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City pitches La Marketa as business launch pad


The block of North Clinton between Sullivan and Hoeltzer streets sat vacant for decades until the city of Rochester crews broke ground on the La Marketa project in November. If everything goes according to plan, the international public market and recreational space will open this fall.

La Marketa will be located across from St. Michael's Church on North Clinton Avenue. - FILE PHOTO
  • La Marketa will be located across from St. Michael's Church on North Clinton Avenue.
Community and city officials envision La Marketa as an incubator and testing ground for small businesses. They said it will be a place where people can sell food and other goods in a comparatively low-risk, low-cost environment, and where established businesses can have pop-ups or try out new ideas.

“We want people to come in and experiment,” Jim Farr, manager of the Rochester Public Market, said during an informational meeting on the project Wednesday night.

The market will operate under the auspices of the Public Market, though it’ll be a different concept, Farr explained. It’ll include space for two larger anchor businesses that’ll operate year-round; three 8-foot by 20-foot kiosks, which will be available seasonally; and 30 tents, each 10-feet by 10-feet, will be available for $15 a day.

Representatives from the city and Ibero-American Action Leagues said that through La Marketa, they’ll provide business development resources for people from the surrounding neighborhoods to help them start and grow businesses.

Erica Hernandez, the Northeast Quadrant liaison from the city’s Neighborhood and Business Development Office, explained that the city would offer grants to help cover costs such as equipment, advertising, or rent.

The amounts and types of grants will vary depending on the space the businesses rent, Hernandez said.

Lomax Campbell, director of the Mayor’s Office of Community Wealth Building, gave a run down of the services his staff could provide to potential market vendors. Among them: business plan development, assistance with finding and applying for loans or credit, and coaching for processes such as incorporating a business.

Of the handful of people who came out to Wednesday’s meeting, seven indicated to Lomax that they owned or had previously owned a business, and a few more said that they want to start a business.

Community and city leaders have been pursuing La Marketa, in various iterations, for decades. They’ve viewed the combination of an open-air market, performance space, public event space, and recreational space as a way to create a destination that honors the surrounding neighborhood’s Latino and Carribean heritage while drawing in visitors from across the region.

Miguel Melendez, Ibero’s chief community engagement officer, noted that the northeast Rochester neighborhoods around the La Marketa site are heavily Latino, they’re home to many people of other cultural and ethnic backgrounds. Officials want the market to support and reflect that diversity, he said.

“This is an international plaza, we want to be inclusive,” Melendez said.

Victor P. Molina III, who grew up near the La Marketa site and has worked in the restaurant business, sees a lot of promise in the project. He believes that a market with diverse food and retail items such as jewelry, along with music and other forms of entertainment, will draw people in. Several other speakers said music is crucial.

Molina also told the city and Ibero representatives that they need to pay attention to the areas around La Marketa and help them develop as an attractive place for people to walk around. The officials said they intend to do that and to hold events to bring people in from outside of the neighborhood.

“This is how you can really help the community out is having these beautiful things to look at,” Molina said.

Jeremy Moule is CITY's news editor. He can be reached at