But in other ways the new market bears little resemblance to the old. While the Brewery market is a wonderfully cramped Saturday affair where the farmers’ cooperative rents space in a historic building, the farmers envision the Seaport as an airy seven-days-a-week venture. And they’re future-minded, constructing one of the most environmentally friendly buildings on the continent, aiming for a platinum rating under LEED enviro certification.
After years of planning and fundraising, the Seaport market is taking shape quickly. Last week, people who invested in the Farmers’ Market Investment Cooperative were invited to the construction site for a first look inside. I was among the 200+ people who accepted the invitation, gathering over drinks and nibblies at Garrison Brewery before the tour started. (For full disclosure, I should say I am an investor. For full brag, I should mention I was the very first investor.)
From the Marginal Road side, the building doesn’t look spectacular yet. The giant “solar lantern” windows aren’t in, and the wind turbines on the roof are hard to see. But there are several tall white tubes, notable less because they tie into the building’s energy conservation system somehow, and more because they glow blue and green.
Kilcup led us into the north end of the building, pointing out the original warehouse roof, about 30 feet overhead and built in 1903. Inside felt like a vestibule, with a relatively low ceiling and wooden beams that will remain exposed when the building is finished (an architectural counterpoint to all the metal and glass).
Kilcup stood on some pieces of concrete to address the group. This is where the grand staircase will go, he said, leading to a living green wall. He also encouraged us to imagine the tables of vendors that will be on the market floor, tables that will be serviced by electricity and water. A handout we received says 155 vendors have already applied for space on Saturday, and 59 for Wednesdays; the Brewery market’s capacity is 145. The new market is essentially twice as big as the old, allowing more room for vendors and shoppers both.
Of course, the Seaport’s prime harbourside location isn’t just for blushing brides and shower-fresh shoppers. When cruise ships sail into town this is where they dock, often several boats strung along the seawall at the same time. From the market’s roof it’s clear just how close those ships are going to feel. Tourists who show up at the Brewery market almost disappear in the crowd. Here their presence will be harder to miss.
My rooftop oasis disturbed by the thought of a giant belching boat looming overhead, I turn from the harbour to get the view looking toward the city. Just past the train station the Barrington Superstore is visible; farmers’ market partisans will doubtless be happy to see that from this height, they are looking down on it. The sight makes me think of the retail mantra about the three most important things in business: “Location, location, location.”
The old Brewery market isn’t far away---650 metres according to Google Maps---but it feels a long way from here. For all its down-to-earth talk of local food, local labour, local shoppers biking down to use energy efficient rainwater toilets, at the same time the Seaport market is a display of eco-glamour on a highly visible stage. The market in the first place most of the cruise shippers will visit here, the only place many will go. Smack dab between the grocery chain and the tourists, at the strange intersection of consumption and sustainability, acting locally and showing off globally, Halifax couldn’t ask for a better ambassador.