New leaders, new space for the farmers market

Mark Hoben looks to help transition the Maple Valley Farmers Market to the Legacy Site

There are a lot of background changes happening at the Maple Valley Farmer’s Market, but the produce and fresh salsa still holds up.

The market’s new president Mark Hoben is a big fan of the market. He started volunteering five years ago as the market’s concierge.

“I’d be at the booth helping with maps, where to find a bathroom, making change,” Hoben said.

Hoben took over as president for the remainder of 2019 and hopefully for 2020, if the board approves him. He is taking the reigns from long-time, beloved president Larry Baumgart.

Baumgart started as president in 2008 and has had a long-lasting love for farmer’s markets. When he handed off the reigns to Hoben, he hoped the romance would continue. That was an easy transition for Hoben.

“My mother was the founder of the Renton Farmer’s Market,” Hoben said. “(Nancy Hoben) died in 2014. She was a passionate resident of Renton and helped with a lot of project … I had my own connection to farmers markets, and I love them because my mom loved them. I have a strong association of her and for community. The thing that she appreciated and that I appreciate, is you see your neighbor, you see the man or the woman who raised your food, but you are also seeing the people from scouts, from little league … it’s a pop-up community space.”

Hoben isn’t stepping into a sedentary role as president, since his first big project will be helping move the market from its current location at Rock Creek Elementary School to a five-acre location at the City of Maple Valley’s Legacy Site.

The city came up with the proposal during a June 17 study session. Four of the five acres would be dedicated to parking and the last acre would be the site for vendors, bathrooms and entertainment.

“I won’t see the market falter,” Hoben said. “In the time I’ve been involved it went from a modest market of a couple dozen vendors to having 60-70 plus a week. The problems we have at the market now are growth derived. We have a hard time getting people a place to park because we don’t have adequate power. There are some growing pains that are associated with where we are at now.”

Which is why the market took the city’s proposal with open arms. The cost for the gravel and asphalt for the space, among other landscaping needs, will be covered by the city’s budget.

The idea to place the Maple Valley Farmers Market at the Legacy Site came from the Legacy Site Taskforce, Jonathan Miller, a Maple Valley resident who served as a volunteer on the task force, said.

“The city has stepped up and said ‘we’re doing this,’” Miller said.

The city and market are now in the phase of choosing the exact location of a new road, parking lot and asphalt site for vendors.

“The defining factors will be (Americans with Disabilities Act) requirements and accessibility,” Hoben said. “That’s the consideration regarding the parking.”

Hoben said he met with some of the staff from Maple Valley who are focusing on the market. The market’s goal is to have better access to power, water and semi-permanent bathrooms. The other goal is to host up to 100 vendors at the new site.

“They gave us what I think was an aggressive deadline,” Hoben said. “The timeline was set for May, 2020. I think the realistic timeline is 2021.”

Other ideas Hoben has for the new space would include food trucks and open space for visitors.

The 2019 farmers market is running through Sept. 28 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. every Saturday at Rock Creek Elementary.

The history of the Legacy Site

The Legacy Site has been a project the city has worked on for almost 20 years. The City of Maple Valley bought the property for $6.7 million in 2000, a a resident’s committee was formed in 2001. The site is 50-acres of undeveloped land on Maple Valley-Black Diamond Road across from Rock Creek Elementary.

The first recommended plan for the site was given to the city in 2005 which included leaving half of the site forested and letting the other half be developed. The recession of 2007-08 put a lot of plans on hold for the city.

Fast forward to 2015, a sports complex was considered for the Legacy Site but council later decided against the idea. That same year council created a draft comprehensive plan for the site, which included five-story buildings.

Now the city council is looking to make the Legacy Site a future area for a “downtown” development. In July, the city voted unanimously to place a six month moratorium just south of the Legacy Site at Southeast 260th Street o Southeast 264th Street to help keep the area clear for its proposed developments.

While the moratorium stands, the first step to developing the property will include the Maple Valley Farmer’s Market.

New leaders, new space for the farmers market
New leaders, new space for the farmers market
A previous version of this story had an incorrect end date for the Maple Valley Farmer’s Market. The market’s last day is Sept. 28, 2019.