In the ‘90s, it became clear that the Florida Department of Transportation was going to need to build a replacement for the existing Fuller Warren Bridge. The bridge had been built in the mid-‘50s and was becoming increasingly worn down due to heavy daily traffic.
FDOT began drafting plans for a new bridge to replace the old one. As part of those plans, a portion of riverfront property next to Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens would have become a chained-off retention pond to accommodate the project.
That’s when local history advocate and Riverside Avondale Preservation co-founder Wayne Wood sensed an opportunity.
Inspired by Portland Farmers Market in Oregon, Wood led RAP’s efforts to lobby FDOT into reconsidering their retention pond placement, and to instead allow for an open-air market along the river.
Their efforts were successful, with the new Fuller Warren Bridge opening in the early 2000s utilizing land further north for a retention pond instead of the riverfront site. The city then extended the existing Northbank Riverwalk out toward the property, setting the stage for the market’s development.
Work commenced on the realization of a design by landscape architect Melody Bishop which allowed for an open-air market promenade that could also function as a weekday parking lot for nearby businesses. The design included an amphitheater that could seat up to 350 people, which would come to be known as the Northbank Riverwalk Artists’ Square, to accommodate live music.
Riverside Arts Market officially opened to the public in the spring of 2009, hosting local artists and farmers and becoming an instant hit.
Today, RAM continues to thrive, operating each Saturday from March to December and featuring dozens of local artists, artisans, and farmers. A mixed-use pathway will soon be added to the Fuller Warren Bridge with its northern terminus letting out right in front of RAM, which will likely bring even more foot traffic to the already-popular market for years to come.