Some Eastsiders think Public Market belongs on the Southside

Posted August 19th, 2014 @ 8:19 AM by

Because it is needed more there . . . just trying to be neighborly. There’s a petition with about 250 signatures.  Alder Strausser likes it!

I first noticed the discussion when Marquette Neighborhood President asked this:

Should the Marquette neighborhood respectfully decline an east side open market?


I am contemplating crafting a letter for the MNA Board to consider sending to City deciders respectfully declining having the open market developed at the East Wash and First Street area and ask that it instead be sited at on the south side.

Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely relish the idea of having the market just blocks away. That said, we’re a neighborhood already blessed with so many great things, not the least of which is very easy access to the Dane County Farmer’s Market and our own humble weekly market. City investments in Eash Wash are paying big dividends. Would we love an open market? Sure thing. Do we need it? Not nearly as much as the south side could.

Part of being a great neighborhood is being good neighbors. I think we should do a solid by way of our Park St. comrades and urge the City to look south for this important development.

What say you?

As usual, great thoughtful comments on the listserve. A few more against the letter than in support.

There was some agreement.
– I agree with you…we not only have so much…but many of our residents ride bikes year round…so have easy access due to our fabulous bike paths that are cleared year round. I don’t think that is the case for the south side, though I have no figures to illustrate that. Thanks for the letter.
– Thank you MJ for posting this and I agree with you completely. This market should be on the Southside. It will be successful, the Southside neighborhood would benefit so much from having it there, and we would have one open on East Wash in a year.
I believe the Eastside can push to have this market on the Southside because it’s the right thing to do.
– Both xx and I support such a letter and believe it should be located on the south side.
– I support this for the said reasons. 100%.
– Wonderful reasoning. Spread the love. For sustainable neighborhoods–every one,
– I’d be supportive of that letter. While I believe that eastsiders would help a southside market succeed, I think an eastside market would cater to, and serve a more limited audience. And I wouldn’t expect Madison to be able to support a second market.
– I agree that we should favor the south side for the market.
– I agree with MJ and Lynn and thank MJ for his initiative on this.
Except I disagree with Lynn that there will be a second public market on the East Side after one on the South Side succeeds.  The Madison/ Dane County region, with a population of only 0.5 million, is much too small to support more than one “public market.”  It is doubtful it can support even one.  See Public Markets in the United States.
However, if the City and region’s people really want a public market, notwithstanding most of the components of such a market already thriving in dispersed locations, such a market and its vendors will succeed no matter where the market is in or near the City.
The City’s investment in a public market to be justified must be investment to attempt to spur community and economic development where they are seriously needed.  For that reason the public market needs to be someplace other than the near East Side.  The South Side would qualify and seems to be as ready as anyplace that would.

