The Downtown Alliance has been taking the idea seriously since 2008, said Jason Mathis, the organization's executive director.
"We wanted to build on the strength of the Farmers Market," he said of the Saturday mainstay that's been attracting crowds for 20 years. "We thought, wouldn't it be cool if we could do it all year in this building?"
The landmark, which dates from 1913, is owned by the state of Utah. But Mathis said the Downtown Alliance seemed to get the state's blessing for its use in the 2011 legislative session when a resolution for a public market in the building passed both houses unanimously.
Under the proposal, the Rio Grande Cafe and Utah History and Research Center would remain in the building.
It's far from a done deal, Mathis acknowledged. But the Downtown Alliance continues to study the idea for a year-round market there, he said.
Such an endeavor would be launched in stages, he noted. One possibility is that it would begin operating two days a week with the notion that, eventually, it would be a six- to seven-day per week venture. As it increased its hours of operation, it also would expand to include future space on the west side of the depot.
A market at the Rio Grande Depot could dovetail with the Salt Lake City Redevelopment Agency's plans for the area directly west of the iconic structure, said RDA Chairman Kyle LaMalfa, who also sits on the Salt Lake City Council.
The RDA's vision includes a streetcar that would run east and west near 300 South. The options include a line just north of the depot. Another, more controversial one would route a streetcar right through the historic structure. The line would run west from 200 East to near the intermodal hub at 600 West, according to one plan not yet finalized.
Acreage directly west of the old depot is now a deserted no-man's land. But the RDA plan would rebuild 300 South from the depot to 600 West into what the RDA is calling "Festival Street," La Malfa explained. The agency already owns much of the acreage there. Generally, plans envision new construction that would include high-density housing, studio work space and retail store frontage.
"The hope is it would become more than the location of a farmers market," La Malfa said. "It would become a nexus of activity for people who arrive at the nearby intermodal hub on FrontRunner or TRAX."
City Councilman Luke Garrott, who also sits as vice chairman of the RDA, said the proposal for a public market at the Rio Grande Depot is exciting.
The market would work in concert with the RDA's urban renewal plan because it would attract a lot of foot traffic to what is now a blighted area, he said.
"A public market makes a heck of a lot of sense for economic development," Garrott said.