Quakertown is looking to add feet on the street and give people more options to eat.
The Upper Bucks County borough this year could see the start of construction on a public market similar to those found in Doylestown and Easton.
Developers Chris LaBonge and Ian Jeffrey want to renovate the borough’s old trolley barn into a public market, said Naomi Naylor, executive director of Quakertown Alive!, an economic development organization.
The market would be at the corner of East Broad and Front streets, a highly visible section of Quakertown.
LaBonge said he and Ian Jeffrey are calling their redevelopment efforts in the downtown the “Rail Area Redevelopment Project,” which includes four buildings near the old Quakertown Train Station.
The buildings include the Mammy Kleine’s storefront to the left of the old trolley barn, the Quakertown Traction Co. building (trolley barn), the “Whistle Stop” hobby shop and the old rail station freight house, which was used to load and unload cargo while the train station was still in use.
The idea is to redevelop the area into a retail and restaurant attraction for locals while attracting patrons from the surrounding areas of Milford Township, Richland Township and potentially Perkasie, Sellersville and the Lehigh Valley, LaBonge said.
While the developers have immediate interest in a bar/restaurant for the space, they are looking to balance that demand against plans to incorporate the public market vision, which started the project.
LaBonge said that although their vision is for the indoor open space market, coordinating 12 to 14 vendor interests over an extended development timeline poses several challenges. Therefore, they are looking for strong retail partners who have a long-term strategy on building a presence in Quakertown’s downtown district, he said.
“The concept is to have a public market with small restaurants, cafes, other businesses that might want a smaller footprint,” Naylor said. “They want to create a public market with lots of energy, lots of food; a beer garden/beer pub.
“We have 15,000 vehicles coming through Broad Street every day. We want to capture that audience. How do we get them to stop and shop?”
The project will also bring jobs, something the borough really needs, Naylor said.
“We want to embrace that and give opportunities to smaller restaurants,” she said.
The market would be highly visible and include green space and a park-like system that would attract people and encourage them to stay and mingle with a more walkable space, she said.
Jeffrey owns Fries Rebellion, a restaurant on Route 309 in Richland Township near Quakertown, and he plans to move that restaurant to the public market once it opens, she said.