By JAMES MITCHELL
Sunday Times Newspapers
SOUTHGATE — What started as a dream vision four years ago of live music, a central gathering place for residents and thriving market area should debut this year at Southgate Market Park.
City Administrator Brandon Fournier said phase one of the ambitious project is set to begin by June.
“In 2009 the site was 70 percent vacant,” Fournier said. “It’s come back strong.”
The Southgate Shopping Center at Trenton and Eureka roads had seen better days, when Farmer Jack supplied the groceries and Montgomery Ward ranked among the landmark department stores in the area. In recent years the businesses had failed, downsized or left the area, leaving vacant acreage in need of investment.
Fournier said Market Park began with a gathering of stakeholders, property owners and interested residents in 2010. A new vision for the property was seen, with an ampitheater, specialty shops, recreation area and a renewed attraction as a community gathering place. Mickey Sisskind — owner of the Montgomery Ward site that closed in 2000 — was among the most enthusiastic for the project.
“The property owners bought in to the feeling the community had,” Fournier said. “They all wanted to restore it to a central congregation center.”
Sisskind donated the property to the city, and in October 2012 the Ward building was demolished, clearing the way for new projects on the property.
Fournier said a tentative June start date will begin earth work, irrigation, lighting rehabilitation and the construction of an ampitheater that — by late summer — should be ready for a premier event. Phase one is expected to cost between $350,000 and $400,000, and will be primarily funded through the Downtown Development Authority. Earlier this year the city confirmed a $64,000 state grant earmarked for the theater project.
“Hopefully we’ll have the site fully functional for some special year-end programming,” Fournier said.
Market Park will include space for an open-air farmers market along with a host of restaurants, shops and public park area.
“This is something that businesses there have been expecting for some time,” Fournier said. “From day one everyone believed in the project and wanted to make it a reality.”
(James Mitchell can be reached at [email protected])