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International Public Market Feasibility Study

About the Project

In Spring of 2023, the Port of Seattle and King County hired New Venture Advisors to conduct a feasibility study to determine if an International Public Market (IPM) is the right fit for our community and region.

The goals of the International Public Market concept would be to serve as a tourist attraction for tourists and visitors, provide a gathering space, showcase local cultural foods and products, and support economic development and entrepreneurship for small businesses, with an emphasis on ethnic businesses.

This facility has the potential to advance King County as a leading tourism destination and expand economic opportunities in near-airport communities and within the County as a whole.

Find the completed International Public Market Study Feasibility report here.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What research phase is the International Public Market Feasibility Study currently in? 

The final International Public Market Study is complete.

Q: Will this study lead to the development of this project?

At this stage, we are only studying the viability of this project. Phase 1 examined market demand and programmatic needs. Phase 2 examined concept models, financials, and potential sites.

While the comprehensive study investigated the feasibility of an IPM, there are still a number of steps that will need to be considered and researched to determine if this project will reach the development stage. 

If this project moves into the development stage, it will need to be fiscally viable, culturally relevant, and regionally supported. To achieve this, there are a number of funding options and operational/governing structures to be considered. 

At this stage, we are only studying the viability of this project. Once the study has been completed, The Port of Seattle and King County will then consider next stages.

Q: Why is South King County the intended study region?

South King County is home to large immigrant and refugee communities. As a result, South King County has a very rich and diverse culture. An international marketplace can support ethnic entrepreneurs, create jobs, and provide opportunities for cultural and community services. The marketplace would generate economic activity, support jobs, and support small businesses. It could also help prevent some of the displacement of small businesses with more predictable spaces to rent as the region continues to grow and change.

In addition to the residents of South King County, the proximity to SEA Airport makes it an ideal site for an IPM as it has the potential to attract local residents, visitors from surrounding communities, and help advance this region as a leading tourism destination and business gateway domestically and internationally. 

Q: Who is this market intended to serve?

There are two primary markets that this IPM research was designed to evaluate. The first being the local and regional market; residents, business owners, and organizations based in South King county. The second is the tourist market; one-time, recurring, or short-term visitors to the region. 

In both instances, the market is intended to serve practical needs as well as cultural and leisure driven needs. Grocery and restaurant vendors can provide a reason for people to come back to the market to meet their food needs. Retail products, courses, and workshops will provide both regional and visiting attendees with entertainment, gifts, and cultural experiences. Social services like language classes and training have the opportunity to support regional residents' needs in a centralized location. 

Q: How will a project like this impact South King County communities?

One of the benefits to an IPM-style market is the consolidation of shops, vendors, and attractions that increase traffic to all businesses, including those not within the market but in the surrounding area. 

An IPM model decreases the barrier to entry for businesses by making it supportive and accessible to grow and support local businesses. 

For residents, IPMs create jobs and often make it easier for the workforce to find consistent work via labor sharing among vendors.

Q: How would an IPM showcase our local businesses?

International Public Markets are designed to house many different businesses in one place. Many of the benefits to an IPM structure come from the nature of sharing a physical space (decreased operating cost, shared labor, attracting customers with diverse offerings). An IPM model is designed to showcase businesses with varied services and at varied levels of development making it an ideal way to grow and support regional businesses. 

The research conducted in Phase 1 showed a consumer desire for a space that offered many attractions including a combination of fresh foods, restaurants, stalls, and non-food retail items will be among the vendors considered. This allows the vendors to be an accurate representation of the community. 

In addition to retail vendors the research and planning for this IPM also includes considerations for community services and shared spaces such as classes, workshops, meeting and gathering spaces. This allows a potential IPM to be a space to support other regional businesses that offer services in addition to retail products. 

Q: What is the criteria for evaluating potential sites for this study?

The research results indicated that accessibility (public transit and access to parking) and safety were the primary concerns for consumers. To achieve the balance of supporting local needs and attracting tourism spending, a site’s proximity to the SEA international airport corridor was also determined to be a priority. 

In Phase 2 of this project, the research findings will inform a site evaluation of available properties in the three cities the community response prioritizes (SeaTac, Tukwila, and Burien). The consultant team will partner with each city’s economic development teams to identify properties or existing facilities that could support the proposed market concept. This work is done in tandem with developing the initial market concept model, which helps provide approximate size and needed characteristics for selecting a site. An evaluation matrix is then applied to each site to evaluate technical needs (zoning, location, size, utilities), community needs (access, transportation, proximity), and project needs (including partnership opportunities). This evaluation will help to inform the full concept model in development and will be shared at the end of phase two.


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*Image credit: "St. Lawrence Market" by Open Grid Scheduler / Grid Engine is marked with CC0 1.0.

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