OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — A group of business owners in downtown Overland Park, Kansas, have started an online petition asking the city to move the farmers market back to its permanent home under a pavilion at 8101 Marty St. in the heart of the city’s downtown.
City staff chose to move the market to the parking lot of the Matt Ross Community Center a few blocks away because it provided more open space to maintain social distance and offer drive-thru services during the COVID-19 pandemic. A city spokesperson said the plan has been to move the market back to the downtown pavilion in September 2021.
The petition says new guidance from the CDC shows the precautions the city is taking are no longer necessary and says, “The post-pandemic recovery of the merchants, restaurants and small businesses that are the lifeblood of DOP [downtown Overland Park] depend upon it [the market returning to its home under the pavilion].”
The petition has garnered more than 1,100 signatures in four days.
Laura Laiben owns The Culinary Center of Kansas City, which has been in downtown Overland Park for 22 years.
“This petition has already taken off and it has a huge amount of support and groundswell and we expect that to keep going,” Laiben said. “We hope they [the city] hear us and we hope they make a change. They hold the power right now.”
Laiben told 41 Action News the farmers market generates a lot of traffic to her business, which is located across the street from the pavilion. She said just because masks are not required in the state doesn’t mean businesses have automatically recovered from the past year.
“I don’t think the [city] really understands how much we’re being hurt. I feel a considerable disconnect,” Laiben said.
A city spokesperson said the city is aware of the petition and it will be up to staff to decide whether to move the market back to the pavilion sooner than the original September plan.
After this story aired, a vendor at the farmers’ market reached out to 41 Action News. Ryan Eddinger of Two Sisters Farm said the market’s current location at the Matt Ross Community Center has become a tremendous success for vendors, saying attendance and sales are up.
He worries a hurried move back to the pavilion to appease the petition will negatively impact sales and won’t boost brick and mortar businesses like they expect.
He suggested vendors could put signage on their booths encouraging customers to walk the two blocks to downtown to check out specials offered by the brick and mortar businesses.
Brian Goldman, who helps run a Taco Naco booth at the market added he defers the decision to move back to the pavilion to customers; when they feel comfortable with the smaller space, he’ll be comfortable moving back as well, but is in no rush.
The city’s Community Development Committee meets Wednesday at 7 p.m. to discuss hiring a firm to help the city request proposals from developers on possible public-private partnerships to update the farmers market pavilion.
Lee’s Summit recently entered such an agreement to build a downtown market campus with plans to include an event space, hotel, apartments and more.