After several years of residents pushing for the Madison Public Market to be approved in the city budget, the market will finally be built within the next three years.
The market, for which the city plans to invest $13 million, is part of the long-term effort of community members, stakeholders and prospective vendors and will act as a location for food retail, wholesaling, processing, art/craft vending and community events.
It will be located along First Street near the intersection of East Washington Avenue and Johnson Street.
Though there was a large amount of discussion on the Public Market during the budget deliberations, ultimately the council approved it 17-3. There was solid support in the council for the market.
Dan Kennelly, the manager of the city’s office of business resources, said the space will also provide a demonstration kitchen, various programs and education and training.
Kennelly said the market will help people in the area start businesses, particularly those who might not typically be able to. He said the food preparation and food service industries represent the largest number of jobs in the Madison area.
“The Public Market aims to be a place that helps people in that sector who might have skills in that sector or an interest in starting a business … get an opportunity to start a business,” Kennelly said.
From a community perspective, Kennelly said the market will be a great public space for people to learn and get access to food.
Colin Murray, the executive director of Dane Buy Local, a local nonprofit organization that focuses on creating a thriving local economy, said the Public Market can be a stepping stone for businesses to expand in the future. It offers an opportunity to redevelop an area in the Northside which is going through major changes with the closure of Oscar Mayer plant.
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Murray said Dane Buy Local has been involved in recent years with the Public Market, especially working with outreach.
Murray said during the battle of the city budget, the market was up against a police station and a fire station, both of which were able to move forward in the end.
“There was a lot of concern about that, pitting one project against the other, which is unfortunate,” Murray said.
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When they created the original business plan, the city sent out a survey to members of the community Kennelly said 95 percent of survey respondents supported the project.
Overall, Murray said people have been very supportive and like the idea of making a market in Madison. Some, however, wish to see it in a different location.
Murray said there were other areas in the city that could benefit from the market, but the city already owned some of the property and a building that could be utilized.
In the city, Murray said there has been a huge focus on supporting local businesses, so the Public Market fits well with that ideal.
“I’m surprised we didn’t have a public market sooner,” Murray said. “Some of the major cities already have them, including Milwaukee, so we’re a bit behind the times when it comes to the public market, but it looks like we’re getting there.”
According to its website, the plan is to start designing the market in 2017, building in 2018 and open in early 2019.
Kennelly said throughout the creation of the market, there will be chances for the public to get involved.
“This is an on-going process, and we are still working on the design of the project,” Kennelly said. “There will be opportunities for people to provide input and help shape the project as we go forward, so stay tuned.”