PHILADELPHIA — With great fanfare, civic and government leaders and Philadelphia Wholesale Produce Market wholesalers officially marked the opening of a new terminal market.

The March 25 ribbon cutting event commemorated a decade of work by city leaders and market companies to construct a modern produce distribution facility.

John Vena Jr., market board member and president of John Vena Inc., gave attendees a history of the city’s produce wholesale system and pointed them to the future.

“Welcome to the future of fresh,” he said. “What everyone has come here to see today and what you see here, this great new market, doesn’t exist anywhere else on the planet. The impact of this new market for our merchants and city of Philadelphia is simply this: we are ahead of the competition.

“We did it arguably in the most difficult times possible for a project like this,” Vena said. “But with a little luck and continued hard work of our family businesses, we will succeed in making Philadelphia the leading center of fresh produce distribution on the East Coast.”

Philadelphia welcomes the 'future of fresh'

Doug Ohlemeier

John Vena Jr., market board member and president of John Vena Inc., calls the Philadelphia Wholesale Produce Market "the future of fresh" at the market's opening ceremony March 25.

Philadelphia welcomes the 'future of fresh'

Doug Ohlemeier

Wholesalers, city leaders and other guests tour the Philadelphia Wholesale Produce Market during the March 25  opening ceremony.

Sonny DiCrecchio, market executive director, said wholesalers invested a lot of time and energy in developing the facility. Roadblocks included wildlife that delayed construction.

“It’s been 10 years,” he said. “We have had bald eagles, turtles, giant highways we had to build and falcons that came in. We got thrown out of the Navy yard twice and got thrown out of some of the best places in the city. It was like a football game. We’ve been through it all. The merchants, they deserve this building, they really do.”

Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter commended the city for coming together to build the distribution center, on 48 acres on the city’s south side.

“This was absolutely the right thing the city needed to do,” he said. “This is fantastic.”

Construction on the $218.5 million plant, with 550,000 square feet of cooler space, started in the fall of 2008. At 667,000 square feet, it is double the size of the former market, and has 234 dock doors.

Market distributors planned to begin directing loads of produce to the new site after March 31, the last official day of business at the former market. The new market is officially scheduled to open for business April 3.