Market Vendors — A Country Bouquet, Maine Beer and Beverage and Big Sky Bread Company — worked with the owner of 28 Monument Square, as well as a contractor, a banker, tradesmen and city officials to quickly renovate the derelict building, which had been closed for two years. The project took six weeks and cost the building’s owner, H. Alan Mooney, $250,000. The Public Market House opened as scheduled on Sept. 1.
Mr. Mooney, a prominent engineer, had paid $725,000 to buy 28 Monument Square after learning that Ms. Horton and her partners, all of whom he knew, were intent on establishing a new market. “If I didn’t have a tenant ready to get into the building immediately, I wouldn’t have taken it on,” Mr. Mooney said.
He said that he is planning to spend $300,000 more this spring to renovate the market’s second floor to make room for new vendors, prepare the third and fourth floors for professional offices and restore the 12,000-square-foot building’s historic facade.
The catalyst in this tale of civic renewal was the announcement by the Libra Foundation in February 2006 that it would sell the last of its holdings in downtown Portland, including the Portland Public Market, which the foundation built and opened in 1998.
The $9.4 million, L-shaped expanse of glass and soaring timber beams had a huge fireplace at its center, and a parking deck attached by an overhead walkway. The market took in $6 million in sales in its first year, and sustained that sales level throughout most of its short life.
The market was also a centerpiece of the Libra Foundation’s novel strategy of using its considerable assets — $220 million — to buy and renovate downtown office buildings to jump-start Portland’s reeling economy. Along with the Portland Public Market, the foundation — started here in 1989 by Elizabeth Noyce, the former wife of Robert N. Noyce, a founder of Intel — opened a downtown bank, bought and renovated seven office buildings and bought three large parking decks.
When the foundation started its acquisition program in the early 1990s, office vacancy rates hovered at more than 60 percent and Portland’s economy and reputation were stagnant.
Portland, a city of 64,000, is now a place where housing values are stable, personal incomes are rising and historic neighborhoods overlooking Casco Bay and the Atlantic are so popular among young people, urban professionals and retirees from Boston and New York that the office and housing vacancy rates are under 3 percent.
Four years ago, according to Owen Wells, the foundation’s president, Libra changed course to take advantage of the economic conditions it had helped to foster. “We wanted to capitalize on strong real estate markets in Portland,” he said.
In 2002 and 2003, Libra sold three buildings and a parking deck for $31 million. Three years later the foundation completed the sale of its other downtown real estate — four office buildings, two parking decks and the Portland Public Market — to Guggenheim Real Estate for more than $55 million, $20 million more than the original investment.
Three months after its formal closing, the old market’s windows are streaked and grimy. Two blocks away, though, on a bright winter afternoon, the new Public Market House swarms with customers.
“I believe in the spirit of a public market being a community,” said Ms. Horton, while attending to early afternoon customers. “We found out that a lot of other people in Portland feel the same way.”
Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company
Friday, June 2, 2006
Portland Press herald
By MATT WICKENHEISER, Portland Press Herald Writer
A Monument Square building may emerge as a "mini-public market," even as the Portland Public Market enters its final days, according to the head of Portland's Downtown District.
Jan Beitzer, the district's executive director, said she's been working with the four current and past tenants of the public market who plan to move into the building that was occupied by the Surplus Store until 2004. The storefront has been vacant since then.
Maine's Department of Agriculture has awarded the district a $20,000 planning grant, a step toward relocating the public market concept to Monument Square. The four vendors are Maine Beer & Beverage Co., K. Horton's Specialty Foods, A Country Bouquet and Borealis Breads.
However, officials hope many more businesses selling Maine products will move into the space, possibly occupying carts, Beitzer said.
"If it's done right, it will be just as much a draw for tourists (as the Portland Public Market was)," said Beitzer. "Tourists want authenticity. They want to hear about Smiling Hill ice cream or Beal's ice cream, as opposed to Ben & Jerry's."
Monument Square today is a hot dining area, with a steady stream of business from nearby lawyers, bankers and other businesspeople at lunchtime. And with a number of downtown condos going on the market soon, the area surrounding the "Our Lady of Victories" statue may experience an economic surge that goes beyond a cluster of restaurants and lunch carts.
The spot is perfect for a mini-public market, said Beitzer, not just because of the condos, but also because a farmers' market is held at Monument Square on Wednesdays.
"There's no question it would be a great addition to Monument Square," said Lee Urban, director of Portland's Department of Planning and Development. "The synergy . . . between the farmers' market and the public market can't do anything but be a positive thing."
The Monument Square move became public Wednesday, the same day that an unidentified investment group signed an agreement to acquire the Libra Foundation's real estate holdings in downtown Portland. Libra officials said the new owners have no interest in continuing the Portland Public Market, which is one of the holdings being sold.
The sale is expected to close within 60 days.
Beitzer said she thought the Monument Square building could hold 20 small vendors. The group plans to install a commercial kitchen, which small entrepreneurs could use to support their carts, Beitzer said.
News that at least four shops from the public market planned to move into a vacant store was a "home run" for the Monument Square area, said David Turin, owner of David's Creative Cuisine.
Of course, the "grand slam" would have been if someone had figured out how to make the current market successful, he said.
"I think they'll do better here than there," said Turin. "The public market is just enough out of the way that you don't see it."
David's has been in the square for seven years, and business is good, Turin said. Revenue last year was up 70 percent over the year before, he said.
"I think it's a good idea," said James Mahoney of Yarmouth, as he sat at a table outside Zarra's Monumental Coffee House with Paul Johnson of Falmouth. "There's a lot of new condos going on down here."
Added Johnson, "Any business that survived three or four years in the public market has got to be doing something right."
Having other local businesses - not chains - in the area would benefit the square, said Michael Roylos, owner of two carts there, the Spartan Grill and Harbor Scoops.
Roylos said business has been slow, and he hoped filling the vacant storefront with vendors would help draw traffic through the square. His only concern, Roylos said, was that the presence of the new tenants would affect where he could set up his carts.
Pamela Dodson, a Congress Street resident taking a stroll with her toddler daughter, Hedwig, said she often shopped at the public market and is sad to see it go.
"But we're glad to see the businesses are staying downtown," Dodson said.
There will be challenges to the Monument Square location, said Turin at David's Creative Cuisine. There's not a lot of parking, he said, and there are sometimes issues with panhandlers.
Beitzer said making the mini-public market concept truly work will be another challenge for the four initial businesses, which have organized as Market Vendors LLC.
"There has to be enough of them to make it worth a stop. It's great they have the four, but they have to have a variety, and they have to have more," Beitzer said. "Marketing is huge, because trying to get people to understand that they've relocated there is important and hard."
PUBLIC MARKET HOUSE
28 Monument Square
Portland, ME 04101