Overland Park seeks proposals to develop downtown farmers’ market site — here’s how you can give input

The city of Overland Park on Friday issued a call for requests for proposals for developing the site of the Farmers' Market pavilion downtown, above. The city will also host a public input session on Sept. 28. The pavilion has stood just east of the clock tower for 30 years, and there are concerns it can no longer accommodate the market, which has grown in recent years. File photo.

For 30 years, the Overland Park Farmers’ Market pavilion has stood downtown, just east of the iconic clock tower.

What the future of the site will be could depend greatly on what the city hears in the next few months as it kicks off the process to improve and expand the farmers’ market and, potentially, make the area around the aging pavilion into something more.

The city on Friday formally opens up the process to receive requests for proposals for developing the site at 7950 Marty Street.

At the same time, the city will also be taking feedback from residents, businesses and vendors about the future of the farmers’ market.

“We know many people in this community care deeply about … the Farmers’ Market,” said Jack Messer, director of Overland Park’s Planning and Development Services Department, in a statement Thursday. “This is an excellent opportunity to get involved with a project that builds off work we’ve already done to improve the space where the market is, and where it will remain.”

Public input opportunities

The city will host a public input session on Tuesday, Sept. 28, at 7 p.m., at Matt Ross Community Center, 8101 Marty Street.

Those interested in participating in that event can register here.

Residents can also give their feedback virtually after the meeting, according to the city.

The city’s landing page for the farmers’ market improvement project can be found here, including an FAQ.

The market’s future downtown

City officials are emphasizing that regardless of what development plans are ultimately approved, the farmers’ market will remain downtown.

“The Farmers’ Market will be the key component of any future use” of the downtown site, the city said in a statement. “There are no preconceived notions of what kind of project might be proposed.”

For the past two seasons, the farmers’ market has been held in the parking lot of the nearby Matt Ross Community Center, 8101 Marty Street, in order to accommodate spaced-out stalls and more open-air shopping amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the past, concerns have been raised about the downtown pavilion’s electrical system and the fact that the site sits on a slope, making it difficult for people with mobility issues and exacerbating flooding problems when it rains.

Also, the pavilion can’t be used year-round, and the space was becoming too crowded even before the pandemic.

A 2017 study of the farmers’ market concluded that the event, if not the pavilion itself, needed to remain at the downtown location long-term. That came after a proposal was floated to move the market to a nearby park, which garnered heated opposition at the time.

“We’ve outgrown the Farmers’ Market,” City Council President Curt Skoog said earlier this summer at a city council committee meeting. “The goal is how do we make the Overland Park Farmers’ Market live up to its potential?”

Ideas for reimagining the farmers’ market space downtown have been discussed for years, though details have generally been sparse.

But they’ve included a potential partnership with private developers for a mixed-use space that would include an area for the market, along with other commercial spaces and apartments or other housing properties on the current pavilion site.

“If there are other creative ideas, the request for proposals allows the City to partner with the development community to provide a more beneficial and exciting project in downtown,” the city says about its current call for development ideas.

“The City will be able to define what it requires of any redeveloped site, including vendor stall space, event space and any associated amenities for a complete project,” it says.

Timeline

The city on Friday, Sept. 3, will issue a request for proposals. Whatever bids the city receives will be posted here.

The city says opening the process up to bids from private developers will allow the city to “evaluate whether there might be a viable alternative to simply undertaking a separate and stand-alone City redevelopment of the Farmers’ Market site.”

Then, the city will host the public input session on Sept. 28.

Proposals will come due some time this fall, according to the city.

A “selection committee” will then review the proposals and interview applicants this fall and into the winter.

Some time later this year or early next year, the selection committee will make a  recommendation for a site plan to the city council.

The city projects that construction on whatever plan is finalized will begin no earlier than 2023.