YAKIMA, Wash. — Downtown Yakima looks to be in for a busy summer with two free concert series and a weekday farmers market, all of which city officials hope will get people to spend more time and money in the city’s urban core.
The new events are part of Yakima’s campaign to boost the downtown economy, which has improved in recent years but is still below where it was in the 1990s, when the Yakima Mall and Nordstrom were going strong.
“We’re giving people reasons to come downtown,” said Sean Hawkins, Yakima’s top economic development official.
That’s regarded as a necessary step to attract new retailers.
“As you get more people coming to downtown, that’s when you open the door to getting retail back,” he said. “Retail is not going to come back without the people.”
The city is paying a total of about $23,000 for the two concert series, and has offered to help advertise the Yakima Farmers Market.
The money is coming from a $100,000 fund created last fall by the Yakima City Council to pay for downtown events.
After a couple years, Hawkins said, the city’s revenue from beer and wine sales at the concerts should cover their production costs.
The new events kick off June 7 with the first performance of the Lunchtime Live concert series, which will run on 13 consecutive Fridays from 11:45 a.m. to 1:15 p.m. at Performance Park at the corner of Second and A streets.
The second series — Downtown Summer Nights — starts at 5:30 p.m. June 13 on Fourth Street behind the Capitol Theatre, and runs over 11 Thursday evenings through late August.
The Yakima Farmers Market will be open Tuesday evenings from late July through late September near the intersection of Fourth Street and Yakima Avenue.
Twenty-five vendors have already signed up, Hawkins said.
The Sunday market has room for as many as 100 vendors.
Yakima Farmers Market organizers did not reply to requests for comment Wednesday evening.
A weekday farmers market could benefit more than just consumers.
For some downtown restaurants, the market’s extra day means more than just new potential customers; it means more local produce and fruits for their menus.
Cafe Melange owner Alice Matthews said a Tuesday farmers market would allow her to more easily obtain fresh ingredients to use in her restaurant’s daily specials.