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O’Connor: Farmers Market serves up fresh district
One of the aspects that makes Oklahoma City an interesting and thriving place is our diverse districts. From the Western Avenue District to the historic Capitol Hill District and the 13 districts in between, each has a different vibe and personality.
What they have in common are unique events and locally owned shops and restaurants that aren’t found in other cities. Often originating in blighted areas, revitalized districts attract shoppers and visitors and make surrounding property values increase.
For any of our emerging districts, cultivating the right blend of restaurants, boutiques, food markets and retail to complement the surrounding neighborhoods requires significant planning and thoughtful leadership. Throw a historic landmark into the mix and there are even more considerations.
The Farmers Public Market District, west of downtown, has done an exceptional job of revitalizing an area of Oklahoma City with a remarkable past. The area started as Delmar Gardens, an amusement park that operated from 1902 to 1910. The 40,000-square-foot Farmers Public Market building was built in 1928 to give farmers a place to sell their goods and was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982. Urban sprawl pulled traffic away from downtown, but owners like Jody and Burt McAnally have been restoring the area to once again make it a local food community.
In the district are the Power House bar and farm-to-table eatery, Urban Agrarian local food market and wholesale distributor, the Oklahoma Food Cooperative, Urban Farmhouse Design, antique stores and more. The newest attraction, Delmar Gardens Food Truck Park, can accommodate up to 10 food trucks at a time with an adjoining patio space.
The ultimate measure of a district’s success is not only how well the businesses are doing, or how many people attend an event, but if the surrounding neighborhoods benefit as well.
In addition to hosting family-friendly events, such as food demonstrations, Delmar Gardens is working with state nutrition programs to help qualify low-income families to purchase fresh, nutritious food from the vendors.
There is more work to establish the Farmers Public Market District, such as increasing walkability and its connection to neighborhoods, but the district is well on its way to becoming a unique hub for local produce and a sustainable lifestyle.