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Outdoor market almost reality in West Berkeley

By John Geluardi Daily Planet staff
Tuesday May 08, 2001

The West Berkeley Market, an outdoor mercado designed to spark a community and economic renaissance in west Berkeley, has announced an opening day after three years of planning. 

Volunteers for the nonprofit West Berkeley Neighborhood Development Corporation organized the eclectic outdoor market and will continue to manage and promote it. WBNDC boardmembers have asked the City Council for start up funding of $45,000 for the first year to help pay staff, advertise the market and conduct business workshops for burgeoning vendors. The council will consider referring the request to the city manager at tonight’s meeting. 

The market will be held on the north side of University Avenue near the Berkeley Amtrack Station, one block from the upscale Fourth Street shopping area. It is scheduled to run every Sunday afternoon from May 27 to Oct. 28. 

The market will consist of 45 booths , which will be reserved mostly for crafts vendors, but there will also be produce and food vendors as well as information booths for city departments such as the Health and Human Services and nonprofit organizations. 

“We would like to create some of the spirit of the large mercados in Mexico City,” said Betsy Morris, WBNDC secretary. 

WBNDC President Willie Phillips said the West Berkeley Market is envisioned to be more than a market place. He said the market would create business opportunities for low-income residents, establish a community center for the exchange of information and provide a showplace for craftspeople, artists and musicians. 

Morris said part of the requested funding would support workshops for people interested in starting small businesses. “The workshops would provide business basics such as how to register a new business with the city and ways to turn hobbies into a business,” she said.  

Morris said it would be an opportunity for residents of West Berkeley to learn the basics of running a business and create a space where they can start out.  

Mayor Shirley Dean said she is a supporter of the market but is concerned about the request for start-up funds. “I wish they could have given us some warning about this,” she said. “The budget is going to be tight this year.” 

Morris said once the market is established, WBNDC would be able to seek funds from other sources. “This market has set out goals that go beyond what a profit-oriented business would accomplish,” she said. “We want to assist the community and we need some help to get the ball rolling.” 

The market was originally planned to operate on Fifth Street, one block from its current location, but that plan fell through when Fourth Street businesses and neighbors fought the plan because of concerns about parking and traffic. Morris said that since they received the permit for the new location, they have received support from Denny Abrams of Abrams & Millikan, a construction and architectural design firm that owns much of the commercial property in the Fourth Street shopping area.  

Abrams refused to comment on the opening of the market. 

Ted Burton, project coordinator for the Economic Development Department, said this will be Berkeley’s first public market. “The concept of a public market is a place for the sale of non-franchised arts, crafts and foods,” he said. “Given a little time this market can be a real go, given the location and the business plan.”