In talks over what some might call the “white whale” of the Madison community, city officials are considering plans to split the future Madison Public Market into two or three smaller markets set up in different locations, Madison Mayor Paul Soglin said in a press conference Tuesday afternoon.

If all goes well, the Madison Public Market is slated to open in 2017, Soglin said, adding that the location will not be determined until the city is able to calculate the cost and accessibility of the market.

Currently the cost of the project is expected to be around $250,000, Soglin said noting that the market will serve various functions for the city.

“We can see this as an economic engine that provides tremendous public invention,” Soglin said.

The market would serve as a retail venue, focusing on food and local goods, and would act as a wholesale operation, where restaurants could find local produce to use in preparing meals, Soglin said.

“We have to finish the study, acquire a site and develop safe and healthy infrastructure. As much as I’d like to open tomorrow, I don’t want to rush that,” Soglin said.

The intention of the market would be to foster the local economy and provide a venue for purchasing food, art and other crafts, according to Kelly Verel, Senior Associate at Project for Public Spaces. She said the city is interested in looking at “multidimensional” spaces.

“It probably isn’t going to look like anything else you can think of when you think of a public market in the United States,” Verel added.

Soglin said officials are also taking into account the impact the market would have on the existing Dane County Farmer’s Market that takes place every Saturday in the Capitol Square.

Soglin said the presence of another market could have a positive effect on the farmer’s market. He explained how the addition of food carts helped Madison’s restaurant industry.

“Before the introduction of the food carts, there were fewer restaurants on State Street,” Soglin said. “And now the introduction of the food carts has resulted in much greater variety.”

Soglin said he hopes to finalize the specifics in good time to ensure that the execution is successful.

“It’s taken 40 years for the [Dane County] Farmer’s Market to get to its size,” Soglin said.

The Madison Local Food Committee will hold an open house meeting Tuesday Oct. 29 at 5:30 p.m. at the Overture Center to discuss the Madison Public Market with the local community, according to the City of Madison website.