Some wordier disagreement
– I am in favor of the market on East Washington. There are many factors which the City considered before selecting the site. MNA should support the City in this. If this market is successful, the City may try more market locations. Let’s support the City in getting the first market going.
– I think you should check with the suppliers. Knowing many of them, my take is that they would prefer east for many reasons. It is going to have to address both supply and demand and if you want it to succeed, I believe East will make better sense. If one is successful, others may follow. If the first one fails, there will be no others.
– As a potential and likely vendor who has been with the city on this issue, I strongly implore the rest of this neighborhood to look at the space that will work the best for the overall market’s success. The south side location has merit and would be a positive for an area in need of more positives, but the near eastside location has the best chance of overall success, which is a big reason why it was selected. This whole effort will be an exercise in futility if the market does not work for the vendors…please believe me when I say making a living in the small-scale food industry is exceedingly difficult, so giving prospective vendors the best chance of success is absolutely essential.
– I agree with Karen that a city process was undertaken to find the best location for this market. That process has chosen the best spot after a number of factors were in the mix. Now let us work to make this market a success so in the future it can expand to other areas. If there was a real desire to make an impression why didn’t the MNA weigh in on the matter when there was a time for public comment? By moving forward on this matter at this time, even though its heart is in the right place, will make the board look irrelevant. MNA will not prevail on this matter with the city, and the matter should be placed on the table.
– I completely agree with ^^^^ and do not support writing a letter to the city.
– I’d say declining would be a mistake. While I support the intent and would love to see a South side Market, the primary question isn’t which community should have it. The primary question is in which community would such a concept succeed? The likelihood of multiple public markets in the city is very thin. Most places with thriving public markets typically only have one, and they typically have a greater population density than Madison.
My thought is if you want Madison to have a public market, then the next step is the quest for the best location to insure that the market succeeds. I haven’t read the various feasibility studies, but I’d assume others have and that’s why the east side was selected.
If you wanted to redirect the market to the south side. Then the effort takes more than a, ‘let’s do them a verbal solid.’ It would take a real, long-term, concerted effort to make the public market a success— meaning that you’d need at least a few hundred, if not a thousand or more, east siders to commit to a 2-3 year regular use of the public market, while it is located on the South side. And by regular use, I mean multiple times per month, potentially weekly. Obviously, the more residents from the east side who made the commitment, the less the frequency of each individual resident would have to be.
Think of it like this. I’m a member of StackExchange. Anyone can create a new StackExchange community, but StackExchange enforces rules for success. You can’t just say, ‘I want a community’ you have to commit to building one. So stage one is finding like minded individuals and having each of those individuals commit hours of effort for an extended time period. Let’s say your community needs 182hrs over 3 months to grow. Just starting, have 10 people, then each of those 10 people need to commit around 2hrs a day for 3 months to build your community. When the community hits 100 people, the efforts become closer to 2hrs per month per individual.
A public market is very similar. On the east side, there’s almost a guarantee that a certain percentage of East siders will use the market pretty regularly and the North side would join in. But on the South side those numbers would dwindle or be totally lost. To make up for that, if you really want to do a solid for a South Side Public Market, than a percentage of eastsiders would need to make a ‘pledge’ to commit the time and energy to visit the market weekly. The commitment would need to be public, trackable, and moderately enforceable (a little bit of public shaming for those who fall off their commitment). That would make the gesture meaningful and go a long way to guaranteeing that any potential failure of the public market wasn’t tied to a last minute, unplanned location change.
– (1) First off, thank you to Michael and the other MNA Board members for having this vote. It is a great way to collect the neighborhood’s opinion on an issue.
(2) My vote is no, that the MNA should not discourage the City or otherwise respectfully decline an east side market. (My thinking is like many of the posters who had reasons such as that the site selection process has already considered many parameters including what location is most likely to benefit the seller-farmers, who are in a difficult, hard-to-succeed-in business. Coming into the selection process at this late stage on a single issue does not seem like a good idea to me.)
I agree with xxx’s view that the MNA should support the City’s progress on a market, including the City’s site selection.
– Perhaps the input from MNA shouldn’t be yes, encourage south side location, or no be silent (and accept the recommendation).
It appears that the Committee did not fully consider the equity implications of their recommendations. (I suppose its possible they considered equity but did not adequately communicate those considerations).
It also seems clear from the great discussion on the listserve that equity considerations are more complicated than a simple location question: racial concentrations of poverty are not just on south side; vendors offer economic empowerment opportunities for persons of color and most financially viable location gives them the best chance of success; etc.
So perhaps an MNA response could be to urge the City to more fully consider the equity implications before finalizing the decision. The City has a Racial Equity and Social Justice initiative. They could apply that initiative to do an equity assessment of the public market location options. For example, they could conduct a Health Impact Assessment of the options. 
This response would recognize the importance of equity considerations, while acknowledging that more thought and analysis is needed to fully understand them.
One resource is the Geography of Opportunity mapping and report that CARPC issued (full disclaimer: I was lead author). See: full report is at
– Smart (regarding the above comment)
– While I respect the noble sentiments behind the proposal of sending such a letter, I do not support sending it.
I concur with the thinking that culminated in citing it in the E Washington corridor. The Market is a good fit and the vendors will be attracted to it and benefit from the high volume of likely customers. The market will flop if potential vendors of interesting and quality
products don’t think the Market has adequate sales potential.
I suggest that Michael’s idea and the supportive comments that it generated stem from blurring two issues that should remain distinct:
(1) Citing the Market where it will flourish.
(2) Addressing food desertification.
Putting the Market in a food desert will not further either purpose.
– Well said ^^^^. They are two separate issues; trying to combine them will not solve the problem of the food desert and may well cause the failure of the Public Market.

