Mercado Latino still in search of perfect location
El Hispanic News
Portland, OR — A spirit of optimism filled the room at the January organizing meeting for Portland’s proposed Mercado Latino. Considering the pros and cons of seven operating procedures for the market, 22 voting members passionately debated the issues before casting their votes.
Nathan Teske of Hacienda CDC served as master of ceremonies, seeing that all had a turn to voice their opinions — and none monopolized the spotlight. Teske is Hacienda’s director of Community Economic Development.
Before the meeting started, the future market partners took the step of opening new accounts at the United Community Credit Union. This procedure will help market members save to buy shares in cooperative.
When the votes were counted, some issues were endorsed unanimously, some were neck and neck. However, all members seemed pleased with the results.
Several proposed locations were discarded, while others remained on the table. The search team planned to visit other potential sites.
The key to the Mercado Latino project is several potential grants that would support much of the construction of the mercado.
If the hoped-for support comes through, Teske sees the group acquiring a site in by the end of 2012. At that point, cleaning up the site and remodeling it will begin taking place.
Other, smaller grants from the Portland Development Commission (PDC) and other groups are expected.
Two North Portland sites survived the first step — 1.68 acres with a $2.34 million price tag and another property just shy of an acre priced at $1.68 million. The City of Portland owns both sites.
Several other potential sites should enter the picture in the next few months.
Previously, two sites in Portland and one each in Hillsboro and Gresham were eliminated.
A Portland architect, at no cost, sketched seven different concepts showing how the finished Mercado Latino might look. The group preferred the one in which pedestrians would enter into a central complex of open-air pathways. This would buffer customers from the sound and fumes of street traffic.
Many of the sketches include a cultural center to support artistic displays or to stage musical events.
Teske said that several architects and contractors have offered their services pro bono up to this point.
Kelsey Cardwell noted that the project has artisans and food specialists of all stripes that almost all mercados have, with two exceptions: a baker and a tortilla maker. Cardwell is marketing coordinator at Hacienda CDC.
Cardwell noted that Latinos create 50 percent more small businesses than any other ethnic group.
She also noted that the Mercado Latino has drawn from the research of the Kauffman Foundation of Kansas City, Mo., profiting from that institution’s positive results with similar markets elsewhere.
“The Mercado project is truly a community effort,” Víctor Merced, executive director at Hacienda CDC, stated in a press release. “Not only are we seeing the cooperation of three influential community organizations, but also a community of Latino business owners. This market will be an asset to the Latino population of Portland, by the Latino population of Portland.”
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