Overland Park begins exploring idea of new downtown Farmers Market facility

Overland Park Farmers Market pavilion.
Overland Park Farmers Market pavilion.

The Farmers Market in downtown Overland Park has become a victim of its own popularity and city officials have started a process that could result in a new facility replacing it within 10 years.

The city has approved $60,000 to match funding provided by the Kansas Department of Transportation through the Mid-America Regional Council. The $120,000 will be used to hire a consultant this spring to begin exploring the future of the Farmers Market.

A staff report prepared for the matching funding laid out the problems with the current facility, which was built about 20 years ago in the heart of downtown Overland Park.

“There has been a growing realization in the community that the current Farmers Market Pavilion is not the ideal structure for the future,” according to the report.

“Both the Vision Metcalf plan and the Form Based Code analysis called for a significant reconfiguration of the Market structure to allow growth, to facilitate operations on a more year-round basis and to broaden the range of activities that could be accommodated.”

Doug Johnson, manager of of GIS and support services for the city, said that while there’s no money budgeted currently to replace the Farmers Market, the study is expected to pave the way to a potential request in the future.

“Without a plan, it’s hard to get money in the budget,” he said. “We’re hoping that if we have a plan with some excitement behind the idea, there could be money in the budget.”

A request for proposals to hire a consultant is expected to be released soon. Johnson said the study itself would likely begin by late spring or early summer.

One of the problems already identified with the current Farmers Market operation is lack of parking. While the Farmers Market draws many people to downtown Overland Park, the pavilion that houses it takes up much of the public parking available.

“Although there is a growing consensus regarding the problem, there has never been any clear plan on how to best address the problem,” according to the staff report.

“The goal of this project would be to assemble a consultant team with expertise in both multi-modal transportation planning, and market design and operation to evaluate our current situation and provide a clear direction for the future.”

Johnson said alternative sites for the Market could be among the options that come from the study.

“The current location is a candidate, but there could be others that might be better,” he said. “We want to be ready for opportunities. For example, a developer may say I’d like a market next to my project. We need a plan to react to opportunities when they arise.”

He added the study process also would provide opportunities for the public to offer suggestions.

“At some point,” Johnson said, “we’ll have an open forum where people can respond to ideas.”

The staff report lays out a tentative timetable that calls for a new Farmers Market within 10 years.

“There is no way to predict the timing for construction or to even guarantee that construction would take place,” it states, “but the Farmers Market is a very important program in our community and there is support for expansion.

“There is also considerable support for making improvements to our ability to move people in and out of the downtown, particularly on busy days. Both of these needs are significant enough that we believe that construction of the project is realistic within a 5- to 10-year time frame.”