DALLAS –– On Wednesday, the Dallas City Council gave the go-ahead to move forward with a $64 million privatization plan for the Farmer's Market downtown.
“We are really excited about it," said Mark Ruibal, whose family owns Ruibal's Plants of Texas, located near Marilla Street and South Pearl Expressway.
For years, the city-owned market has struggled. Dallas has been forced to issue subsides for it with taxpayer dollars to keep it running.
The Council's approval now paves the road for a group of private investors to buy most of the market.
"Some of the deed restrictions said the Farmer's Market still has to operate," Ruibal said. "It has to be local farmers, some will be displaced, but still in the area."
City planners hope the privitazation will create an urban neighborhood "for people of all income levels" that will be anchored by the new Farmer's Market. According to a Council briefing, the idea is to bring a mix of townhouses, low-rise apartments and condos to the area.
The new Farmer's Market will add a "fresh food-oriented urban neighborhood" that serves Downtown, the Cedars, Deep Ellum and Fair Park –– neighborhoods where grocery stores are scant.
Shed 1 will be renovated to "increase and improve space available for local farmers," the Council briefing says. Shed 2, where local farmers currently sell produce, will highlight restaurants based in Dallas. Shed 3 and Shed 4 will become a new mixed-used development with more than 240 apartment units and ground floor retail.
An unused parking lot is slated to become a community garden.
To help generate interest, the city will expand the boundaries of a nearby Tax Increment Financing (TIF) district to include the area, giving tax breaks to potential future tenants. City officials hope to enact this by June.
Ruibal's family has operated their popular business for 29 years at the market. They are in support of the plan, which they hope will generate more business with retail shops, an apartment complex, restaurants and a culinary institute.
"And in those restaurants you'll have chefs that will do cooking demonstrations, so you will have a whole bunch of stuff. You aren't just coming for the fruits and veggies at that point," he said.
The city will get $3.2 million for the property, which will be used to pay off exiting debt. Business owners like Mark Ruibal say they are ready for the crowds they hope will be pouring in.