City officials, business owners and community members gathered Thursday morning at the new Uptown Market space for a packed ribbon cutting ceremony.
To many, the $3.3 million facility at 201 W. Truman Road – a new site for the farmers market that’s been at Walnut and Liberty, as well as other events – symbolizes an overall investment in the Independence community and a decisive, ambitious path forward.
“This is where we make community with our friends,” said Doug Cowan, president of the Rotary Club of Independence, which served as a major fundraising source for the market. “This project is emotional and exciting.”
Speakers also discussed the project’s momentum, as it went from an idea to reality in less than 18 months. According to Tom Lesnak, president and CEO of the Independence Chamber of Commerce, the concept emerged after a retreat in Bentonville, Arkansas. There, civic leaders took inspiration, wanting to build similar initiatives and economic drivers, as well as enhance Independence’s downtown scene.
“We were supposed to come up with an audacious goal,” Lesnak recalled.
Despite its perceived audacity, the project remained on schedule and on budget. It will open for Santa-Cali-Gon Days, playing a major role in the festival next weekend before resuming Wednesday and Saturday hours for the farmers market.
In addition to its role selling produce, the market will host health and wellness programs, emphasizing fitness, stress management and more. City officials have also stressed that it’s a year-round facility expected to host fairs, festivals and similar events.
“It’s a multi-use project,” said market manager Joe Antoine. “Most of the farmers are very happy about the visibility and being able to be indoors.”
Now, he says farmers and vendors must adjust to the new space and navigate changes.
For Debbie DeCaigney, who runs High Point Honey and sells products at the market, not knowing exactly what’s ahead feels “kind of scary.”
“It’s a good thing to not have to worry about the wind, but we don’t know how we will use the space,” DeCaigney explained. “We also don’t know if there will be a cost increase for next year, which is a big concern for me and others.”
DeCaigney says farmers got to vote on the new space, but have not been updated or involved since then.