What began as one man’s idea for a public market in southwest downtown has evolved into a large-scale effort to build a downtown anchor with momentum and energy coming from some prominent Colorado Springs business people and community leaders.
Mike Callicrate, who sells sustainably raised meats, introduced the idea to the community in July. He said he imagined a place like the Milwaukee Public Market that sells local produce, meats, cheeses and beers along with hosting community events and weddings. The market has become a tourist draw in Milwaukee.
The idea is still at least a year from turning into a real Colorado Springs destination, according to volunteers, but there is progress. The Pikes Peak Community Foundation listed the market under its umbrella earlier this month, which means people can begin donating to the cause.
Callicrate initially said he envisioned the market in one of the old Crissey Fowler Lumber buildings that Nor’wood Development Group owns adjacent to America the Beautiful Park.
Callicrate remains involved and that building still could be an option. But the idea has outgrown Callicrate, and a location committee, including area planning and architecture professionals, is grading 12 different locations on a rubric of 70 criteria to decide which downtown location would be best.
It’s just one of many tasks that volunteers have taken on since Callicrate announced his idea in the CSBJ last summer, said Dave Anderson, who co-chairs the Colorado Springs Public Market steering committee with Vikki Walton. Walton is the foundation grant coordinator at Global Action, and Anderson is best known for his independent candidacy challenging Doug Lamborn for his seat in the U.S. House of Representatives last year.
“We have some amazing people working with us, volunteering their time to this,” Walton said.
There have been nearly 100 people at some of the Colorado Springs Public Market meetings, said Kady Hommel, who owns a marketing business and volunteers on the public market’s communications team. Most of them have volunteered their varied skills and services, donating nearly $100,000 worth of expertise.
Andrew Hershberger, a managing partner with Thomas Puckett Advertising, created a logo and has worked on developing a brand for the public market project.
That branding effort will help the committee fund-raise development capital.
“You can’t have a high capital investment in a project like this one,” Anderson said.
The rent for vendors will have to be low in order for it to be sustainable, which means the group is looking for partners who can help make the real estate more affordable.
Joe Rexroad, who owns Rexroad APG and does advanced feasibility studies for the military and military contractors, is nearly finished with a feasibility study on the market concept.
“We’re looking at location and size and vendor mix, and we get pretty deep into the possibility of really whether this thing is going to go or not,” Rexroad said.
He said the group knows it wants the market to be part of a larger downtown renaissance. That means it would rely significantly on tourist traffic, Rexroad said.
“But they don’t necessarily want to set this up to feed the tourists,” Rexroad said. “They want to feed the city.”
And in order to draw in residents, the market will have to advertise and try to draw people from farther outside of the city center.
So far, Walton said the group has decided on an organizational structure and will operate as a nonprofit with an enterprise arm. The next step will be deciding on a location.
“What this becomes, what we do, will grow out of the location we choose — at least to a degree,” Hershberger said.