The Boston Public Market will not be a fancy place. The long-planned center for Massachusetts farmers and food makers will feature concrete floors and simple stalls, no wine bars serving oysters and champagne.
Organizers say the market is designed to be devoid of pretention and full of fresh food. And by next summer, it will finally be open to shoppers.
Construction of the 28,000-square-foot market will formally begin Thursday, kicking off a nine-month renovation of a state-owned building along the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway. The market will be open year-round and include up to 50 vendors as well as a bakery and demonstration kitchen.
“This is not a high-end, bells-and-whistles type of market,” said Liz Morningstar, chief executive of the nonprofit that will manage the facility. “This is really much more of a utilitarian, flexible space where local vendors can apply their own aesthetic.”
The facility will be situated at the corner of Hanover and Blackstone streets, in a large brick building that also houses a parking garage, offices for the Registry of Motor Vehicles, and the Haymarket MBTA station. Vendors will sell a wide range of products, including produce, meat and seafood, baked goods, beer, wine, and prepared foods.
The market is designed to become the centerpiece of a larger food district along the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway. Haymarket pushcart vendors will continue to operate on weekends. A developer plans to include a specialty food store and restaurants in a hotel project on adjacent property.
A central market is a long time in coming for Boston, one of the nation's few major cities that has no place to showcase its local food products and culture. Supporters spent nearly two decades searching for a site; then it took a few more years to generate funding and secure permits. One final approval is still needed from the Federal Highway Administration.
The facility’s organizers said they have raised more than $15 million from public and private sources. Governor Deval Patrick has been among the biggest supporters, allocating $6.5 million in state funding for its design and construction.
“I can’t think of a better location to have a farmers market than along the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway,” Patrick said in a statement. “Our investment in the Boston Public Market creates a place where rural farmers and urban families, financial workers and fishermen, brewers and bee keepers can come together in a new civic institution where we all share the bounty of our state.”
Morningstar said the market will stand out nationally for its devotion to selling exclusively local products.
Massachusetts businesses are being given first preference for space, though producers from around New England will be featured. Visitors will be able to buy most fresh foods available in supermarkets, except for items not grown in the region.
“We are the first market of our type to do an all locally focused market,” Morningstar said. “Everything we sell here has to originate or be produced in New England.”
There is no plan for a sit-down restaurant in the market, but patrons will be able to buy fresh and prepared foods and eat them inside the facility or at tables arranged on the plaza.
Several private groups are making large financial commitments to the market. The Conservation Fund, a national environmental group, is providing $3 million in financing; Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts is contributing $500,000; and the Trustees of Reservations, which preserves open space in Massachusetts, has raised more than $2 million for the facility.
The Trustees of Reservations will design educational programs for the market and manage its demonstration kitchen. Programs are expected to include chef-led cooking demonstrations, nutrition classes, and market tours. Blue Cross will also provide funding to help low-income families buy fresh foods at the market.