BETTENDORF, IOWA (September 9, 2021) — When the leaders of Mercado on Fifth embarked on the renovation of the former Car Shop in Moline, the first thing they did was gut the building, knocking down non-­load-bearing walls, and opening up the ceiling to expose steel beams.

As Maria Ontiveros, the non-profit night market’s president and co-founder, and Anamaria Rocha, its new director, count down the months to the building’s planned opening next spring, the space’s flexible open concept design embodies the limitless potential they see in store for the small and minority-owned businesses it serves.

“With any big project, there’s a lot of development along the way, and our ideas keep evolving,” said Rocha. “Once the building is done, we’ll really be able to see how the space can best support the community.”

“Mercado has always relied on the community bringing all the pieces together,” Ontiveros added, “so we envision the building taking on a life of its own once people get in there.”

Located next to the organization’s current open-air space, the renovated building will make Mercado on Fifth a permanent fixture in Moline’s Floreciente neighborhood. The project is funded in part by a 2019 $100,000 Transformation Grant from the Quad Cities Community Foundation to support local workforce development efforts. Transformation Grants are the largest grants awarded by the Community Foundation each year.

“The Transformation Grant was really important in helping us realize that this project is valued not just by us but by the greater community,” Ontiveros said. “The Community Foundation gave us the confidence and the leverage to go out and seek the additional funding we needed. We’re so grateful to them for helping to kickstart the project.”

“We absolutely treasure all the work Mercado on Fifth has done to promote equitable opportunity for our Hispanic community,” said Kelly Thompson, the Community Foundation’s vice president of grantmaking and community initiatives. “We can’t wait to see where the new space takes this organization next.”

One thing the building is certain to do is expand Mercado’s capacity. Operating seasonally since 2016 as a weekly outdoor event, Mercado has simply been running out of room, according to Ontiveros. With 6,300 square feet of indoor space and another 5,000 square feet of outdoor patio, the new building will allow Mercado to host more vendors and patrons — and run more cultural and educational programming — than ever before.

Just as critical, the organization will be able to operate year-round. “Right now, holding a mercado means closing down the street, setting up equipment and taking it down, all with a lot of volunteer help,” said Ontiveros. “Next year, we could have the new building open throughout the week for our vendors and programming. We’ll be able to invite other community organizations to use it for their own needs, too. Really, the sky’s the limit.”

That is, except in one important sense: “The rain will not stop us. We’re just going to bring the party inside!”

Ultimately, Ontiveros and Rocha see the new space as central to Mercado’s ability to continue carrying out and expanding upon its threefold mission. Along with giving more vendors greater opportunities to grow their businesses, the new building will be a source of community pride. “We’re claiming space — and a beautiful space — for the Hispanic community in a prime location,” said Ontiveros.

Rocha is looking forward to seeing development in the third leg of Mercado’s mission: educational opportunities. From story time for children to small business workshops for entrepreneurs and vendor-led art and cooking classes for patrons, Mercado is committed to enriching the community through learning. “For this community, there isn’t anything quite like that right now — a place where you can pull up the event calendar and know you’ll find something of interest to you and feel welcomed,” said Rocha. “I can’t wait to see our community’s excitement to be within their own space.”

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