Controversy continues over potential relocation of Downtown Evanston Farmers’ Market


Justine Fisher/The Daily Northwestern

Downtown Evanston Farmers’ Market. Customers gather as vendors sell fruits and vegetables.

Justine Fisher, Reporter

Tents line the streets of downtown Evanston nearly every weekend from May through November, selling local products like pasta, tomatoes, flowers and apple cider. But soon, the Downtown Evanston Farmers’ Market may relocate, prompting concern from some vendors and customers. 

The 46-year-old market is currently located at ​​the intersection of University Place and Oak Avenue. In February, the city’s economic development committee began discussing moving the market to Fountain Square, which Market Manager Myra Gorman said may create challenges for vendors. 

“Some of these farmers are older farmers — they don’t want to start all over again,” Gorman said. “If this move goes through, we’re going to see a lot of our senior farmers not returning, which would be a shame.”

At this point, there is no clear time frame or guarantee of any move, said Annie Coakley, Downtown Evanston executive director.

However, a relocation may be an asset in some ways. Coakley added that it could create proximity to other Evanston businesses, among other advantages. 

“Several people, including myself, think it would be a great benefit to the downtown businesses if it moved to the heart of downtown,” Coakley said. 

But Fountain Square has less parking capacity and a smaller space for vendors, as opposed to the market’s current location, Gorman said. If the new location is inconvenient, she said vendors may risk losing a wide customer base. 

Since the market is currently next to a parking garage, customers from all over the Chicago area are willing to drive in because they know they will have easy parking access, Gorman said.

“Some of these people have given us comments that if the market’s going to move and I have to walk over a block to get to a garage, they’re just going to stay in Chicago,” Gorman said.

While most farmers markets in Chicago remained closed during the pandemic, Gorman said the Evanston market was able to reopen last spring due to its suburban location. The market attracted customers from the city as well as Evanston residents, she added.

Ben Schargorodsky works the stand for Dulce Caramel Co., his wife Graciela’s business. He said the market’s reopening last spring helped boost Dulce’s sales.

“As long as people come to the market, we work,” Schargorodsky said. “The market was up most of the time, so it’s a solid type of business.”

City Council has not taken any formal action on moving the market location, but the economic development committee is generally favorable to the idea of a move, according to Ald. Eleanor Revelle (7th).

Revelle said she anticipates further debate on the issue.

“There are a lot of residents who love, love, love the current location, so when it comes to council, there’ll be a lot of public comment about it.” Revelle said.

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