City Hall

City: Farmers Market Kiosk Is Being Razed, But La Marketa Will (Pay to) Stay. Still, Why Now?

Yesterday I couldn't get anybody on the phone to talk about the city's plans to raze La Marketa Cafe in the downtown farmers market plaza; this morning, everyone has something to say on the subject.

Chief among them: Troy Thorn, assistant director for the Dallas Convention Center, which, for now, oversees operations at the Dallas Farmers Market. He insists that the kiosk "has foundation challenges" and "needs to come down." He tells Unfair Park this morning that the Juarez family, which has operated the beloved eatery in Cesar Chavez Plaza for eight years, will be moved into Shed 2, joining the likes of Pecan Lodge, La Popular Tamale House, Natsumi and Old World Sausage Company, among others in the food court.

"The Juarez family took a chance on the market," he says. "Before there was any other food, they stepped up to the plate and said, 'We want to provide a service to vendors and guests.' They opened it eight years ago and never looked back. It's been quite successful."

Thorn says they're on board with the move, and have been during eight months' worth of discussions leading up to the kiosk demolition being put out for bidding. But, I asked: Won't moving into Shed 2 cost them money? After all, vendors setting up shop in the buildinghave to pay to tap into the water lines and lay out significant construction costs to build out their spaces. Yes, Thorn says, before insisting "they're fine with that."

Well, yes and no.

Ramiro Juarez, proprietor of La Marketa, told me this morning he's been warned: The kiosk will come down in "three, four months," which jibes with what Bob Durham in Public Works told me -- that it will be razed "sometime within 30 or 60 days after the first of the year, that's what I anticipate."

Juarez says he doesn't "know exactly" why the city's dozing the building, only that "they're making a change." And while he says he's "OK" with the move to Shed 2, he acknowledges: "It's expensive, I know -- thousands, thousands. But it's the decision from the city, so I don't have any other options. They said each vendor inside needs to pay their own construction." He's hopeful that if nothing else, the city might help subsidized at least a portion of his rent following relocation indoors.

What's especially confusing is the timing: City officials have confirmed that some time in coming months, it will once again look for someone to develop and operate Dallas Farmers Market, following an earlier attempt that landed but a single interested party, Janet Cobb. What if, say, someone stepped forward with a plan for the market that could utilize the building, described in that 2006 Boca Powell study as "a visual barrier"?

Thorn insists the issue with the foundation necessitates the kiosk's removal, "whether it's public or private."

Bob Durham, a senior architect in Public Works, says this is just all part of the 2006 bond package, which promised that $6.6 million in improvements would be made to the market, among them the redo of Shed 2.

"We've been trying to move this forward," he says. "This is a watershed for the market. I don't know how familiar you are with the project, but Dallas is kinda at this crossroads. The next step is probably going to determine the future of the market for years and years to come. There's been those bond improvements, and there's money in there for that, and we want to make sure that's where the citizens of Dallas want this thing to go. I know it looks like everybody's dragging their feet, but there's a lot of interested parties in this, and sometimes they don't always agree."

Like, say, Assistant City Manager Ryan Evans, who oversees Economic Development and says he found out about the kiosk's razing earlier this week from Al Rojas, head of the convention center. Evans loves the place; eats there, drinks there all the time. "It's where I get my full-flavored Coca-Cola," he says.

"But everyone who looks at it finds it annoying," he says. "People who want to hold functions in the plaza say, 'But you cant' actually see the function. And the development community has always said: 'It's gotta go."

So go it will come the beginning of the year. Whether you like it or not.

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Robert Wilonsky
Contact: Robert Wilonsky