Broad Street marketplace? |

Broad Street marketplace?

The former Broad Street Furnishings – vacant more than two years – may become a market and gathering place in downtown Nevada City.

Nevada City’s Sustainability Team hopes to model the building after San Francisco’s Ferry Building, which once served as a waterfront station for cross-bay commuters and now serves as a shopping center, farmers market and office space.

“It’s a project like this that could really bring life back to this important cornerstone of downtown Nevada City,” said Gary Tintle, part owner of the 30,000-square-foot Alpha Building.

“We’re just in the initial stages of what is an ambitious plan. But with community support, we believe this vision will become a reality,” said Mali Dyck, Executive Director of The APPLE Center for Sustainable Living.

Building owners had planned on California Organics moving into the space, but they began looking for other tenants after the organic deli and grocery store’s loan pre-application – for money that would have financed the move – was turned down by state officials.

Meanwhile, California Organics is “still looking for options,” owner Chris Kysar said.

The renovated Alpha Building would focus on products and services local residents can use. In the vision of the Sustainability Team, several businesses in kiosks and shops of various sizes would be located on the main level; about 3,000 square feet at the center would form a plaza for community gatherings and an off-season farmers market.

Upstairs on the mezzanine level, the group envisions a nonprofit collaborative, where organizations would have glass-enclosed offices and share elements, such as a conference room, printers and copiers.

The Sustainability Team is hosting a public visioning workshop and potluck next Thursday to introduce the community to the Alpha project.

Dubbed a “21st-century barn-raising,” the meeting will be from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Alpha Building, 210 Broad St. Anyone interested in the project is invited – and asked to bring serving utensils for their dishes.

For the past six months, a team of 12 community members has been meeting every Thursday morning at Nevada City Hall. Under the leadership of Councilwoman Reinette Senum, this ad hoc group of volunteers has been charged by the City Council with developing a Sustainability Vision and Plan for Nevada City.

“Sustainability” is the idea of creating development that will stand the test of time, both ecologically and economically.

“In February of this year, a grant proposal came before the City Council to create an eco-district in downtown Nevada City. While we didn’t pursue that particular proposal, a unanimous City Council decided that we should create a sustainability plan for the entire town,” Senum said.

That decision prompted Senum to assemble a team of engineers, landscape architects, contractors, scientists, business and nonprofit consultants, county officials, community organizers and others.

They began to develop a plan, defining priority projects and identifying funding opportunities.

One of the priorities that emerged was to make the downtown area more shoppable and walkable for Nevada City residents. That’s when the team began to discuss how the Alpha Building, at the corner of Union Street near the Highway 20/49 bridge, could be central in accomplishing many of the team’s objectives.

Other projects envisioned include a boardwalk along Commercial Street. Removable wooden platforms would extend into the street, and benches and planter boxes would create patio-like spaces where pedestrians could sit.

Sustainability team members said the proposal at the Alpha Building would allow small business owners to get their feet in the door without investing in expensive downtown storefronts.

The team wants to convert the basement of the building into a community kitchen with walk-in refrigeration and storage, to accommodate food producers who can’t afford the equipment to operate a government-certified kitchen.

“We realize that these proposed infrastructure improvements have a hefty price tag, and that’s why we are hitting the pavement looking for funding and financing opportunities through such entities as USDA Rural Development,” Senum said.

Diversity is a major key to the project. Office space rentals upstairs would bring in steady revenue, keeping rent affordable for small businesses downstairs.

The goal is to open next fall, and the team has great expectations.

“Our economy is not doing well. Rather than try to turn around an entire town, we want to start with one building,” Senum said. “This is an opportunity to see if we can turn our local economy around.”

To contact Staff Writer Michelle Rindels, e-mail or call (530) 477-4247.

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