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Portland Public Market up for sale


johnnyd
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The Portland Public Market is owned by the Libra Foundation, who own several downtown properties. They are offering all of them up for sale in one package, including the market, for $65million which, if successfully sold as such would be Portland's biggest Commercial real estate transaction to date.

But divesting the rest of the trust's holdings in Portland - particularly the Portland Public Market - was an emotional decision for the board

Story in MAINETODAY.COM

Libra undertook a bold experiment in 1998 when it opened the market. Modeled after farmers markets in other cities, it was designed to help farmers and small-business people and extend economic development into the city's struggling Bayside neighborhood.

The venture has had mixed success retaining vendors and eateries, and Wells acknowledged that it has yet to turn a profit.

A visit to the Portland Public Market during johnnyd's foodblog "Dining Downeast", August 2005

Noted: Maurice the sausage guy closed up his operation end of December. I went to pick up some chorizo and last month and there was no sign of him.

"I took the habit of asking Pierre to bring me whatever looks good today and he would bring out the most wonderful things," - bleudauvergne

foodblogs: Dining Downeast I - Dining Downeast II

Portland Food Map.com

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I cannot say that I was surprised by the news. I had written back in the Opinions in Portland thread about my impression of the Public Market, but really didn't get any feedback. Here I was thinking that the city or other group (sounds like Libra is a trust of some sort) had to be supporting it, for it is always close to empty. Being here only five months, three vendors have left since I moved here and after hearing that is just the tip of the iceberg (Commissary, previous wine shop, sausage maker, etc.) - kind of a shame that it was not better managed and more importantly patronized by locals. Now that the Greengrocer is closed on Commerical and with the demise of the Public Market, where does one shop on the peninsula? Surely, there are larger supermarkets (Wild Oats, Hannaford, the forecoming Whole Paycheck) down around Marginal Way - but part of living in such a small, closely-knit city is that one should be able to walk to a local market for buy fresh produce (before, you jump all over me about the word fresh with regards to the two vendors at the Public Market, where the same fruit and vegetables have been on display for the past few months. Not kidding here, the same actual pieces until they have become either too dried up or visibly rot - well, whose fault is it if no one is buying anything and they are not making money?

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esme, FYI the foundation is not for sale, just a few of their properties of which PPM is one. My hope is that the bunch who purchases it sells/leases the PPM to a group who develops it into a successfull market and, yeah, not condos. There has to be a model out there somewhere that will work for that wonderful space.

My wife remarked on the hopelessness at the mirador during one lunchtime. They had one or two people on the line so when the rush came they were overwhelmed at three or four orders - something about making guacamole to order?!?! It's mexican food for pete's sake!

Apparently everyone spent their whole lunch waiting for meals at the PPM so why go?

"I took the habit of asking Pierre to bring me whatever looks good today and he would bring out the most wonderful things," - bleudauvergne

foodblogs: Dining Downeast I - Dining Downeast II

Portland Food Map.com

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esme, FYI the foundation is not for sale, just a few of their properties of which PPM is one. 

Sometimes for a brunette I can be very blonde. Of course you can't sell a charitable trust.

I am frightened by the number of condos going up in Portland right now. Have you seen the plans for the Westin? Every inch of the block from India to Franklin, Fore to Middle will be 7 story hotel/condos except for the tiny 2 story building that houses Hugo's.

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esme, FYI the foundation is not for sale, just a few of their properties of which PPM is one. 

Sometimes for a brunette I can be very blonde. Of course you can't sell a charitable trust.

I am frightened by the number of condos going up in Portland right now. Have you seen the plans for the Westin? Every inch of the block from India to Franklin, Fore to Middle will be 7 story hotel/condos except for the tiny 2 story building that houses Hugo's.

While the hotel & condo-i-zation of PWM may or may not be a good thing, it should be considered a good thing in terms of making a public market viable. Public markets rely on high neighborhood population densities to survive and thrive; otherwise they become tourists attractions at best. A lot of old office buildings have and are being converted to apartments and condos in Center City Philadelphia, and all the empty-nesters occupying them make a strong customer base for the Reading Terminal Market. Instead of being just a glorified food court for office workers and tourists, the RTM actually has purveyors making money selling produce, fish and meat. Of course, you can get a helluva good roast pork sandwich there, too.

