Badger Herald: City moves forward on plans for public market

by Chantal Cowie October 28, 2013

After months of talking, Madison city officials are taking the first step toward creating a public market in the city with an open house meeting planned for Oct. 29 to gather input and ideas from community members.

The Madison Public Market would be a year-round indoor facility where residents can get locally grown produce and locally made products anytime of the year, Dan Kennelly, the city’s economic development specialist, said. The public market would operate similar to the current Dane County Farmer’s Market and provide additional support and expansion of the city’s local food system, according to the city’s website.

Kennelly said city officials have been exploring ideas on the creation of a public market for the last 10 years. In the last 18 months, Mayor Paul Soglin and the Local Food Committee have taken a new approach to ideas for the creation of this marketplace, he said. He said the goal for the market is to be a combination of food aggregation, wholesale and retail.

“We hope that it will create an epicenter for our food system, that it will be the place where a lot of the energy and activity in the Madison area around food comes together — that the public market will be a place that amplifies and complements a lot of the other food initiatives and food businesses going on around town,” Kennelly said.

Kennelly said the city hopes the market will cater to local businesses and facilitate their growth and prosperity.

Though the market would offer residents fresh produce, Ald. Scott Resnick, District 8, said, it will not necessarily provide significant competition for local grocery stores.

Resnick said officials are hoping to gain some insight from the public open house meeting on how they should proceed with the market.

“We are looking to build [the public market] some place in Madison,” Resnick said. “Right now we’re talking about what sites will make the most sense, and we’re looking to determine the demand from the community.”

With the city and the Local Food Committee’s decision to move forward with the plans for the project, they have brought a consulting team led by Project for Public Spaces on board, Kennelly said. 

After meeting with Project for Public Spaces, the consulting team and city officials will spend between nine months and a year concentrating on different possibilities for the marketplace, including potential locations and what the marketplace should include, Kennelly said. He added city officials will conduct asset mapping of the food system, outreach to potential vendors, working with the community, evaluating potential sites and creating operating and financial plans.

Kennelly said the city hopes to begin implementing the project within the next two to three years.