The only comments that concerned me were the ones that said “the city said so, so we should” – the worst reason ever. The city doesn’t always make the right decision, its always worth looking into.

Here’s a really helpful update from alder Zellers:

Dear Neighbors,

The following was sent out on Friday August 15, 2014 by Dan Kennelly of the City of Madison’s Economic Development Division regarding the site selection for the Public Market District. The site selection has been getting a lot of discussion recently so I thought this additional information would be of interest. There is still an opportunity to comment as noted below.

The City is continuing to make progress on the Business Plan for the Madison Public Market District. In light of some recent decisions and subsequent media coverage, we wanted to provide the folks on this list with a detailed update on the status of the project.

The Local Food Committee and the City’s Consulting Team from Project for Public Spaces (PPS) recently reached an important milestone by completing Phase 2 of the Public Market District Business Plan, which was Site Selection. This phase of the project included four public input sessions held in May and June, as well as a detailed analysis and a recommendation provided by the PPS consulting team.

Based on this work, the Local Food Committee unanimously passed a motion recommending to the City Council that the process move forward with a focus on the area around East Washington Avenue and the Yahara River as the preferred location for the Madison Public Market District. The Committee also recommended that the Park Street area near the intersection of Wingra Drive and the Northside Town Center site be considered if the City is unable to find a workable path forward for the East Washington Site. Further, the Committee unanimously passed a second motion that expressed a commitment to continue to pursue projects and initiatives focused on food access and food-related economic development in underserved areas of the city.

The Committee’s decision to focus on East Washington Avenue as the preferred location was not taken lightly. The Committee reached this conclusion after over two years of meetings and after carefully reviewing the detailed analysis completed by the consulting team on what will make a market district succeed.  Though all three sites and every part of the city have needs and opportunities, the Committee came to the conclusion that the consultant’s analysis, the real estate situation at the different locations (including existing public ownership of property), and input from the community all indicated that the East Washington Avenue site represents the best opportunity to move forward on a timely basis with a successful Public Market District that can expand and grow over time, leading to more markets and other related projects throughout the city.

If you’re interested in how and why this decision was made, we strongly encourage you to take the time to review the work that was completed during Phase 2 of the Business Plan process. Below is a list and links to the work products.

  1. PPS Recommendation Letter – This letter from the consulting team summarizes their recommendations for the preferred location and for the other considered sites.
  2. Site Criteria – This is a list of criteria that was developed and used to analyze the options for location.
  3. Site Analysis Report – This report includes parcel information for each of the three finalist areas as well as a mix of qualitative and quantitative information on the strengths and weaknesses of each of the three locations.
  4. Gravity Model – Using a technique called a Huff Gravity Model, this analysis compares each of the three locations in terms of estimated potential food sales given population density and competitive food establishments in their areas
  5. Demographic Comparison – This report shows demographic comparisions for the ½-mile radius, 5-minute drive time ring, and 10-minute drive to ring for the different locations.

The Committee’s recommendation has now been forwarded to the City Council and will be on the agenda for the Council meeting on September 2. Progress on the Business Plan is effectively on hold until the Council adopts a resolution directing City Staff and the Consulting Team to move forward with Phase 3 of the process. Phase 3 will include the details of how the project is designed, what uses are included, who the vendors are, what the project will cost, and how it will be operated.

Regardless of the ultimate decision on location, the bulk of the work on the business plan still lies ahead. Once the City Council gives the go ahead to move forward, the first step will be to organize a “Placemaking Workshop and Design Session” which will provide vendors and community members another opportunity to help shape this exciting project.

Thank you to everyone who participated in the community discussions back in May, submitted ideas on the project’s online comment form, attended Committee meetings, completed our surveys, sent emails to City staff, shared information with your neighbors, or otherwise got involved in this process. Your input has been incredible valuable.  The best place to give input continues to be the online comment form (Click Here to access). We will make sure those comments are shared with Committee and Council members to help inform their decisions.

Please stay involved and stay tuned. We’ll continue to use this listserve to inform the community about opportunities to get involved with the project. Feel free to get in touch if you have any questions.


Dan Kennelly,, 608-267-1968

Let the debate rage on!

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