Mayor Paul Soglin and members of the Madison Local Food Committee explained the vision of a public market in the Madison area and introduced details of a survey for potential vendors for the market.
The 2013 city budget allocated $1.2 million for planning, development and possible site purchasing for the public market, according to Alcohol Policy Coordinator Mark Woulf.
The survey for potential vendors asks about their level of interest, what they would want to sell, where they already sell products, their selling experience, preferred amenities of the market and a preferred location.
Soglin said the survey is a critical step in providing a public market in the city of Madison and an important element of providing information to decision-makers of the market. He said the city has been talking about creating a public market for more than a decade.
“This is an opportunity to do something that provides access to great food and simultaneously help build a robust economy,” Soglin said.
Soglin and the committee are exploring locations on the North, South, East and West sides of Madison. Soglin said having the market located in the downtown area creates various challenges, mostly price-related. He wants the market to be focused on and accessible to the entire city, he added.
Empty spaces and shopping centers with space are what the city is looking into in terms of a location, Soglin said.
Barry Orton, professor of telecommunications at the University of Wisconsin and board secretary/treasurer of the Westside Community Market, said the downtown Farmers Market can be difficult for people to access due to parking. He said there is a big demand for vendors because many that want to sell at the downtown market are on a wait list.
“I would imagine anyone who’s vending at any of the farmers markets would have an interest in vending in a public market,” Soglin said.
It will be beneficial if the market is located somewhere with very good access to bus lines so many people can utilize it from various neighborhoods, said Peter Robertson, a committee member.
According to Soglin, the new public market should complement the downtown Farmers Market. He said he hopes both will grow. He added it will compete with other food processors but will also expand the marketplace and help everyone.
Various items have a potential to be sold at this market, including pretzels, deli items, fresh meat, pasta, baked goods, fruits and vegetables, Soglin said.
Soglin said other great markets around the United States have a common bond of creating a space where “real shoppers” love to go to purchase food they can serve at home.
Aaron Olver, director of the Economic Development Division in the city of Madison, said the planning of the market needs to start with the input of potential vendors and can eventually reach out to customers in Madison. He said the first step in the process is to analyze the results of the first survey.
“We’re starting with the vendors to get a broad sense of who’s out there and what their particular needs are,” Olver said.
Vendors can access the survey at www.cityofmadison.com/business under the “business resources” tab.