ATLAS - It's more than a year behind schedule, but development of a farmers market "is actually happening" at the former Bi-Lo at Routes 54 and 61.

"We are working on it every day," said Jarret Cohen, of Allentown. "It is taking a lot longer than we would have hoped. It was like an onion, where we peeled back the layers and found more and more issues. The building needed a lot of work."

Cohen and John Miller, of Mahanoy City, are leading leased the building from Marvin E. and Lena Klinger, owners of Dornsife-based school bus operation Marvin E. Klinger Inc., with hopes of opening the market in spring 2012.

The 25,000-square-foot building is structurally sound, he said, but was otherwise a "complete mess." The electric, plumbing and the natural-gas heating systems needed a complete overhaul. They're still working on repairing the heating system, but the heavy-duty work is completed, he said last week.

Cohen said he couldn't give a date, but said the market would "absolutely" open.

"I don't want to disappoint anyone with a projected date," he said. "People assumed it would never open because it did not open in 2012."

Room for 70-80 vendors

Cohen said the building would have room for as many as 70 or 80 vendors who would sell a variety of products, including fresh produce, baked bread and other foods as well as leather goods, jewelry and clothing. More than 40 vendors from various locations, including Lancaster County, have either shown interest or are committed to the market, he said.

"We have had so many calls in the past year," Cohen said. "There are a few categories of vendors that we are still trying to identity the right person for. We are really in a position where we can pick and choose the best vendors."

Cohen said the market would be open Saturdays, with hopes of a second day being added.