Bob Libkind aka "rlibkind"

Robert's Market Report

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Perhaps the PPM assumed upon completion that the surrounding blocks would be gentrified faster. The plans for the Westin place don't seem to take into account any area market like PPM nearby. If I could re-design things in the Old Port, I'd turn the Flatbread Pizza/RiRa building into a combination fresh produce/Restaurant/Fish Market. A logical stop for island commuters since it's next to the ferry, and fishermen could off-load their catch on the dock below Flatbread's deck. Keep the rira restaurant upstairs so tourists can see the action on the water.

Ever since visiting Portland in the eighties I've not understood the lack of oceanfront restaurants in the old port - all those piers and all we have is Dimillos, Porthole and J's oyster. Add a market to the waterfront and you get a mini Seattle.

"I took the habit of asking Pierre to bring me whatever looks good today and he would bring out the most wonderful things," - bleudauvergne

foodblogs: Dining Downeast I - Dining Downeast II

Portland Food Map.com

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As a sometime visitor from away who always enjoyed coming thru the PPM 5-6 times a year, this news seriously bums me out.

It was always a great lunch spot. Of course we're late eaters so we never encountered those service issues. Still, the place always seemed busy on summer afternoons. I guess seasonality is part of the problem.

johnnyd, you ought to be working for the City Of Portland, or somewhere where your ideas would become realities.

Thank God for tea! What would the world do without tea? How did it exist? I am glad I was not born before tea!

- Sydney Smith, English clergyman & essayist, 1771-1845

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  If I could re-design things in the Old Port, I'd turn the Flatbread Pizza/RiRa building into a combination fresh produce/Restaurant/Fish Market.  A logical stop for island commuters since it's next to the ferry, and fishermen could off-load their catch on the dock below Flatbread's deck.  Keep the rira restaurant upstairs so tourists can see the action on the water. 

Now there's an idea. I've always thought that that little strip of tilting buildings down by Harbor Fish/The Porthole would make a nice little marketplace as well.

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I've always thought that that little strip of tilting buildings down by Harbor Fish/The Porthole would make a nice little marketplace as well.

...the Porthole should be at the end of the pier overlooking the harbor but there would be zero parking. That pier would be pedestrian only except for commercial vehicles delivering produce to the stalls. Eventually, Portland will sustain that.

"I took the habit of asking Pierre to bring me whatever looks good today and he would bring out the most wonderful things," - bleudauvergne

foodblogs: Dining Downeast I - Dining Downeast II

Portland Food Map.com

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I walked through the Public Market a couple of times this past week, both for some quick shopping and also for curiosity - more to rexamine its layout after the news went public that it is up for sale. As the rest of Portlanders now know (always the last to find these things out, but I asked a few months back) the PPM was owned and operated by the Libra Foundation, the benevolent philanthropic trust of the late Elizabeth Noyce (not Noyes as we saw written in a post a few weeks back and was a source of frustration trying to dig up info on it). The group was mentioned in hopes that it would purchase the market, when in fact they are the owners who are selling it. First group approaching was Whole Foods, who have passed with the rationale that it is too small for their needs. Not that I have been to more than two or three "Whole Paychecks" but I think this is marginal in that the market is quite large and there is a good portion that is unseen, consisting of the kitchens and storerooms of the various vendors (Maverick's, Foley, Scales).

After seven years of never turning a profit, the Libra group is determined to cast off the property and is not renewing leases or allowing new vendors. According to Kris Horton, add Stone Soup to the soon to be closed and vacant spots. The management group has offered the other side to Horton's, but will not budge on the lease policies and will not allow any heating or cooking equipment. Seriously, who are the members of this braintrust that make these decisions?

Evidently, business has been noticeably up since the news hit the street, likely due to local residents that are realizing it may (actually, will) be soon gone. I don't like the idea of not having a working market of any sort on the peninsula - but the large scale grocers along Marginal Way must be thrilled.

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Vendor stalls comprise some 17,000 square feet of floor space, including storage, prep areas, and coolers.

