BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — Cathy Sloss Jones believes Birmingham could become the next great farmers market city.
Jones, president and CEO of Sloss Real Estate, has had a hand in the revitalization of Birmingham’s Pepper Place for over 20 years, even founding Pepper Place’s seasonal farmers market in 2000. Now, she wants to expand it.
In the last few years, Jones has sought a way to celebrate the past two decades of success at The Market at Pepper Place, which gathers many of the area’s farmers, artists and business owners to connect with the community from spring to early fall in Birmingham’s Lakeview district.
But Jones is also seeking to begin a new chapter for Pepper Place, envisioning a central location for the market as well as an area that could serve as a community gathering place.
“It’s been such a beloved institution for 21 years that we wanted to put something more permanent there to say ‘This is the Pepper Place Farmers Market,” Jones said.
To get the ball rolling, Jones began talking with Michael Murphy, executive director of the Model of Architecture Serving Society (MASS) Design Group, who she also knows from her time when as a visiting scholar at the Graduate School of Design at Harvard University.
Conversations between Jones and the principals at MASS led to designs for a 9,500-square-foot pavilion that Jones hopes will become both a realty and a point of pride for Pepper Place.
MASS was also behind the look and layout of the Equal Justice Initiative’s National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, and on Oct. 31, the group was profiled on CBS’ “60 Minutes.” The interview focused on the firm’s work in places like Rwanda and Poughkeepsie, New York, as well as their emphasis on making buildings that have a connection to nature.
“Everyone around the world is going through a shift in their understanding of the buildings around us,” Murphy told “60 Minutes” regarding the way the COVID-19 pandemic could potentially change architecture. “That they may make us sicker, that they could make us healthier if they were better designed.”
For Caitlyn Taylor, design director at MASS who is also working on the Pepper Place project, Jones’ vison for Pepper Place is something that aligns with her own interests in health and environmentally conscious architecture. Taylor, who lives with her family on a farm in Connecticut, said it is important to her that she contributes to making sure local farmers markets are sustainable.
“By providing permanent infrastructure for the market, we’re able to build resources for farmers in the community,” Taylor said. “We’re able to make a space that’s not entirely weather dependent.”
Taylor said one important component of the pavilion would be how it would be aligned with nature.
“In this design, one of the ways is thinking about how the entire pavilion opens up in the summer,” she said.
Jones said there will soon be a fundraising drive to raise money for the pavilion and hopes it can be completed sometime next year. Taylor said she planned to visit Birmingham soon.
“It’s really an anchor for the future of the market,” Taylor said.