Eagle Group owner puts up $2 million for Pybus
Monday, March 12, 2012
WENATCHEE — Mike Walker, owner of the Eagle Group companies, announced Monday that he will spend as much as $2 million to build the proposed Pybus Public Market, and run the market hands-on for three to five years.
Walker made his announcement at a Port of Chelan County commission meeting at the Confluence Technology Center.
The project would transform the old Morse Steel warehouse at the foot of Orondo Avenue into a year-round agricultural-themed public market with stalls for eateries, produce sales, retail sales, gathering areas and space for live music.
The grounds around the market would become a permanent home for the seasonal Wenatchee Valley Farmers Market, which has had a nomadic existence since 2007 when it was ousted from Wenatchee Riverfront Park to make room for the new road, Riverside Drive.
Under the plan, the city of Wenatchee would agree to transfer $1.4 million in federal grant money that it already has for the project to port control.
The port would spend the grant to improve the 25,000-square-foot building’s roof and exterior shell, including basic interior lighting and a sprinkler system.
The port would then lease the entire property to Walker to build out the market interior and fill with tenants.
Construction on the building’s exterior should begin in September. The market could be ready for tenants by next summer.
Walker said he and his wife, JoAnn Walker, would commit up to $2 million for the project.
He plans to run the business end of the market himself for the next three to five years, but he and the non-profit he’ll create will eventually hire a market manager, he said.
“I have an inherent feeling that this will create lots of excitement and lots of opportunity,” he said.
Failure isn’t an option, he says.
“If you’re ordered to get to the top of the hill, and you can’t get to the top of the hill, you find another route,” he said. “That’s the same thing I tell my team.”
Walker said the project is a way for he and his wife to give back to the city. He doesn’t expect a profit in return.
Mayor Frank Kuntz said that no city money will be used.
The success of the project now depends on Walker’s business savvy.
Craig Larsen, the port commissioner who took the lead on the Pybus project, said the port wants the market to be successful, but it if isn’t, the port’s risk is small.
“Certainly, we’re interested in having a successful project,” Larsen said. “If it’s not a successful project, we still own the land and still own the improvements on the property... The port now has a piece of property with several million dollars of improvements that we’d have to figure out what to do with.”
Christine Pratt: 665-1173
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