Produce market preparing to flourish

An $80 million planned expansion of a sprawling wholesale produce market could provide southeastern San Francisco with hundreds of new jobs and a much-sought grocery shopping and dining destination.

The 27 merchants that rent space at the San Francisco Wholesale Produce Market in the Bayview district supply fruit and vegetables to restaurants and local grocers.

A convoy of trucks arrives nightly at the market and drops off freshly harvested produce, which is sold to restaurants, hotels, catering companies, and neighborhood and ethnic grocers throughout San Francisco and elsewhere in the Bay Area.

“You can get a peach that has been picked the same day,” said Supervisor Sophie Maxwell, whose district includes the Bayview. “As you bite into it, you can feel the Central Valley heat.”

Most supermarket chains maintain their own distribution networks, but other stores such as Whole Foods and Molly Stones maintain operations at the market.

The market was moved from the Embarcadero to the Bayview in the early 1960s, and the pending expiration of a 50-year lease has sparked a re-imagination of its capacity and its role within the community.

The market, which is run by a city-founded nonprofit on city-owned land, is fully occupied by merchants despite the economic slump, and new and improved buildings and roads are planned to help it meet growing demand.

Expansion plans are still being refined, but work on roads and a new warehouse is expected to begin late next year and take three years to complete.

<p align=”left”>Later phases of redevelopment could take decades to complete and implementation will depend upon economic conditions.

Eventually, merchants’ space at the market could increase from 288,000 square feet to as much as 525,000 square feet for a total cost of $77 million to $88 million, according to a report by San Francisco Budget Analyst Harvey Rose.

The market jobs are considered particularly valuable because they support middle-class families, according to Michael Cohen, Mayor Gavin Newsom’s economic adviser.

“Those jobs have always been a challenge to retain in San Francisco,” Cohen said.

The Board of Supervisors would need to approve the project, which its Government Audit and Oversight Committee approved Thursday.

As the market is reshaped, it could evolve from a commercial hub into a food and restaurant destination, according to Maxwell.

“We don’t have any real stores [in the Bayview] where you can just go in and get fruit,” Maxwell said. Residents are already free to shop at the market but the truck-filled labyrinth can be difficult to navigate and produce is sold in large quantities.

jupton@sfexaminer.com

 

Redevelopment

19.6 acres: San Francisco Wholesale Produce Market site

10: Existing buildings at site

288,000 square feet: Existing office and warehouse space

152,000 to 237,000 square feet: Additional office and warehouse space planned

1: New building planned as first phase of redevelopment

$28 million: Expected phase 1 costs

3 years: Phase 1 time period

5: Existing buildings planned to be rebuilt or improved during later phases

$56 million: Expected costs of later phases of redevelopment

$5.1 million: Market’s bank account

$716,000: Market’s profit in 2009

484: Temporary construction jobs expected to be created by redevelopment

350: Permanent new jobs expected to be created at market after redevelopment

Source: San Francisco Budget Analyst

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