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Proposed permanent farmers market site: Public forum tonight

While the Nichols Street site is commonly referred to as the ‘permanent farmers market site,’ a farmers market is only one component. The former Friday Harbor Electric site will have green space larger than the Sunken Park lawn, an outdoor performance stage, and an outdoor market area. Architect David Waldron describes it as ‘part small park and part town square.’ This rendering looks at the revitalized site from Sunshine Alley.  - Architect David Waldron
While the Nichols Street site is commonly referred to as the ‘permanent farmers market site,’ a farmers market is only one component. The former Friday Harbor Electric site will have green space larger than the Sunken Park lawn, an outdoor performance stage, and an outdoor market area. Architect David Waldron describes it as ‘part small park and part town square.’ This rendering looks at the revitalized site from Sunshine Alley.
— image credit: Architect David Waldron

The Friday Harbor Town Council will host a public forum tonight, 5:30 p.m., on the proposed farmers market site on Nichols Street.

The public forum will be held in Mullis Community Senior Center.

The San Juan Agricultural Guild proposes buying the former Friday Harbor Electric site on Nichols Street for a year-round farmers market, as well as other uses — what architect David Waldron calls “part small park and part town square.”

The San Juan County Land Bank would fund half the purchase; the Ag Guild has asked the town to fund the other half — about $400,000 — using lodging tax funds that are collected for tourism-related facilities.

Nov. 11, the town Lodging Tax Advisory Committee declined to take a stand on the project, but will recommend to the Town Council that criteria and a process be developed by which lodging taxes would be awarded. The town collects two lodging taxes, each 2 percent — one for tourism-related facilities, the other for tourism promotion. The town LTAC has criteria and a process it goes by to award tourism-promotion funds.

The LTAC’s concern: That the awarding of tourism-facilities funding be objective and fair, and that any project that applies for funding qualify according to the law: The funds must be used for a tourism-related purpose. Some town officials are concerned that a permanent farmers market will not be considered by the state to be a tourism draw, but believe that a mixed-use site — with performance area and an interpretive center — would.

In a letter posted on SanJuanJournal.com, the town Historic Preservation Review Board endorsed the project.

“Fully developing our heritage tourism venues locally is a part of an overall strategy for making preservation of Friday Harbor’s historic resources viable for property owners,” the board wrote.

And in a letter to the editor published in the Nov. 18 Journal, Chris Moore of the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation also endorsed the project.

“As one of the last remaining resources of its type in Friday Harbor, the (building) is significant as an early example of an industrial building within the town’s core,” wrote Moore, the trust’s field director.

“The agricultural tradition of the San Juan Islands is both compelling and rich. Establishing a farmers market at the (site) would serve the dual purpose of providing an appropriate forum to showcase this tradition and offer an important case-study in adaptive reuse applicable to other communities across the state.”

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