Public Market: Joe Mingle

Posted August 21st, 2014 @ 8:11 AM by
The chart in this email is probably most persuasive to me, but here’s another view on the Public Market – to keep it on the east side.

The Public Market District and Social Justice
For those of you how aren’t familiar with my work, in the Summer I’m an urban farmer growing food for pantries and area needy families.  I’m also involved in several small business start-ups including Off the Block Salsa, Badger Kraut & Pickle and the MadCity Bazaar.  I’ve been heavily involved in community engagement efforts around various Eastside redevelopment efforts including Union Corners and the Public Market District.
I commend neighbors’ interest in ensuring the Public Market District serves the general goals of social justice and equity.  While people seem hesitant to be explicit about it, it’s also apparent folks hope this project can reduce racial inequity and specifically help low income African-American residents, thus the emphasis on the “Southside”.  While I’m absolutely supportive of these goals, I am also firmly convinced locating the Public Market District on the Eastside will provide the greatest opportunities for achieving these goals.
Uneven Eastside Development
The Eastside is more than just the Isthmus neighborhoods and economic development is uneven at best.  While the Marquette, Tenney-Lapham and SASYNA neighborhoods are fairly wealthy and mostly developed, the further East you go the less this is true.  A careful review of the data shows there are, in fact, more low income households within 1/2 mile of the First Street site that the Park Street site.  Not only are there more lower income households in absolute numbers but the density of these households is also markedly higher.
Lower Household Income Population within 1/2 m of Market Site Locations
E Washington/1st Street
S Park/Plaenert Dr
Total Households
Under $15,000
Source: Scanus 2014
It’s also important to recognize that there are plenty of low income, African-American neighbors in Worthington Park, Carpenter-Ridgeway, Truax and other Eastside neighborhoods.  Of course, the Northside is also home to many similar residents who would be better served by an Eastside Market.  Before folks decide the Eastside doesn’t need the Public Market District, it might be helpful to check in with Eastside leaders like Will Green from Mentoring Positives or Alison Ahlgrim at the East Madison Community Center.  My sense is they would welcome an Eastside Public Market District and the job opportunities it can create for the community’s they serve.
Food Access
Everyone should be clear that the proposed Park Street location is not down by Badger Road or the Villager Mall, which is the heart of the Southside African-American community.  The proposed site is near the Labor Temple and Wingra Creek which is on the edge of the low income tracts.  Placing the Public Market District at that site will not automatically create better food access for people on Badger and even less so Allied Drive which is also on the “Southside”.
In fact, the proposed Park Street location is only two blocks for the Copps Foods on Park.  The Southside Farmers’ Market sets up right across the Creek at the Labor Temple parking lot on Sundays and Tuesdays with mixed results for the vendors.  Again, I’m primarily a food justice activist growing vegetables for people who can’t afford to buy enough themselves.  Placing the Public Market District at this location won’t magically make people able to afford the food.  Ultimately, their food access can best be increased by providing jobs and, especially in this context, opportunities to start new, small businesses in the Public Market District.
Get That Eastside Money
For the Public Market District to help low-income people of whatever race or part of town, there needs to be a focused and deliberate effort to recruit people and provide them technical support for starting new businesses.  Low income residents are less likely to have the skills and resources to navigate the start-up process and create new businesses for the Market District without technical assistance.  The MadCity Bazaar and Mentoring Positives’ Off the Block Enterprises are already developing a vertically integrated system to identify, recruit and provide technical assistance to low-income residents.  (See attached flyer).
Once we get these businesses started, they need to be located in a place with customers who have the money to spend and support them.  These vendors need all the relatively wealthy Eastsiders to buy their stuff so their businesses can be successful!  Placing the Market in an area without enough foot traffic or customers with money to spend means certain failure for these new entrepreneurs we want to encourage.
Not only do we support out local, small businesses, but the Eastside is also already the destination of choice for Westside food tourists and people wanting to check out the cool galleries, funky shops and diverse entertainment venues on the Eastside.  I suspect few of these folks will be heading over to Park Street if the Public Market District is there.  Actually, I really don’t even believe many Eastsiders will travel all the way across town to Wingra Creek to patronize the Market and support these vendors.  Will you?
I’ve worked for many years in Worthington Park and chronic joblessness is a plague in that neighborhood.  To a person, any time I’ve mentioned starting up some little business to someone, their eyes light up and they start talking about this idea they have or whatever.  Low-income Eastsiders, and residents from all over town, need these opportunities and work is underway to help them make it happen.  I hope you, their Eastside neighbors, won’t try to take that away from them.
Please dont hesitate to contact me directly if you have specific questions or need additional information.  Thanks in advance for your interest and support!
Joe Mingle

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