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Public Market eyes Labor Day opening 

click to enlarge Organizers plan to start with the Carter Payne building. - COLORADO SPRINGS PUBLIC MARKET
  • Colorado Springs Public Market
  • Organizers plan to start with the Carter Payne building.

In June 2012, we first reported on a local call for a "Peak Public Market" from Ranch Foods Direct owner and food activist Mike Callicrate, then in talks with Nor'wood Development Group executive Chris Jenkins over potential conversion of the old Crissey Fowler Lumber building on West Vermijo Avenue.

That never jelled, and neither did another plan, circa late 2014, for what had grown into the Colorado Springs Public Market to partner with Nor'wood inside part of the former Gazette building on Prospect Street.

Last fall, then-board president Dave Anderson announced a new home for CSPM in the former Payne Chapel (Carter Payne Event Center/Green Man Taproom) at 320 S. Weber St. It has yet to open, though hopeful members of CSPM's original board never gave up the fight, most recently facing a public-perception problem: "Will this thing ever get off the ground?"

That's where Jon Khoury, executive director of Cottonwood Center for the Arts, comes into play as CSPM's recently appointed new board chair. Since his return in mid-2012 (he's a Colorado College alum), Khoury's quickly developed a reputation as a get-shit-done kind of guy, his charming but down-to-business New York attitude an asset to action.

According to Khoury, Cottonwood's annual attendance has more than doubled in the past four years and the collaborative is up from 30 artists to 95. "If we had a third floor, we'd be full," he says, noting a lengthy wait list. Cottonwood, in the red when he arrived, now operates with reserves. It's just that type of shot in the arm CSPM needs to finally launch, and Khoury has set sights on Labor Day for doors to open at the Carter Payne as a "starter home," with the vision to outgrow it within two to three years.

Though three board members recently left CSPM, including City Councilor Jill Gaebler, Khoury says he's already done rounds "to reconnoiter with every single person who's touched this market in some way since the beginning." He assures that despite some past "misunderstandings" and "trepidation" among stakeholders, the project still enjoys wide community support. But to get open, Khoury says the founding board understands it must allow a new group to carry the torch from here: "That's the kind of unselfishness I've seen since I joined this group," he says.

So around that early September launch, expect announcements of an entirely new board to join Khoury, who also sits on the Downtown Partnership board. Khoury says the CSPM sits at break-even financially today, with no debt, at least, but needs $40,000 to open. Once that need is met, he says there's already enough committed vendors in place to meet monthly obligations.

An informational session — date to be announced — will offer a more complete update from Khoury on how the newly envisioned CSPM will function. Rest assured the original board's interests are represented.

"This is to be a public market," he says. "Which means the big players on a national scale connected to Wall Street are of no interest in this economy. We'll do everything we can to try and feed this economy and community."

Editor's note: This article has been updated to reflect a schedule change for the informational session.

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