Jul 14, 2023 - Food and Drink

West Side Market master plan includes $44 million in dramatic upgrades

Cleveland's West Side Market

What a beaut. Photo: Sam Allard/Axios

Cleveland's oldest public market, the West Side Market, is poised for a dramatic makeover.

Driving the news: Market Ventures Inc., a consultancy the city retained last year, presented a master plan to the public in June detailing $44 million in upgrades.

Why it matters: More than 800,000 people visit the Market annually, buying produce and specialty food items from its 70 vendors, many having occupied their stalls for decades.

State of play: The market is a city-owned asset. Under public management, the physical space deteriorated, with years of deferred maintenance and growing frustration among vendors. It now operates at an annual loss of $700,000.

Catch up quick: Though it will remain city-owned, the Market is transitioning to nonprofit management, which will facilitate private fundraising for its overhaul.

What they're saying: "I think the key takeaway from the Master Plan is that there is a way for the Market to be financially sustainable," said Jessica Trivisonno, the City of Cleveland's senior strategist for the Market.

Details: The plan recommends maintaining the "authenticity and unique characteristics" of the Market while diversifying its merchants, increasing its hours of operation and expanding its product offerings to include more prepared foods.

  • Physical improvements would include a commercial kitchen, as well as a food hall in the North arcade featuring two bars, 10 eateries and new indoor and outdoor seating.
  • Plus: A revamped courtyard and mezzanine would double as event spaces.

Trivisonno, who lives in Ohio City, said she's eager for the Market to be open later in the evening.

  • "It basically means that 12 new restaurants will open in my neighborhood sometime soon."

The latest: The market's nonprofit board, which formed in February and is led by former Gund Foundation president Dave Abbott, has hired Project Management Consultants to assemble revenue sources to finance the master plan.

  • It will probably include a mix of tax credits, loans and philanthropic support.

"Everything that could be part of this project will be," Trivisonno said.

The intrigue: The funding will include only $10 million in federal stimulus funds. Cleveland City Council reduced the initial $20 million proposal from Mayor Justin Bibb.

Data: Regency Construction Services for Market Ventures Inc; Chart: Axios Visuals
Data: Regency Construction Services for Market Ventures Inc; Chart: Axios Visuals

Zoom in: Roughly $30 million will be devoted to capital repairs, including $15 million for the basement, $7 million for HVAC and electrical upgrades, and $2 million for an emergency generator.

  • Another $14 million will pay for "the sexy stuff" like the revitalized arcades, the East mezzanine and the commercial kitchen, Trivisonno said.

Between the lines: Revenue from the Market parking lots could help pay down debt that the nonprofit takes out to finance improvements.

  • The plan is to limit free parking to 60 minutes (down from 90 minutes) and bump rates from $1 to $1.50 per hour after that, which would generate roughly $700,000 in additional annual revenue.

What's next: The Market's board is working with Cleveland City Council to negotiate a lease and management agreement; then it will hire an executive director and staff.


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