By Kurt Batdorf HBJ Editor
EVERETT — Seven years of planning a downtown Everett farmers’ market finally came to fruition March 26 as officials and developer Lobsang Dargey broke ground on the multi-use project.
It involved three property negotiations, 50 local farmers and 60 international investors, said Lanie McMullin, the City of Everett’s economic development coordinator and executive administrator. The farmers’ market will include a commercial kitchen in which farmers can create “value-added” products from their produce. Attached to it will be a 100-room Hampton Inn motel and 200 upscale apartments. It will cover more than half a city block along Grand Avenue between Hewitt Avenue and Wall Street.
“This project goes far beyond a farmers market,” said Snohomish County agriculture coordinator Linda Neunzig. It will give farmers more time to farm.
“This is absolutely no ordinary project,” McMullin said. “It’s a complicated project.”
She and Dargey worked many angles on the concept of a downtown farmers’ market before they settled on a federal program known as EB5 that grants U.S. green cards to foreign nationals who invest in local development projects that create at least 10 full-time jobs. McMullin said EB5 also puts those foreign investors on a deadline to complete a project. Most of the investors in Dargey’s project are Chinese.
“Those investors want a better life for their children and they want a secure food source,” she said.
Mayor Ray Stephanson predicted the indoor Everett farmers’ market would one day rival the famed Granville Island farmers market in Vancouver, B.C.
“We need these kind of projects to make us the city of the future,” he said.
Dargey said the city has been a great partner and assistant. He said the project will create up to 1,000 jobs between construction, permanent hotel positions and the farmers market.
“I expect to do many more projects (here) for many years to come,” he said.
Kurt Batdorf: 425-339-3102; firstname.lastname@example.org.