Group Looking at Possibility of South Market, Greenhouse on Parsons
The Parsons Avenue Merchants Association (PAMA) has received money from City Council to evaluate the feasibility of some big ideas for the South Side — a commercial greenhouse, a grocery store, a research kitchen and even a food and farmer’s market modeled on the North Market.
Bob Leighty, PAMA’s Executive Director, said that the $17,000 grant will be used to assess the market and talk with neighborhood stakeholders and food-industry experts about the concepts, which could either be built as separate projects or combined in one large building. The study will look at an area originally defined by the Southern Gateway planning initiative, which includes the neighborhoods on either side of Parsons, south of Frebis Avenue.
“We want to bring together folks to design, build, and sustainably operate local food facilities,” said Leighty, adding that the goal of the overall project is to, “provide job and entrepreneurship opportunities for South Columbus residents, spurring economic development for the Parsons Avenue corridor and all of South Columbus.”
Possibilities for the greenhouse include a hydroponics or aquaponics system that could provide produce to local restaurants and anchor institutions (like hospitals and universities). The research kitchen could serve as a food-business incubator, giving local entrepreneurs a place to test out new products.
Although similar in some respects to the planned Food District in Weinland Park, where a production co-packing kitchen is planned, Leighty stressed that this project would feature different — but hopefully complementary — elements.
“A critical part of the feasibility study will be to evaluate how these new facilities could best complement and drive the overall Columbus-area local food infrastructure,” he said, mentioning the Weinland Park plans as well as the work of ECDI and projects in Franklinton and the Near East Side. “We’re not reinventing the wheel, but rather creating facilities that would work with other existing and planned local food facilities and programs.”
Leighty has also started a new non-profit organization – FoodStart – that will look at the results of the feasibility study with an eye toward supporting one or more of the concepts. FoodStart’s first event, The Big Pitch, is scheduled for this weekend.