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Plans for larger market building unveiled by Mercedes Corp.

The new building will house 70 vendors, some of whom will move from the Market Barn, and others will swap their outdoor space for inside. [Whitney Neilson / The Observer]

Work on a new home for the St. Jacobs Farmers’ Market gets underway later this month, with the building expected to be ready for business next spring.

Artist’s rendering of the new 34,000-square-foot building at the St. Jacobs Farmers’ Market to replace the structure lost in a fire last September. It’s expected to be completed by next spring.[Submitted]
Artist’s rendering of the new 34,000-square-foot building at the St. Jacobs Farmers’ Market to replace the structure lost in a fire last September. It’s expected to be completed by next spring. [Submitted]
At 34,000 square feet, the new building will be about 40 per cent larger than the original levelled in a September, 2013 fire. Owner Mercedes Corp. also plans to retain the 15,600-sq.ft. “harvest barn” built just months after the blaze.

The company this week announced plans for the new structure, which will reflect the old one. The new building will employ heavy wooden beams similar to the original structure — its appearance is intended to pay tribute to the agricultural roots of Waterloo Region, and St. Jacobs in particular, the company says.

The project will also include a variety of upgrades to the site, work as diverse as changes to the stockyards buildings, underground electrical infrastructure, paved parking and stormwater management.

Overall, the goal is a development where long-time visitors and vendors alike would be at home, said Mercedes president Marcus Shantz.

“The construction is very much in keeping with the old building,” he explained, adding “it’s going to feel a bit more open than the prior building.”

The old building was 24,000 sq. ft., much of it on the mezzanine. The new structure will be 34,000 sq. ft., most of it on the main floor. Shantz expects that will translate into about 20 per cent more space for vendors.

Visitors will find wider aisles (13 feet versus 10), more seating and generous heights when the new place is ready.

While construction is underway, the goal is to keep disruptions down to a minimum, said Shantz.

The market is its usual going concern, having been back in operation within days of the fire, so it’s important to work with that mindset: business is not on hold in the meantime, he stressed.

Yes, the new building will be an enhancement, but “the market is back now.”

Though the fire was devastating, the rebuild is an opportunity to adjust the site to reflect the immense popularity of the market and the growth since it first opened.

“This evolved over time into something bigger than was imagined when it first opened,” said Shantz of the market.

In the  months since the fire, Mercedes has been making careful plans, getting all kinds of input from vendors about how to make the new building suit their needs. There has been no shortage of ideas, he added.

“We certainly didn’t have to solicit advice – we got lots and lots of unsolicited advice,” he laughed. “That’s good, because it shows how much people care about the market.”

With the extra floor space, Shantz is not expecting dozens of new vendors off the bat, as existing vendors have expressed an interest in more room for their businesses.

“Quite a lot of that is spoken for by existing vendors,” he said of the extra floor space.

As well, retaining the steel-and-fabric harvest barn,  will provide an option to some of the outdoor vendors who might be interested in having a covered space.

The reconstruction is being financed privately by the company. Funds from a vendor relief program launched shortly after last Labour Day’s fire are a separate matter. The community-led initiative ultimately raised more than $340,000, administered by the Kitchener and Waterloo Community Foundation, with the money going directly to vendors, some of whom lost everything in the blaze.

The outpouring from the community was another indication of how important the market is to people locally and farther afield, said Shantz.

The new building and other changes at the site will all reflect how the St. Jacobs Farmers’ Market has evolved to become an iconic part of Woolwich and the region, he noted.

Construction should be visible to visitors by the end of June, running about 10 months to allow for an opening in the spring of 2015.

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