Nfld. & Labrador

Q&A: What the St. John's Farmers' Market will look like at the old Metrobus depot

Find out what the people behind the popular market have in mind for a building that used to house a bus fleet.

Find out what the people behind the market have in mind

An image by architects Fougere-Menchenton of what the St. John's Farmers' Market space will look like once the old Metrobus depot is renovated. (St. John's Farmers' Market)

This summer will be the last for the St. John's Farmers' Market at its rented base at the Lions Club near Bonaventure Avenue in St. John's.

At some point in 2018, the market will formally move to a new, permanent home: the old Metrobus depot on nearby Freshwater Road.

Getting from here to there will take time (more than a year) and money, and quite a lot of planning by the community-based organization that has provided a home for farmers, small-scale vendors and foodies.

Josh Smee, who chairs the St. John's Farmers' Market board, has been leading the plan for the new market, and has been studying what works at similar markets in the country.

He spoke this week with Krissy Holmes of the St. John's Morning Show.

Q. What will people see when the depot is renovated?

A. If you've seen the depot, it is a big bus garage. A lot of it is going to stay the same, but the garage doors are going to be replaced with glass ones that will be thrown open in the summertime, so you'll be able to come and go. We'll have vendors selling from their trucks in a public square out front. There'll be landscaping, public seating areas, a community kitchen and a workshop space, and a play area — so it's going to be a really vibrant community space with a lot more physical room for our vendors.

Josh Smee says work will start soon on converting the old Metrobus depot on Freshwater Road into a new home for the St. John's Farmers' Market. (Krissy Holmes/CBC)

Q. So it sounds like the facade is going to change as well.

A. Yes, so we're just working with the city's architects now on what that's going to look like. But the building will look quite different by the end. There will be much more glass. It will be a much more light-filled kind of place.

Q. Given all of those amenities that you've listed, this sounds like a one-stop shopping kind of place.

A. Totally. It's going to be a really big deal for us. We really want to make sure that people will be able to get what they need at the market. There's going to be fish vendors, meat vendors. We'll be able to have the infrastructure there if people want to put in fridges and those kinds of things. The market itself is going to have a little shop on site where you'll be able to buy things when they're not there. We'll be running all the way through the winter and in the middle of the week, so there'll be more chances for you to come down and get what you need.

These doors will be replaced by glass doors that will allow much more light into the depot. (St. John's Farmers' Market)

Q. It sounds like the market has an opportunity to act as an incubator for local vendors.

A. That's absolutely how we see what the market does. You can test your concept, come in and rent a plastic table, see if people like the product, build up your audience and your community, and gradually get more and more established. Vendors who are doing well will be able to build a permanent booth that is recognizably theirs, and we really want to make sure that people can grow and sometimes leave the market, and get a storefront somewhere. We've already seen that happen a few times, and we expect to see that happen lots more.

Q. How accessible will this new space be?

A. That's one of the things we're happiest about.  This is going to be a fully wheelchair-accessible space, in pretty much every way. The building is at grade, so all of the entrances are at ground level. There are no stairs or anything. We're very conscious of accessible design, making sure the aisles are wide enough, there will be automatic sliding doors, and there will be accessible counter heights in the kitchens. All in all, I think it's going to be one of the most accessible community spaces in the city.

The St. John's Farmers' Market will have about 14,000 square feet of space once renovations are completed next year. (St. John's Farmers' Market)

Q. A lot of people know this building for the great big garage on one side, but there is also another three-story building adjacent to it. What will be happening in that structure?

A. The City of St. John's is still going to be here. We are taking over the garage portion [by] leasing it out, but the City of St. John's will own the whole building, and their staff will use the office part of it.

Q. How much will the renovation cost?

A. We'll get the final costings pretty soon, but the budget range is around $4 million. That's a lot of work we're getting done for that amount of money. We would never have been able to build new for anything close to that. So it's a pretty good bargain.

Q. What about timelines; where are we?

A. We are looking at construction starting this spring. It's just under a year's work to get everything done. Next spring to early summer, we're hoping to throw the doors open.

By the summer of 2018, this parking lot will be used by customers and vendors of a refurbished farmers' market. (Krissy Holmes/CBC)

This interview was edited for clarity and length.