Anyone worried about big changes coming to Overland Park’s beloved farmers’ market can rest easy, at least for now.
There’s no agreement on how to proceed, so the city will move slowly.
For months, Overland Park planners, merchants, vendors and residents have discussed the future of the downtown farmers’ market, which is enormously popular but needs improvements to grow, deal with parking problems and compete with up-and-coming venues.
But there’s a big community disconnect on that recommendation, Overland Park planners have learned.
So the best option for now is not to do anything drastic, said Doug Johnson, a manager with the city’s planning and development department.
“There’s remarkably little consensus,” Johnson told the city council on Monday night. “Results are all over the board.”
One small survey noted that 16 people agreed the park location would be best for a revamped market, while 19 vehemently disagreed, and want the market improved where it is, he said.
An interim step would be to provide about $250,000 in the upcoming budget to deal with the market’s immediate maintenance needs, such as drainage, electrical, lighting and paint upgrades, Johnson said. This option won’t allow the market to grow much or add events, but it would address critical infrastructure shortcomings. The council will debate that funding in upcoming budget discussions.
That will also buy time, Johnson said, to try to forge a community consensus on a future direction.
Overland Park spent about $120,000 on a market study, with local money and a Mid-America Regional Council grant. The Portland-Maine based consulting firm Market Ventures identified four options, including the modest maintenance improvements.
The other three options included moving the market to the park, which would cost an estimated $4.7 million, or expanding and growing it in its current location, which could cost between $6 million and $17 million. Consultant Ted Spitzer said the park would give the market more visibility and allow for many more events, while complementing other park improvements. It also allows the current market to function while the upgrades are built. But he acknowledged it’s a controversial proposal that many downtown merchants don’t like.
Council members said taking extra time will help citizens find common ground, while also allowing the city to explore more choices that may not yet have emerged.