Last February, the North Missoula Community Development Corporation was pondering ways to raise funds and bring economic development to Missoula’s Northside neighborhood. Their answer: a market. More specifically: an arts market on the Northside Pedestrian Overpass that connects downtown with the Northside neighborhood. “We were looking for a way for the NMCDC to have a fundraiser that fits in with the goals of the Northside/Westside neighborhood plan,” says LaNette Diaz, organizer of the Art Bridge Market, as the project soon became known. Diaz says the market will feature arts, crafts and collectibles, including some vintage stuff, but without becoming a flea market scene. “We are trying to avoid that.”
Does this mean competition between arts and crafts markets vying for Saturday morning shoppers? Unlikely, says Diaz. Since the Art Bridge Market will occur only on the first Saturday of each month, it poses little or no threat to the more established Missoula Saturday Market, more commonly known as the People’s Market. “We wanted to add to the scene,” Diaz says, “but we did not want to take away from what was already happening.”
So far, the Art Bridge Market has gotten nods of approval from the Missoula Redevelopment Agency, the Missoula Downtown Association, both established markets, area businesses, the Parks and Recreation department—which maintains the bridge—and the unanimous support of City Council at last Monday’s meeting.
But while July 3 is set as opening day at the new market, there is one detail holding the project back. Technically, the bridge spans Montana Rail Link property, and market organizers are seeking a letter of agreement from MRL condoning the project. Lynda Frost, assistant to the president of MRL, said she could not comment on the status of that request since she had not had a chance to discuss terms with Diaz. But Diaz is confident of MRL’s eventual approval, and she has 10 to 15 vendors ready to set up tables as soon as the letter comes in.