LYNN — Thursday marked the first day of this year’s Central Square Farmers Market, which will be moved to a new location in September because of the redevelopment of their current space into a park.
Hazel Kiefer, Lynn urban agriculture manager for the Food Project and market manager, said the farmers market will be moving across the street from its Central Square lot on Exchange Street to Mount Vernon Street and will be in the bays owned by the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority.
The Food Project in Lynn manages the market and also participates as one of its vendors and farms. Most of the food they were selling is grown at their Ingalls Elementary School production farm.
James Cowdell, executive director of Economic Development & Industrial Corporation of Lynn (EDIC/Lynn), the city’s development bank, said the Central Square lot is connected to the North Harbor site, or the redevelopment of the former Beacon Chevrolet site into 348 apartments on the city’s waterfront.
The former Beacon Chevrolet site, which is located on the Carroll Parkway and across from North Shore Community College, has been vacant for three decades.
The same developers transforming the site, Minco Corporation, based in North Andover, own the space in Central Square. Cowdell said there’s an easement that runs through the North Harbor site, which is owned by the state, or more specifically, the Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance (DCAMM).
The state is giving up that easement so the North Harbor site development can happen and in return, the developer is paying to transform the Central Square lot into a park and then turning it over to the state, he said.
The park, which will connect to the Heritage State Park space at the Lynn Museum and Historical Society, will be under the control of the Department of Conservation & Recreation and used by the city as part of its arts and cultural district in the downtown. There will be a space dedicated to performances, which will allow for concerts and shows.
“EDIC applied on behalf of the city five years ago for the arts and cultural designation so we 100 percent support all that’s going in the downtown with arts and culture, so we feel that this is a great addition,” Cowdell said. “I would like to say thank you to (state) Rep. Daniel Cahill (D-Lynn) and (state) Sen. Brendan Crighton for their support on this critical project.”
Eric Loth, managing director of Minco Corporation, said the land swap was the result of an original Chapter 91 decision. As part of its permitting on the Lynnway site, the developers will be donating the Central Square lot and building a park on it.
Part of the North Harbor site project includes connecting the walkway from the Lynn Heritage State Park to the Clocktower Business Center on the Lynnway.
Chapter 91 is the Commonwealth’s primary tool to protect and promote public use of its waterways. Established in 1866, the measure regulates coastal activities, guarantees the waterfront belongs to the public, and that private uses of waterways serve a public purpose.
Loth said he anticipates redeveloping the Central Square lot into a park, which will mimic the fencing and landscaping of the park at Lynn Museum, will cost approximately $750,000.
“I think expanding potential green space for the downtown is a win-win,” said Drew Russo, executive director of Lynn Museum/LynnArts. “We think that the expansion of the park to become more of a resource for everyone in the community to enjoy is a wonderful (outcome). I think the creation of a unified park creates more of a connectivity between LynnArts and Lynn Museum, which are both linchpins in the community.”
Work will start on both the park project and North Harbor site development in the fall. On the latter, site work will begin in the fall with construction starting in the spring.
“Now we’re at the finish line,” Cowdell said. “We anticipate there will be a shovel in the ground later this year. All the permits are in place and we are really excited about a $90 million investment on the waterfront.”
In the meantime, the farmers market will remain in its current Central Square location for most of the summer.
Four local farms provide fresh fruit and vegetables to the market, which has been in existence for about a decade in Lynn. The market runs from July to to the end of October, every Thursday, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Kiefer said.
“It’s a great place to find local food that’s in season and super fresh,” she said.
The market is part of the Healthy Incentives Program, which matches Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients with nutrition assistance to the needy and provides economic benefits to communities.
When SNAP recipients use their EBT card to buy produce from farmers markets in Massachusetts, their $40 benefit is worth $80 in fresh food — under the program, people receive $1 for each dollar they spend on eligible fruits and vegetables, up to a monthly limit, which is $40 for one to two people.
The three-year program, which launched last year, is supported by a $3.4 million grant from U.S. Department of Agriculture, and $1.35 million in funding from the Legislature.
“People on food stamps have a huge incentive to shop here because they get free food,” Kiefer said. “It gives people the freedom to choose what they want.”
Ryan McCarthy was at the farmers market on Thursday representing one of its vendors, Farmer Dave’s, a farm based in Dracut. He said they had a big sellout on corn leaves, or corn husks, which are used to make tamales and expects to have a big demand on them next week as well.