FTU001The genesis of the concept came from Riverside Avondale Preservation’s (RAP) founder Dr. Wayne Wood, who was visiting Portland, Oregon, in 1993. He happened upon the Portland Saturday Market, an outdoor art market partially covered by an old bridge. Over 750,000 people visit the Portland Market every year. The weather-proof market idea seemed very adaptable to the space under Jacksonville’s Fuller Warren Bridge, which was then in the planning stage for replacement.

Wood returned to Jacksonville and convinced the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) to support the project and to dedicate the usual under-the-bridge landscaping funds to accommodate the Arts Market’s amenities and requirements. Wood secured the backing of city officials as well. The concept would allow parking under the bridge during the week for Fidelity National Financial (located next door to the bridge) and the Arts Market on the weekend.

Architect Melody Bishop (a former chairman of RAP) was selected as the architect for the Riverwalk connecting Downtown to the Fuller Warren Bridge, and her vision to integrate the Arts Market space with the riverfront pedestrian corridor was ingenious and creative. Parking spaces would become artists’ spaces on the weekend. Restrooms and a riverfront performance stage were built in. Utilities for artists’ booths, lighting, and visually attractive festival spaces were integrated into the area. Landscaping, decorative paving, and lighting under the bridge were all designed to enhance the market experience.

RAMGroup

Former Mayor John Peyton and the team that helped launch the Riverside Arts Market.

The project was delayed for several years, due to problems in the completion of the Fuller Warren Bridge and the demolition of the old bridge pilings. In 2008, an organizing committee was formed by Riverside Avondale Preservation to help make the market a reality at last; the five members of the committee–known as RAMROD–were Wayne Wood, Doug Coleman, Cindy Guy, Pamela Telis and Teresa Fish. In 2009, Riverside Avondale Preservation hired its founding Market Director, Tony Allegretti, who started just two weeks before the grand opening that drew as many as 40,000 visitors.  The video below, compiled by RAM founder Wayne Wood, helps capture the excitement of RAM’s first year.