- from Portlandmarket.com

That's plenty big. I'd say that's larger than the Wild Oats space. Whole Foods blew it by not taking this deal especially since parking is built-in along with downtown's cash-rich lunch traffic.

This news is right up there with the Scotia Prince ferry bailing out of Portland-Yarmouth service last summer. :hmmm:

"I took the habit of asking Pierre to bring me whatever looks good today and he would bring out the most wonderful things," - bleudauvergne

foodblogs: Dining Downeast I - Dining Downeast II

Portland Food Map.com

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If that number on square footage is accurate, then the footprint of the PPM is larger enough, but it seems likely that it is just an excuse proffered up by the Whole Paycheck company. A couple of months back we heard that the Whole Grocer was purchased by them and would be operated until a full-sized store could be built and opened. Anyone know where this is slated to be going - I am guessing in the same general area but have not seen anything as far as a construction site. Also, anyone have more on the Trader Joes rumors?...

That article that was the first to mention the Libra Foundation to sell of its real estate holdings make its sound like it was a bittersweet decision. As far as the PPM goes, it has never turned a profit (mind you that the group is set up as a benevolent not for profit trust, one that hired a lawyer last year to re-examine and to be a consultant on turning it around. Maybe its me, but a lawyer who specializes in estate settlement may not be the right individual to affect change and revamp a market. Interesting sidenote, Libra also owns and operates Wolf Neck, which shockingly is not represented at the market that it also owns, but whose products are carried at Hannaford's. Is it just me, but does the Libra Foundation have its head up its ass with the operation and running of the soon to be defunct Portland Public Market? Sadly, its eventual sale will evict the few tenants that are performing admirably and are making a profit.

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Just adding a bit more fuel to the fire here with new information learned today. The Libra Group is run by a cabal of lawyers who have really no interest or desire to operate the PPM to any degree of a stable, working environment. They are actually the owners/operators of Maverick's, the meat section of Maverick's, and both produce stands - one that has not changed its selection of vegetables in over two months (not kidding here, talking identical placement and orientation since before X-Mas for I am watching it close to every day as a way of entertaining myself with the whole sordid ordeal). Even heard an anecdote about one of the lawyers having a dislike of weavers and knitters, so much to not allow any free demonstrations in the market by willing volunteers - mind you that this is not costing one red cent and may even get more people in the door.

Come on now, the outdoor market that is at Monument Square every Wednesday through the summer can easily be retrofitted for part of the PPM and operated year-round if the Preble Street side is opened and pull-down gates and spaces for trucks to pull-up. Having a rotation of vendors, artisans, and local farmers under one roof on a year-round basis, it would not be too hard to transition. The sad part is that Elizabeth Noyce never lived long enough to see the market open and the disarray that has become of it.

There is actually a great kitchen environment for demonstrations and for courses on the upstairs level. Portland needs to really find some manner and way for the PPM to survive and change.

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Come on now, the outdoor market that is at Monument Square every Wednesday through the summer can easily be retrofitted for part of the PPM and operated year-round if the Preble Street side is opened and pull-down gates and spaces for trucks to pull-up.  Having a rotation of vendors, artisans, and local farmers under one roof on a year-round basis, it would not be too hard to transition.

Jon and I were talking about this yesterday. Putting in bullcarts for both the Wednesday and Saturday Farmer's markets would certainly be an easy way to attract new people with a shared interest in local food.

There is actually a great kitchen environment for demonstrations and for courses on the upstairs level.

They used to film a cooking show up there called either The Maine Ingredient or The Maine Dish, I can't remember exactly.

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What actually is a 'bull-cart'? I have some imagery in my head but am not familiar with the term. It is kind of sad about the PPM for it has/had great potential in is victim to poor management by a glut of Libra Foundation lawyers and general apathy from residents. Kris Horton related to me a conversation with an associate of hers, who proffered the excuse "I don't go that way" when asked to come and check out the market". It seems that the stubborness trait that seems to be common in Mainers shines through with this anecdote and we had a good laugh. Once I thought more about such a lame excuse and the rationale for it, I got more bewildered and upset about human nature.

Who knows, maybe Libra will not find a buyer and retain it but turning over the management. Kind of a shot in the dark and it extremely doubtful, but I like that idea rather than see what becomes of the space.

