Soulard Farmer’s Market Worried About Competition In Lafayette Square

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ST. LOUIS, MO (KTVI) – The developer for the St. Louis Food Hub hoped to get his zoning permit application approved Thursday.  That did not happen. 

The vendors of the Soulard Farmer's Market Association take a lot of pride in working there but they are afraid their days could be numbered if a competing market, called the St. Louis Food Hub, has its way.  The association says the new owners of the now-closed Sappington Market applied for zoning permits to open a new business about four blocks to the west of Soulard Market.

Some who work and live near Soulard spoke up at Thursday's hearing and said they did not want the new market.

If it ever gets built, the new market will be part of the City Hospital redevelopment in Lafayette Square, just a few blocks west of Soulard Market.

Developer Chris Goodson told the St. Louis City Zoning Department the new market would resemble a Trader Joe's and be an enclosed full-service grocery store.  Even though there would be a garden on the property, there would not be an open-air farmer's market like Soulard.

That garden was just one item that triggered opposition from neighbors and members of the Soulard Farmers Market Association. Members say they would be happy to see a grocery store in the area, but are worried the plan for the Food Hub would overlap with the Soulard Farmers Market.

“This is one more opportunity to bring people down to the area, one more opportunity for people to drive past Soulard Market that may not have heard of it,” explained City Hosptial Developer Chris Goodson.

Concerned resident Mark Sarich said Soulard Market has thrived on the economic diversity of its customers.  He believed the development would attract customers with more disposable income away from Soulard and hurt revenues.

Association members are also worried about the Foob Hub offering services seven days a week, especially since Soulard Market is not open on Sunday and cannot take advantage of revenue from that big grocery shopping day.

“To provide a business that responds to a need that’s already being responded to, really you can only look two ways at it,” Sarich said.  “One is that it’s completely unnecessary and the other that it’s a hostile act.”

Goodson said the project could get $5 million in tax increment financing.  Farmers Market Association members also object to that.

Goodson said the food hub would source produce from Soulard and ship it to area schools through the on-site distribution center.

Sarich thinks the project will also bring traffic congestion.

Members asked for more time to meet with Goodson and his team before the city granted a zoning permit.  The department agreed.  Goodson and his partners will now wait about a month for a decision on the food hub.