Over the last two decades, Flint has suffered from a severe decline in population and economic fortunes. Despite this trend, however, the Flint Farmers Market, consisting of a year-round indoor fresh food market and a seasonal farmers' market shed, has remained a treasured community institution. In 2006, with the Ruth Mott Foundation and local partners' support, Project for Public Spaces began working with market leaders to develop a new business plan for the market and relocate it to a new downtown location.
Based on the community's input through workshops, Project for Public Spaces worked closely with local architecture firm Funchitecture to design the new market around its public spaces. The design includes a four-story, multi-use atrium, a community room, a rooftop terrace, and an outdoor public park and plaza, all of which host a rich mixture of events and gatherings.
In 2014, the Flint Farmers' Market opened its doors in the renovated printing press building. Thousands of people showed up that first day, and have kept coming back since. Although the market is only open three days a week, over 530,000 visited in 2018 alone. Foot traffic and sales revenues both increased by over 300% after the market relocation, and customer demographics today mirror those of the broader metro area—though with a larger proportion of non-white shoppers.
The market serves as the heart of a vital Health and Wellness District, which has attracted $36 million in new investment from Michigan State University and the Genesys Health System, among others. The focus on wellness in this district was prophetic, as the market's relocation predated the Flint water crisis, one of the worst public health disasters in recent American history. In fact, Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, the doctor who blew the whistle on elevated levels of lead in children, has her offices at the Hurley Children's Clinic on the second floor of the market, where she prescribes fresh fruits and vegetables sold at the market to help counteract the effects of lead in children.
Today, Flint Farmers' Market is not only the city's new town square but is playing a critical role in addressing some of the most significant challenges facing the city today.
American Farmland Trust's "Top Regional Market" in 2019
American Planning Association's “Great Place in America" in 2015
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