Kennewick public market opening delayed, ‘not ready’

A much-anticipated public market in the heart of Kennewick is putting off its opening date, citing construction delays.

“We’re not ready,” said Kelsey Bitton, project manager for The Public Market @ Columbia River Warehouse, the market that is taking over the former Welch’s juice plant and later, J. Lieb, 20 E. Bruneau St.

It was supposed to open in May and has about 80 tenants lined up for stalls. Bitton hopes to have a better idea of when it will open by mid- to late May.

The city of Kennewick confirmed it is working with the market to ensure the warehouse is safe for the public when it opens. That includes confirming a plan and permits that include relocating a fire hydrant and installing new bathrooms.

Tony Ostoja, the city’s building official, said converting a warehouse that held up to about 150 people into a market that could see as many as 500 people requires a heightened level of safety. Everyone is working well and communicating, he confirmed.

“When that building opens, it will be safe for the public,” he said.

Ice Harbor Brewery said its move to the market is also delayed.

The brewery is moving from its longtime home at 206 N. Benton St., a few blocks away, into renovated space in the old warehouse. Its 15,000-square-foot future home in the building’s west end includes a former employee break room.

Adam Crane, head brewer, said permit delays and undelivered kitchen gear are behind the delay. Ice Harbor is committed to the move, though he noted it is currently paying rent on two buildings.

Its lease on Benton Street has been extended to July.

Its gritty home is being marketed to new tenants. NAI Tri-Cities is marketing the 12,700-square-foot collection of retail, warehouse, showroom and office space at $7 a square foot on LoopNet, an online commercial listing service.

Kenny Teasdale, the listing broker, said there is modest interest in the space, which he doesn’t expect to stay dark for long. It is zoned light industrial, a sector where there is limited availability. Teasdale and the owner hope a brewery or distillery will take it over.

While construction and other delays have pushed back the public market’s opening date, it continues to attract an array of vendors eager to be part of the community’s first-ever public market, which will be open daily and offer a mix of retail, food and other options as well as event space.

The Lady Bug Shoppe, owned by Cindy Mosley-Cleary, is among the latest to commit.

Mosley-Cleary operated the gift and home décor shop in downtown Kennewick until a two-alarm fire tore through the Cascade building in downtown Kennewick in February, destroying the apartments upstairs and the businesses at street level.

It’s been a challenging time for Mosley-Cleary who also lost her husband shortly after the fire. She did not initially intend to reopen the business.

But she had a change of heart and is selling bags at Bergan’s Timeless Treasures, 317 W. Kennewick Ave., and will move into the market when it opens, she said.

She said friends and supporters were able to salvage merchandise from her store after the fire.

The public market is the brainstorm of Corey Bitton, a Pasco investor who bought the property in 2021 for $2.7 million with the intent to lease it for industrial use.

The pandemic upended those plans, and the market idea offered an option to put a sprawling property with ample power and space to good use. Vendors can lease 12-by-12 stalls.

Follow its progress on Facebook @PublicMarketCRW.

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