The Broadway Market

26 Jun

The Broadway Market is a city treasure, filled with history and loaded with potential. Unfortunately, it’s under-utilized, losing money, keeps bad hours, and is really, truly ugly.

We know it has potential because of the Eastertime rush. We know it has potential because of its history, and people’s nostalgia for it. That potential is tempered by the decline of its surroundings over the past decades.

If I had all the money in the world, I’d rip it down and build a brand-new structure as a destination for the area. After all, if Canal Side can all of a sudden draw people to a once-blighted and benighted parking lot under the Skyway, then a gleaming, modern Broadway Market could help draw people to Broadway-Fillmore.

Of course, I hardly have enough money to fill up a tank of gas now, and I doubt that there’s political will or financial sense to be made of constructing a gleaming, modern marketplace on that site.

I think what’s happening is that the market’s potential is being stunted by a whole host of issues. Let’s simplify.

What if we abandoned the building completely? What if, instead, we set up something like what’s shown below on the site of the former K-Mart across the street?

Make the cost of entry for vendors de minimis, and soon you’ll have a thriving, grassroots market. Tell farmers from other areas to market their wares there. Abolish restrictions on the use of the market.

If it can be proven that people will use the market outside of Eastertime, then a push can be made to build a new enclosed market across the street.

Just a thought, anyway. Being open on Sunday, when the refugees from the old neighborhood go to church, would help, too.

UPDATE: Check out the article in ArtVoice about the market, and these excerpts:

The problem, Byrd says, is lack of vision. He took a position on the board because he imagined that it could be a part of the larger effor to revitalize Buffalo’s old Polonia dsitrict, which revolves around fixtures like the Central Terminal, St. Stanislaus, Corpus Christi, and the Adam Mickiewicz Library. This year Byrd was voted in as president of the board by a bloc of similarly minded progressives, offering a glimmer of hope for those who hoped to change the way business is done at the market.

But the current board leadership managed to retain power by invalidating the vote that won Byrd the presidency, through a series of shenanigans that included ousting one board member on a technicality and fetching a compliant former board member from a nursing home to take his place, in order to make a quorum. In the aftermath, Byrd resigned; the old leadership returned and booted reform-minded board members Marty Biniasz and Father Anzelm Chalupka of Corpus Christi Church for missing too many meetings, which are held at 8:30 in the mornings on weekdays—tough to make for working professionals.

For all the complaints about lack of public money, the current management practically threw away $1.2 million from Congresswoman Louise Slaughter in 2006. Slaughter, who was instrumental in the successful rejuvenation of Rochester’s public marketplace, earmarked the money for a public kitchen and a variety of much-needed infrastructure improvements. But Fronczak and the board conspired to use $1 million of Slaughter’s earmark to lure in a new tenant who proposed to open a factory outlet selling discount clothing—not at all in line with Slaughter’s vision of the market as a hub for community development and a source of healthy food in a multicultural neighborhood. Slaughter took her money off the table and walked away, disgusted, vowing never to help the market while Fronczak was still there.

“They wanted to give this guy $1 million, Slaughter’s money, to open a factory outlet,” Franczyk says. “Is that right for the market? He subsequently went out of business. If you had given this guy $1 million, he probably would have skipped town.”

We all know that KeyBank left the market. What better way to attract people to a fading market in a fading neighborhood, then to add the lowest common lending denominator – the usurial check cashing place:

More recently, when the departure of KeyBank left the market with nagging vacancy and a loss of $6,000 per month in rent, Fronczak and the board courted a check-cashing operation based in New York City. Maybe check-cashing is a sevice the neighborhood needs, says Dobosiewicz, but it hardly burnishes the market’s already downtrodden image. “This is the plan there: Get whoever you can who will pay rent, don’t worry about who they are and how they fit in with the market,” he says.

Luckily, there are people with vision and energy who can hopefully jettison the mediocrity and stasis of the market’s current board:

The current board has been less than receptive to new marketing ideas; they only halfheartedly went along with a Christmas market event last year, for example, which turned out to be hugely successful. Tenants who suggested a Fourth of July promotion were told it was bad idea. Why? Because it had never been done before. And management seems unwilling to accept the conclusions of customer surveys that indicate the market would attract more business if it stayed open past five o.clock on weekdays and instituted Sunday hours.

Sandy Starks is a founding member of Western New York’s convivium of the Slow Food movement and a career professional in the food and wine industry. She was one of the organizers of the Christmas market, an effort in which she received so little cooperation from the market’s management that it wound up costing her money. She’s one of a number of Broadway Market enthusiasts who are waiting in the sidelines to contribute their ideas and expertise to the rebirth of the market. Starks imagines organic vegetable stands, high-quality coffee, good cheeses, and microbrews to draw in customer with expensive tatses; she imagines reaching out to potential new vendors in the Fillmore District’s burgeoning Vietnamese and Muslim communities, as well as a consistent effort to include the district’s majority African-American population in the market’s cultural history and governance, which have been an island of Eastern European whiteness in a neighborhood that is predominantly African American. Starks imagines events every weekend, promoted not only by individual participants but by the market’s management. Starks, Byrd, and Dobosiewicz point to the Clinton-Bailey market—in an equally distressed neighborhood, even further removed from downtown—as an indication of that the Broadway can succeed.

