Boston’s Public Market and Open Space–in Lunenberg

Come to the Greenway, and buy more stuff! Well, the proposed Boston Public Market won’t be on the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway – it’ll be next to it. The Boston Globe reports that the state has committed up to $10 million of state funding to redevelop a vacant stripey building at the corner of Hanover and Blackstone streets as the Boston Public Market. According to the Boston Public Market Association (BPMA), a public market is a place where “Within a large, centrally-located market hall, customers find a broad selection of fresh produce, dairy products, baked goods, meat, poultry, seafood, specialty foods, condiments, and spices.” If you take out the word “hall,” you’d think the BPMA was describing Haymarket, the open-air market that operates on Friday and Saturdays across the street from the vacant stripey building.

For those of you who can’t be bothered to look away from a screen, said building is visible in all its street-level stripeyness on Google Maps Street View near the Boston Halal Market. The Globe’s gussied-up version of its edible future shows just one forlorn Haymarket-ish tent, bereft of vegetables, offering only high-carbohydrate foods to nourish body and soul. Is the city intending to replace Haymarket with a more manageable interior market that might offer walkways that aren’t sodden with trampled lettuce, or perhaps–be still my heart!–public bathrooms? Will the cheapest retail produce in Boston co-exist with the sort of hyperlocal delicacies that appeal to the chefs in the BPMA’s commercial?

But I digress; my blog entries concern Boston public parks, gardens, and green spaces, not food markets per se. Will this large, centrally-located market hall bring new life to the Greenway? Will this market be good for Boston’s open spaces? Perhaps. The Public Market might bring a few more people to the Greenway itself, especially if the designers work to connect the Market with the parks — by having windows and awnings oriented towards the Greenway, using visual motifs from the park in tables, lighting, and other street amenities and so on.  Then again, Haymarket, Faneuil Hall, and the entire North End are a 30-second walk from this parcel. There are already plenty of people passing through. How much difference will this Food-O-Rama really make?

Really, the place where the Boston Public Market will make the most difference is in greater Boston and western Massachusetts. Having a reliable, well-trafficked, year-round venue for selling local edibles would be a boon for the farmers, fishermen, and processors lucky enough to find a niche there. Boston residents may not be terribly concerned about what the landscape looks like in Hardwick or Rowley or Lunenberg, but they can have an effect on whether the farms there survive, or are sold for development.

Personally, I’d rather eat a Radiator Charlie’s Mortgage Lifter beefsteak tomato than try to bite into some of the siding they put on McMansions nowadays. But judging by how fast Massachusetts is losing open space, others have different tastes. Perhaps a Public Market can help us all develop a more balanced landscape palate.

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