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September 13, 2013 at 6:00 AM

University District Farmers Market to move

File photo of tomatoes from Seattle Youth Garden Works at the University District Farmers Market by Aaron Jaffe/The Seattle Times

File photo of tomatoes from Seattle Youth Garden Works at the University District Farmers Market by Aaron Jaffe/The Seattle Times

After 20 years, the landmark University District Farmers Market is moving. But it isn’t going far.

The market will make a permanent move next month from its previous home at the University Heights Center lot. Starting Oct. 19, look for the market tents on University Way between NE 50th and NE 52nd. The street will be closed during the year-round Saturday market. Founder Chris Curtis said it will allow the market to “preserve its size and diversity” during upcoming construction at the old location, and even room to expand.

The move is happening because of a planned new city park that will bring in “a performance area/plaza, rain gardens to improve storm water quality, landscaped areas and other amenities,” according to the city. Accommodating the farmers market in the redesign was a sticking point in the project, according to the parks department account, and “will not be easy or simple for any of the parties involved, but allows some flexibility in the design.”

It’s not necessarily a bad move, though. The change will allow the market “more room and flexibility to accommodate more farmers and vendors in the future,” Curtis said in an e-mail. “The U-District market has had a great 2013 season and it seems like the time is right to open the doors wider to more farmers and local food vendors as we head into 2014 and beyond. We intentionally increased the number of farmers and vendors at several of our other markets this season and this seemed to really help the markets. Shoppers and communities really responded well to having more choices.”

The Neighborhood Farmers Market Alliance, which operates the market, is making some “significant investments” to offset any downsides of the street closures, including paying to install a new bus shelter on 15th Avenue for the buses that will be re-routed during market hours, Curtis said. The center will still provide facilities (most valuable: bathrooms!) to market-goers. When the new park is finished, agencies say they’ll work together on events, and expect the park and market to complement each other. It’ll all start with a “Taking It To The Streets” opening day party Oct. 19, which will coincide with the market’s annual AppleLooza gala.

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