9 Responses to “The Broadway Market”

  1. Tuco June 26, 2008 at 9:11 pm #

    Unfortunately, thanks to the “Journey in Faith and Grace”, the number of refugees from the old neighborhood coming in on Sunday has dwindled to almost nothing. Also, it is worth noting that in the market’s heyday, the city’s population was 500,000 people. That number has been halved in 50 years. Yet another hinderance to a turnaround is perceived lack of safety. Broadway-Fillmore is a high crime area, and hearing story after story on the news about muggings and shooting in that vicinity does nothing to help get people from outside that area to the market. Lastly, there are LOTS of farmer’s markets in the area that people patronize. South Buffalo, Kenmore, Tonawanda, North Tonawanda and Lockport all have them either daily or weekly.

    Broadway Market IS a treasure, and should be saved. They need to get new people in control of the thing. They need to overcome the perceived safety issue. They need to lure vendors with minimal rents, and try to get diverse as possible to service both established and burgeoning etnic populations in the city, and PROMOTE it.

  2. al-alo June 27, 2008 at 7:38 am #

    Pundit, Ive had a similar thought myself.

    But i say, take it throughout the city. small public and farmers markets are good for food security, good for farmers, and good for you. take Hertel, for example. how difficult would it be to erect a structure like this on a seldom used lot?

  3. Tbone June 27, 2008 at 10:29 am #

    How about we move the Broadway Market to a newly constructed replica of the Central Warf, on the inner harbor- the Market has moved a few times in the past- why not now when it faces its greatest challenge? Additionally I believe it would be a decent way to synergize our development dollars.

  4. dave in Rocha June 27, 2008 at 12:57 pm #

    It’s a shame to see that the board is shooting itself in the foot. Best of luck to Byrd and the rest to turn it around.

    As for the argument that the crime in the area is a turn-off, I can’t say I agree. The Public Market in Rochester is in a pretty crummy neighborhood, yet it’s packed every Saturday. Why? Several reasons: the city promotes it heavily, they frequently have special seasonal events, it’s only open Tue/Thur/Sat mornings (though Tue and Thurs are dead) so it becomes a weekly ritual for many, and they encourage exactly the types of vendors mentioned in Artvoice (specialty cheese, coffee shops, ethnic bakeries…). And all this success is happening even with the proliferation of smaller “farmer’s markets” throughout the area. If anything I think that they all help each other in that it gets people away from the mindset that Wegmans is the be-all end-all stop for all things food.

  5. indabuff June 27, 2008 at 1:51 pm #

    @Dave

    If you look at a lot of the older public markets around the country, they are in similar neighborhoods to B-F…I hate the neighborhood excuse…

    @tbone

    The Market has never been moved, it has seen different buildings on same location.

    @BP

    The building…the interior is perfect for an indoor public market…it just needs to lose the chaotic look…the 100000 sq ft lot/roof yields fantastic views of the neighborhood and city…it is underutilized…could be used for outdoor events, more farmers…

    ——-

    There a variety of things the market could do…it’s biggest problem is out of sight out of mind and a bit of creativity.

  6. Greg June 27, 2008 at 3:37 pm #

    I went there once (not at easter) and wasn’t impressed in the least. Barely any vendors at all. Definitely not worth the drive

  7. Tom June 27, 2008 at 9:02 pm #

    Lets not candy coat it any more.
    We all know why the market is declining.
    Look at the neighborhood that surrounds the place. Look at the lack of pride that once was so so strong just one generation before.
    That is all gone now. Just like the people that were tired of being exposed to the filth and lack of respect.
    Move the Broadway Market to Lancaster or Depew and they will come…..

  8. Pegger June 30, 2008 at 2:14 pm #

    I was unaware of the ugly politics associated with the market. Most definitely, the loss of legitimate banking services in lieu of a more exploitive system in an already exploited community was a red flag. When I was a kid in the sixties, my family drove in from the burbs to patronize the place. It was a bustling enterprise.

    Politics aside, I haven’t been there in 20 years for many of the reasons cited above. As long as it is in its current location, I have no intentions of ever going there.

  9. FoxyLady June 30, 2008 at 9:46 pm #

    My folks grew up in the Broadway/Fillmore/Bailey neighborhood. I lived there as a small child. I drove through the old ‘hood’ a few weeks ago with my husband and was absolutely devastated by what I saw. My gram’s old home is boarded up on Gibson St.
    We frequented the market for many years as children, with our family when the neighborhood was still safe.
    We haven’t shopped the ‘Market’ in years. Too afraid of the shootings that happen in daytime in the surrounding streets of the market. The vendors changed over the years and the market is not the same. The whole situation is just too sad for words. I still love the city but can’t live there, too many issues that are not addressed.

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