Kalamazoo Farmers Market switches location long enough to complete a $4.2 Million facelift

Heads up, shoppers. When the Kalamazoo Farmers Market opens May 1 for the 2021 season, it will be at a new temporary location, Mayors’ Riverfront Park, 251 Mills Street.

That’s because construction begins this month on a major upgrade at the market’s permanent Bank Street location that will take nearly a year to complete.

New and renovated vendor sheds, a new restroom building, and new parking lots are among the upgrades coming after the Kalamazoo City Commission’s recent approval of bids and $4.2 million of Capital Improvement Project bond funding.

Watch for the sign directing people to the temporary location of the Farmers Market.Construction is expected to begin in late April.

It’s a dream that’s been decades in the making, says Katelyn Bekken, market manager. “People have been sort of teased” with talk of improvements in the past, as upgrades were proposed, then changed or postponed, she says. 

This time, though, bids have been awarded and the work is slated to begin. 

Meanwhile, the portion of Riverfront Park allocated for the market during construction at the Bank Street site is about three times more spacious than the usual market, Bekken says, which will allow plenty of room for social distancing during this market season while COVID-19 precautions remain in place. Masks will be required of vendors and shoppers, she said.

The Kalamazoo Farmers Market has operated on the 1200 block of Bank Street since 1947, with locally grown fruits and vegetables, meat — commodities that make up about half of the markets’ more than 100 offerings.

It continued to operate last summer with restrictions in place to protect against the spread of COVID-19.

“Last year with COVID we only had about 80 vendors,” Bekken says, but this year the market will include the usual array of crafts, flowers, and non-food items with about 130 vendors.

April 24 is a soft opening, with limited vendors on site from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. 
the market opens in earnest May 1.

Signs installed at the Bank Street site will advise shoppers of the temporary location change.

While the market continues at its temporary location through the season, the project will be adding new vendor space on the Bank Street market’s western edge and renovating the existing vendor sheds. A new restroom and office building will more than double the number of restroom facilities and add a family restroom. A new performance stage will expand the market’s entertainment options.

Included in the construction, Bank Street will be realigned at the intersection with Lake Street to create additional parking on the north side of the market, and parking areas on both sides of the market will be paved.

The Kalamazoo River Valley Trail will also be extended from where it currently ends at the south end of Upjohn Park along Lake Street to Bank Street to continue south through the Market and along Reed Court. New bike racks will be installed at the market.

“The Farmers Market is such a beloved asset in our community,” says Sean Fletcher, parks and recreation director for the City of Kalamazoo.
“With this investment,” he adds, “we can really realize its potential and offer our community an even better experience with more vendors, more entertainment, more local goods, and more opportunities for local growers and makers.”

“We appreciate the community support that this project has received, and the flexibility of market-goers and vendors this year,” Fletcher says. “We’re excited to see (everyone) at Mayors’ Riverfront Park this year, and at an even better Bank Street Market in 2022.”

In addition to funding from Kalamazoo’s Capital Improvement Project, the project was awarded $2.2 million by the Foundation for Excellence. Additional funding was provided by the Irving S. Gilmore Foundation, Michigan Department of Natural Resources, and Consumers Energy.

Planning is underway to add a playground and event building at the Market in the future.

Kalamazoo Farmers Market hours
Saturday, May 1 from 7a.m. to 2 p.m.: Opening Day at Mayors’ Riverfront Park

Saturdays 7a.m. - 2 p.m.
May 1- Nov. 20

Tuesdays 8 a.m. - 1 p.m. 
June 1 - Oct. 19

Thursdays noon - 5 p.m.
June 3 - Oct. 21

Night markets are tentatively planned for 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. on the 4th Thursday of June, July, August and September, with proceeds from alcohol sales to go to the CanDo Kitchen. At these markets, the focus is on artisans, and about 80 vendors offer fresh fruits and veggies, meat, cheese, and locally made value-added products.

Local beer, wine, and cider is all available for purchase at the night markets,  with proceeds benefiting the Can-Do Kitchen and their programs. 


Read more articles by Rosemary Parker.

Rosemary Parker has worked as a writer and editor for more than 40 years, most of that time in Southwest Michigan.