Discovery Green's ill-fated farmers market passed through the hands of Central City Co-Op and Urban Harvest before grinding to a halt at the end of June. Fear not though, downtown denizens and visitors: Robust retail will be back this fall via the vintage-infused Discovery Green Flea.
DG Flea will open Sept. 17 and will run the third Saturday of every month from noon till 6 p.m. The park's organizers are drawing heavily from the example of New York's Brooklyn Flea, a weekly outdoor market in Fort Greene (with an expansion in Williamsburg) that hawks regional antiques, vintage clothing, handmade crafts, jewelry, food, bikes and records.
Like its New York City predecessor, Discovery Green Flea aims to become not just a destination, but an urban institution in the vein of the park's eco-friendly ethos.
"We realized that Discovery Green is a destination place," park program director Susanne Theis says of the focus switch. "The places best served by farmers markets are ones with a lot of people living nearby."
While downtown has a growing residential base, more than 30 percent of Discovery Green's visitors travel from outside the Beltway.
The park's organizers are drawing heavily from the example of New York's Brooklyn Flea, a weekly outdoor market that hawks regional antiques, vintage clothing, handmade crafts, jewelry, food, bikes and records.
The flea market will rise on the park's Grace Event Lawn, near the plot's southeast corner alongside Lamar Street and Avenida de Las Americas. That location will make it easy to load and unload vintage loot. The organizers are already in talks with myriad local collectors and craftsmen, including vendors of heirloom plant bulbs and refashioned lawn furniture. Come September, visitors can expect between 50 and 60 merchants strutting their stuff.
Complementing the vintage vibe will be a craft beer garden and "light entertainment" on its own bandstand. Of course, food trucks are invited to nourish the hungry bargain hunters.
"It will create this whole unique draw," says director of operations Clark Curry, who masterminded the market following an assessment of Discovery Green by the Project for Public Spaces and a workshop in New York that introduced him to the Brooklyn Flea. Distinctive branding is in the works, including logos and appealing signage.
"We'll have a real entry so you know you've arrived," Curry says. The market's founding is yet another heartening sign of the "creative placemaking" movement that's all the rage from Fort Greene, Brooklyn to Houston's Third Ward.
The Discovery Green Flea's pilot program will run until January or February, and perhaps through summer 2012. Meanwhile, Urban Harvest's Highland Village Farmers Market has reduced hours for the summer, while its incarnation at City Hall is on a seasonal hiatus — but that doesn't mean that the local food outfit is slowing down. Urban Harvest president Mark Bowen told CultureMap that two new farmers markets will be opening in Houston beginning in October.
"We've got two contracts on the table," he said. "I think the odds are very good that they'll both go through." The addition of two new markets — one inside the Loop held on a vacant day, and one in a suburb — would bring Urban Harvest's holdings to five markets.
That climbing number is partly due to the organization's helpful takeover of the lagging Highland Village farmers market in January. Bowen says that Urban Harvest will conduct a survey at the end of the summer to assess that market's success, but he assures that Highland Village is on the up.
"That one's attracting a lot of the new blood," he says.