PORTLAND — In several years you may be able to go to Union Station to catch a salmon, Pike Place Market-style, along with your train.

PORTLAND — In several years you may be able to go to Union Station to catch a salmon, Pike Place Market-style, along with your train.

A group hoping to start a public food market in Portland says the city-owned train station is its top pick for a site.

Some city officials are intrigued by the idea and are eager to find new uses for the aging station in addition to Amtrak train service.

But the city is far from committing to filling station space with a market, which faces problems that include raising millions of dollars in private funds and dealing with Amtrak's space and security needs.

The space and security worries can be managed with careful planning, said Ron Paul, consulting director of The Historic Portland Public Market Foundation, which is working to give the city its own Pike Place-like market opening in 2012 or later.

"There are some challenges both in the amount of square footage that it (Union Station) will ultimately yield and in the organization of the market," he said.

A recently finished architectural study found a way to craft more than 31,000 square feet of market space by straddling Amtrak's operations in the main hall. The $25,000 study was funded by a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development grant. Paul has gone over details with City Commissioner Dan Saltzman and staff from the Office of Sustainable Development, which Saltzman oversees.

South of the central hall, the market would stretch into space now filled with bathrooms, offices, a train-passenger waiting room and maybe Wilf's Restaurant, which could move into a separate annex building just south of the station. North of the hall, the market would go into building space now used for baggage and move outside into space that would be covered and turned into an entry.

"It's not ideal in that normally you'd want your market spaces more consolidated," without the passenger-hall's interruption, said Joseph Readdy with Mahlum Architects, who led the feasibility study. "But it does function."

A market could fit 25 to 30 vendors in that station space, selling everything from fresh produce to meat, baked goods, even distilled spirits, Paul said. Some storage and planned food wholesale work might have to go across the tracks, he said.

The market has looked at several other spaces, including the nearby Greyhound station and a federal building at 511 N.W. Broadway St. But Paul said he was lured to the station by TriMet's decision to run two MAX light-rail lines by Union Station: the Yellow Line to North Portland and the under-construction Green Line from Clackamas County. Riders from those areas, which have too few places to buy fresh foods, could pick up food on their way home from working downtown, Paul said.

Union Station also serves almost a half-million Amtrak riders a year. Paul hopes to get about triple that number of shoppers in the market in a year.

Still, the Union Station plan has drawbacks. Stricter train security could be a headache for market-goers, though Paul said he's planning for some tighter security rules. Historic rules and the building design limit the flexibility of the space.

Union Station needs $30 million to $40 million worth of work, including seismic upgrades and repairing water damage, to prepare for new tenants.

After that work was done, Paul's group would have to raise $6 million to $8 million in private funds to install the market.

The city, meanwhile, has made no commitment to putting a market in the station. The Portland Development Commission is trying to find new ways to use the building and pay for repairs, said Lew Bowers, a PDC senior project manager.

There could be other uses for that building, perhaps combining Amtrak, Greyhound buses and other transport services in one spot, he said.

Bowers sees the station's use as part of a bigger question: What to do with a "Broadway Corridor" that includes the 511 Broadway Building, privately owned Greyhound building, several nearby city-owned blocks and acres owned by the U.S. Postal Service. That's 20-plus blocks held by three or four owners, "which is pretty unusual for downtown Portland," Bowers said. "We see an incredible opportunity for this area."

Figuring out a way to get more money out of the train station is part of that. Updating the station probably hinges on including the land in a planned extension of the River District Urban Renewal Area, which could channel bond money to the project. The PDC also would love to find a long-term owner for the station, Bowers said.

That could be the city of Portland, he said, or it could be a private owner. Some public-private partnership is the most likely outcome for the station.

"We need to have the discussion on more detail around this whole corridor," and get community input and City Council approval before deciding how to deal with the station, Bowers said.