Is downtown Easton ready for a Reading Terminal-style market?
City Council puts its money down on yes it is.
In another big bet on Easton’s future, City Council Wednesday night approved a $1 million grant for a plan to buy the Weller Center for Health Education on Northampton Street in downtown Easton and turn it into a year-round indoor market similar to the Reading Terminal Market in downtown Philadelphia.
Like the Reading Terminal Market, renowned for its fresh foods, the proposed indoor market at 325 Northampton St. would feature fresh seafood, premium meats and vegetables.
Only two council members voted against the funding, though they said they like the idea, but not the financials surrounding the plan.
Councilman Roger Ruggles said the city would pay some $60,000 a year to fund the terminal.
“$60,000 a year is a lot of money,” Ruggles said. He said he feared the consequences for the city if, after five or six years, the operators of the market decide it was not worth their effort and walked away.
Elinor Warner, the other “no” vote, said her review of the financial statements for the market left her wary of investing city money into it.
“I think a public market should be paid by the public,” she said.
Mayor Sal Panto Jr., who has a background in the food business, said one of the big advantages the market will have is parking available to customers. Without parking, he said, the idea would never work.
In another step toward revitalizing the downtown, council formally approved the sale of the Alpha Building, where the city has had its offices since 1996, to developer Mark Mulligan.
As part of the $4 million sale, the city entered into a 19-month lease-back agreement so it can keep its offices where they are now until Easton’s new city hall building on South Third Street is completed.
Mulligan plans to turn the nine-story building into a mix of commercial space, office space and 30 to 40 apartments on the upper floors.
Mulligan is also involved in plans to renovate the Simon Silk Mill and Governor Wolf Building, as well as the Pomeroy project.