Becky Rodgers, executive director of Neighbors in the Strip, is full of ideas for the space that will be the Pittsburgh Public Market's new home.
Booths equipped for cooking. A commercial kitchen for prepping. A stage for entertainment. Possibly a restaurant to anchor it.
"The market council has been looking for over a year at different spaces," she says.
And it may well have found that perfect spot. At press time, it was reviewing a lease for a roughly 20,000-square-foot space in the Strip, which would more than double the market's existing footprint. The lease is awaiting signatures, Rodgers says. Then "we'll be able to disclose the location." If all goes as planned, the market could open in the new spot as soon as May 1.
If it doesn't, the market will still need a Plan B. The Buncher Company, which hopes to acquire the building from the city, plans to demolish the portion of it occupied by the market as part of a redevelopment project. Plans to move the market elsewhere in the structure have been scuttled, Rodgers explains, because rents are expected to be "cost-prohibitive" once development occurs.
The market's lease expired Dec. 31, and it is month-to-month now, Rodgers says. The Buncher Company has not set a deadline for when the market would need to move.
Vendors, however, are looking forward to the changes — even with so much up in the air.
"The public market has still vastly unrealized potential," says Kevin Costa, owner of Crested Duck Charcuterie. "Relocating will be a really good opportunity to start again."
The number of vendors joining the Friday-through-Sunday market has fluctuated since it opened in 2010. Vendors sign month-to-month leases, in part to help incubate startups. But that has also led to frequent turnover and the appearance at times of too much vacancy.
"There's a slight disappointment in how things turned out," says Nathan Holmes, of Clarion River Organics, who added that he had envisioned a version of Philadelphia's Reading Terminal Market or Cleveland's West Side Market.
Rodgers says those feelings are understandable. "It was a tentative location. A lot of people didn't want to commit to being there," she says, adding that the new location will address many of the issues that have inhibited the market's growth.
And, indeed, discussions of a new space, particularly one that will permit on-site cooking, bring hope.
"I think it will be a nice chance for it to rebrand itself, start a little fresh," Holmes says. "I'm excited about it."