A year from now, Boston will finally have a bustling, downtown public food market. It will be overflowing with produce. It will have the best of the region’s seafood, dairy products, and specialty foods. And it will be a magnet for local residents and tourists.
That is the promise of Liz Morningstar, a former political director for Governor Deval Patrick who has been hired to make the long-planned market a reality.
“I’m a resident of Boston, and I think opening this market is the right thing to do for the city,” said Morningstar, chief executive of the Boston Public Market Association. “I want people to be excited about it. I want it to be authentic, and I want it to be an honest showcase for Massachusetts growers, farmers, and fishermen.”
For the first time in months, there is more than just talk about the market’s construction. The association is close to finalizing terms of an 85-year lease to open the market in a largely vacant state-owned building above the Haymarket MBTA station in Government Center.
The Patrick administration will provide $4 million in funding once the association has raised $4 million from private donors, which Morningstar is trying to achieve by reaching out to a network of potential contributors. She previously led fund-raising for Patrick’s first, record-breaking gubernatorial campaign.
The lease terms and other matters will be discussed during a meeting Thursday of the public market commission, a state board overseeing efforts to establish the facility. Other progress includes the hiring of Architerra Inc. to design the layout of the market, which will have up to 80 permanent and rotating vendors throughout the year.
“The design should showcase the food and make it look glorious and abundant,” said Ellen Watts, a cofounder of Architerra. “The market is going to be exquisitely functional, so that it’s easy to use whether you’re a buyer or seller, or there for a quickie purchase or to browse for hours.”
The market is planned to open by summer 2014 in the 30,000-square-foot ground floor of a brick building along the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway. Parts of the building contain the Haymarket MBTA station and a parking garage, making it accessible to a broad population of shoppers from the Boston area.
Morningstar and other members of the association are still refining the business plan, but the market is expected to be open seven says a week and feature food from Massachusetts farmers, seafood vendors, ranchers, wine makers, brewers, bakers, and other producers.
Also in the works is a demonstration kitchen featuring cooking exhibitions by local chefs, as well as plans for guided tours and educational programs about the origins and nutritional qualities of food sold in the facility.
Boston is among the few major cities in the country without a standing facility to feature the region’s food culture. Such markets are popular fixtures of cities from Seattle to Cleveland to Philadelphia.
Morningstar is taking over efforts to open the market from Nora Carey, a Springfield native who left at the end of 2012 after a short tenure. She said a critical part of her efforts will be ensuring the market can support itself without ongoing state subsidies or philanthropic contributions.
It will cost about $14 million to design and build the facility, with $4 million to be provided by the state and the rest from private fund-raising. Once open, the market will rely primarily on rent from vendors.