Food carts will soon be a regular fixture on the streets of downtown Springfield. Local nonprofit Neighborhood Economic Development Corporation (NEDCO) has been working with city staff to create a food cart program in hopes it will encourage downtown revitalization.
“There are a lot of examples around the country of the way that these programs have injected a new life into the community,” says Dave Johnson, NEDCO food hub operations supervisor.
He expects food carts will be in operation early June. He says the program, which he anticipates will attract between five and 10 food carts in the first few months with a limit of 25, will present a new range of food options.
“It’s really easy to be diverse and turn on a dime and come up with a new seasonal and really cool menu idea,” Johnson says.
City of Springfield Community Development Specialist Kevin Ko has been working with NEDCO to ensure the program is a positive reflection of and influence on downtown Springfield. He says people can expect to see food carts vending, among other choices, sandwiches, hot dogs and Mexican food.
“We’d like to see food carts be successful from a cultural perspective as a way to show there’s a lot happening downtown,” Ko says. “And of course we’d like to have the economic benefit for downtown by having the real visible and successful food cart program.”
The city has contracted NEDCO to oversee the program. Food cart owners will pay NEDCO a monthly fee of 6 percent of sales with a maximum of $100, and $50 during winter months. Eugene’s current food cart program taxes 6 percent of sales or $100 monthly, whichever is greater.
“I would love to see lots of people who have great food and really haven’t gotten an opportunity to get past that real start-up point,” Springfield Mayor Christine Lundberg says.
Johnson says he expects between five and 10 food carts to participate in the program during the first few months. Food carts will be able to vend in the area between Mill Street and 10th Street and A Street and B Street. Lundberg says food carts on Main Street could end up decreasing visibility of brick-and-mortar businesses.
NEDCO conducted a survey of downtown businesses. Johnson says they heard a lot of concerns from restaurant owners about food carts impacting their business.
“It’s really a dilution kind of issue,” Johnson says, “and there’s a certain perspective that there’s only so much business in town here and bringing more players onto the field could potentially dilute that business.”
Electrical hookups are being upgraded in a parking lot across the street from Springfield City Hall near the Sprout! farmers market and a large fountain, Lundberg says. She suggests food carts park there.
“It would create a community gathering place,” Lundberg says, “maybe the start of something that’s similar to Saturday Market in Eugene.”