Ground was broken Wednesday for a 6,000-square-foot, open-air pavilion in Orangeburg that will become the new home for the downtown farmers market.
"It's a long time coming, so we are real excited" Downtown Orangeburg Revitalization Association Executive Director Candice Roberson told community leaders and members.
"We believe in this project. We believe the project will help build our community,” she said.
The pavilion will be located at the site of the former Sifly furniture building at the corner of Church and Russell streets. The Sifly building was torn down in October 2015. The lot has been vacant since.
Orangeburg farmer Alvin Pair thinks the new farmers market “will generate good revenue and will serve as an outlet for the farm. I think is a great asset to the community to have access to fresh vegetables and fruits.
“I think the people of the community and around are eager to see it. They have been waiting to see it."
Jerry Churchwell of Neeses sells his squash, cucumbers and other items at the market.
"It is a good business and we meet a lot of good people here, too," he said.
He can’t wait for the new facility and protection from the elements.
“When you grow all of this stuff and you get it ready to go and it rains, then you have a bad day. You ain't got nowhere to get rid of all that stuff that quick,” he said.
The pavilion will have 12-foot high ceilings with storage, office space and two climate-controlled, handicapped accessible, multi-stalled restrooms.
The open pavilion itself will have natural and mechanical ventilation. Operators will be able to close it to the elements during inclement weather.
The facility, which will be built of timber, will be able to house 32 10-foot by 10-foot vendor spaces. Power and water will be available for vendors. Fans and lighting will be installed.
The market will provide high-speed internet connections for credit card payments.
DORA hopes to have the pavilion open by the end of summer 2019.
"It is always good to see a vision come to reality," said Sen. John Matthews, D-Bowman.
Matthews said this is his third time celebrating the arrival of a new farmers market in his district. A similar project started in Colleton County about 10 years ago.
When he saw the success of the other markets, Matthews talked to Orangeburg Mayor Michael Butler and the two went to Greenwood to see its market.
"We came back and we said, ‘We are going to do it,' " Matthews said. "I really think this is a value added to the city and it will show very productive outcomes. Let's use it."
About $670,000 has been set aside for the project. The pavilion's estimated total cost will be about $900,000.
About $150,000 has come from the city, $100,000 from the county, $250,000 from the state and $25,000 from grants. Other sources have included private donations and foundations. Additional grants will be sought.
"The board of directors has committed 100 percent," Roberson said. "Please consider joining our efforts and contributing to this project.
"We have a level of giving for every budget. For us, no donation is too small or too large."
Butler thanked the state, county and Orangeburg City Council for contributing to the project.
"What a great enhancement it is going to be in the downtown area right in the middle of town," he said.
"This shows what teamwork does," Orangeburg County Council Chairman Johnnie Wright said. "Working together, we can all make a difference."
Wright said former Councilwoman Ray Wannamaker Sabalis suggested the county use 1 percent capital projects sales tax money toward the project.
"It is all about what is best for the county and the city as a whole," he said.
The existing farmers market started off with an average of about four to six vendors.
Today, there are an average of 12 vendors every Tuesday from May through August. Public participation has also increased by 50 percent.
The new pavilion will not just be for farmers.
Officials hope the pavilion will be able to house family reunions, wedding receptions and oyster roasts and the annual Festival of Roses street dance.
The pavilion could also host arts and craft shows, flower symposiums and other community events.
"The uses are limitless with this design," Roberson said.
To donate, call 803-531-6186.