Prospect Heights is in talks to bring a French Market -- a more eclectic version of a traditional farmers market -- to its Metra Station parking lot this year.
The city council voted 4-1 Monday to have City Attorney Mike Zimmerman draw up a contract with Bensidoun USA, which operates such markets in Geneva, Glen Ellyn, Lisle, Villa Park, Wheaton, Vernon Hills and Chicago. The council will vote on the contract in April.
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Mayor Nick Helmer sees the market as an amenity for residents.
"I have been to the Wheaton market three times because I was overwhelmed. It's a beautiful operation. I see it as a sense of community -- people getting together," he said.
Leslie Cahill, Midwest manager for Bensidoun, explained that besides produce, items like bread, plants, and maybe pottery, French linens and candles would be sold.
"We are very excited about using that area of land that is not used for anything and is cordoned off because we don't have the (train) ridership to use it," City Administrator Anne Marrin said of the proposed site at 55 S. Wolf Road.
If the city council approves the contract next month, the market will operate with about 40 vendors from 2-7 p.m. on Wednesdays beginning in June and continuing through August or the middle of September.
City officials preferred a Saturday date, but competition from almost 300 existing markets of various kinds across the region means it would be difficult to attract vendors to a fledgling site on Saturday, Cahill said.
Cahill said not much money would change hands between her organization and the city, but the vendors would pay sales tax. Bensidoun USA will give the city the anchors for its distinctive canopies, but the city will install them with concrete, she added.
The city will provide labor to put up and take down the canopies each week, but Bensidoun will reimburse the cost. The company also will list the city on its liability policies, Cahill said.
It will cost Bensidoun about $20,000 to bring a market to the community, Cahill said. The company then charges vendors for setting up there, with fees estimated at $25 a week for produce sellers and $45 for other vendors
First Ward Alderman Luis Mende was the only council member to vote against the proposal. He said he is concerned about city liability and the expense of installing the canopy anchors. He also said the city should get a share of the fees Bensidoun collects from vendors.
City officials said vendors would have to pay $132 annually for a business license.