OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — In 2020, the Overland Park Farmers Market was moved from the downtown pavilion to the Matt Ross Community Center to accommodate for better social distancing during the pandemic.
Now downtown business owners are asking for the market to return to its original home.
Josh Turpin is the owner of Brew Lab, a brewery located in downtown Overland Park across the street from the farmers market pavilion.
“It’s night and day, the difference in business on Saturdays compared to how it was before they moved the farmers market over to the Matt Ross Community Center,” Turpin said.
Turpin has launched the “Bring the Overland Park Farmers’ Market Home” petition to move the market back to the original location at the downtown pavilion. As of Tuesday, the petition had collected roughly 1,130 signatures.
Prior to starting the petition, Turpin said he, along with six other downtown business owners, met with a representative from the Downtown Overland Park Partnership and Overland Park City Council members Holly Grummert, Paul Lyons and Logan Heley to discuss the possibility of moving the market back to the pavilion.
“We pitched a couple proposals to the city, went back and forth via email about maybe moving part of the farmers market down here,” Turpin said. “Part of it can stay at Matt Ross, so at least there is some traffic going back and forth, bringing people down here so that they’ll visit the local businesses. That was pretty much shot down.”
Turpin said now that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has relaxed some health guidelines, moving the market back to its original location could help give local businesses a boost.
“There really is no reason why they can’t move it back to the pavilion and do the social distancing as well,” Turpin said.
Councilman Paul Lyons said the city considered COVID precautions and the logistics of moving the market before making the final decision in February to keep the market at the community center.
“We recognize that the situation is changing,” Lyons said. “However, the planning that was done in February, part of what they wanted to do was maintain some consistency so that the public, when they come to the farmers market, was well aware of where it was going to be handled. The farmers knew ahead of time exactly what to expect, how much room they were going to have, where it was going to be located.”
City leaders will review the location of the market in September. Lyons also sits on the board for the Downtown Overland Park Partnership. He said the board has not made a formal request to the city giving an opinion on moving the farmers market back to the pavilion location any earlier than September.
“I think it’s important for the board to be directly involved in any conversation that takes place so they represent the voice of the businesses downtown. That’s where I would like to see the process go as opposed to through a petition,” Lyons said.
Lyons said if the city chooses to relocate the market any sooner, it could take up to 30 days to finalize the details.
“It can’t be done in a vacuum. There are a lot of stakeholders here,” Lyons said. “We’ve got the farmers, we’ve got the patrons who come and buy goods at the farmers market. We’ve got the downtown businesses, we’ve got the city staff. There’s all kinds of logistical issues that need to be dealt with. I just feel like before we make a determination as to move it back sooner rather than later, all of those stakeholders need to be on board with what that means.”
The farmers market is slated to return to the pavilion location in 2022.
Possibility for future development
The Overland Park Community Development Committee will meet Wednesday to discuss the future of the farmers market property. The committee will soon issue a Request for Proposals (RFP) for the Downtown Overland Park Farmers Market site.
Lyons said the city will be seeking public input on any proposals that spur from the RFP, but no date has been set for a public hearing or a public information session.
“All the RFP is going to do is potentially give us some new ideas. The council does not make any commitments at all in terms of what they might accept or do. We may simply get a response to these RFPs and decide that we aren’t going to do anything with those; we’re going to move forward with one of the existing plans that was proposed back in 2017-2018,” Lyons said.
Turpin said no one from the council spoke about the possibility of new development at the market during the meeting with local business owners.
“I’m not anti-development by any means, but to be hit and kind of blindsided like that, not knowing what’s going on when we just had a meeting with the city and that did not come up, was really a surprise to us,” Turpin said.
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