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A couple of months back we heard that the Whole Grocer was purchased by them and would be operated until a full-sized store could be built and opened. Anyone know where this is slated to be going - I am guessing in the same general area but have not seen anything as far as a construction site.

It appears that they will be taking over a building on Franklin Arterial and Somerset St. This from a couple folks at Wild Oats I chatted with y'day.

"I took the habit of asking Pierre to bring me whatever looks good today and he would bring out the most wonderful things," - bleudauvergne

foodblogs: Dining Downeast I - Dining Downeast II

Portland Food Map.com

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What actually is a 'bull-cart'? 

Bull-carts are those stand alone carts like they have at the walkways at the mall for smaller vendors that don't need an entire storefront or a lengthy lease. Farmers could actually share a cart and rotate their selling days.

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Ok. That was what I was thinking but had never heard the name. Hypothetically speaking (if the PPM was sold or new management brought in), there should be many vendor stalls that are available for farmers and merchants who would in turn "rent" that space, pay a fee, for their placement. A schedule would be established to allow a variety and it is not likely that any given farm would want a stand there every day.

Cooking demonstrations, wine tastings, cookbook presentations/signings, musicians, and artisans could be used effectively to bring more people into the market. I always noticed the bus stop signs with the mention of the "lunch hop" free ridership from Congress to Exchange during the lunch hour. If the city and Metro Bus authority gets behind the project - something similar could be put into effect.

Way overpriced fish stalls (read: Scales) with arrogant kids working the counters and a greengrocer with tired, month-old fruit/vegetables are not the answer to promoting the Portland Public Market.

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Stumbled upon a local group called "Save The Market" .org

Haven't delved too deep into it and some pages are blank but it appears to be a bunch of PPM vendors who have collaborated. Check it out here.

"I took the habit of asking Pierre to bring me whatever looks good today and he would bring out the most wonderful things," - bleudauvergne

foodblogs: Dining Downeast I - Dining Downeast II

Portland Food Map.com

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I just spent the last twenty minutes reading their website. I think it is a great idea and hopefully is able to convey the plight of the market's sale and help make more residents aware of the situation.

Another good idea would be to have a CO-OP stand there and have it function both as a distribution point (pick-up area for produce) and as a retail unit that would show off its variety, hopefully bringing more attention and interest to the premise of cooperative farming.

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In that vein, I also found http://www.mainefoods.net/ or the "Maine Foods Network". which is well organized. Not much going on but a solid foundation for the future.

Also had a terrific talk with John at Rosemont bakery who swears by the above MFN and features 80% Maine product at his Brighton Ave location. I'd love to see the driving force of Portland Green Grocer (his former gig) in the PPM space.

...wow! imagine... a huge version of Portland Green grocer in that freakin gigantic 17000sq space. Why leave? Turn that dumb Mavericks into a B&B! :laugh:

"I took the habit of asking Pierre to bring me whatever looks good today and he would bring out the most wonderful things," - bleudauvergne

foodblogs: Dining Downeast I - Dining Downeast II

Portland Food Map.com

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  I'd love to see the driving force of Portland Green Grocer (his former gig) in the PPM space. 

That would be great, johnnyd, but I've always secretly hoped they open a Green Grocer on the other side of the bridge, say in the Mill Creek area. A girl can dream... but the PPM would be good too :)

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A couple of months back we heard that the Whole Grocer was purchased by them and would be operated until a full-sized store could be built and opened. Anyone know where this is slated to be going - I am guessing in the same general area but have not seen anything as far as a construction site.

It appears that they will be taking over a building on Franklin Arterial and Somerset St. This from a couple folks at Wild Oats I chatted with y'day.

Yesterday I drove by this site, occupied until this week by the former SONDIK building. It is being dismantled, chunk by chunk, and will be shipped to somewhere in South America for re-assemblage as a school. Talk about large-scale recycling! This from former owner of Whole Grocer.

"I took the habit of asking Pierre to bring me whatever looks good today and he would bring out the most wonderful things," - bleudauvergne

foodblogs: Dining Downeast I - Dining Downeast II

Portland Food Map.com

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