Community members describe their visions for the Public Market

About 70 people attended a placemaking session for the planned Public Market at Tenney Pavilion on Wednesday (Franco Latona/Madison Commons).About 70 people attended a placemaking session for the planned Public Market at Tenney Pavilion on Wednesday (Franco Latona/Madison Commons).

About seventy Dane-County residents along with members of Madison's Local Food Committee  and representatives from Project for Public Spaces gathered at the Tenney Park Pavilion Tuesday evening to brainstorm ideas for Madison's new Public Market District.

 The event, dubbed the “Placemaking Workshop,” was hosted by the city of Madison.  It gave people their first opportunity to visit the East Washington site of the project, now in the making for over a year.

Representatives from PPS -- the nonprofit urban planning and design organization contracted by the city to consult the project-started the evening by presenting a short introduction that detailed successful public markets in other cities.  Attendees were then split into seven different groups, and went  to various locations along the East Washington corridor between First Street and the Yahara River, the proposed location of the public market.

Each person was given a pamphlet titled the “Place Game,” which included a number of questions intended to generate thought about the area they observed.  Questions included “What changes would you make in the long term that would have the biggest impact and support the market?”  And “What local partnerships or local talent can you identify that could help implement some of your proposed changes?”

The seven groups toured the area for about an hour, discussing a wide range of possibilities for the site location.

“Let's set some ground rules,” Dan Kennelly, a member of Madison's Local Food Committee, told one group.  “We're not going to talk about things that we can't do, or shouldn't happen[...]we're going to talk about things that we want to see.”

After the seven groups discussed ideas amongst each other, they all reconvened in the pavilion to share their ideas to the rest of the groups. 

The ideas presented were diverse.  Groups suggested creating outdoor dining areas, adding shade trees and public gardens, and a kids train that would run through the market district.  They also suggested location ideas for permanent and temporary food vendors and retail shops.

“People who are just starting a business, or artists, they may not have a venue to sell their art on a regularOne group encountered Madison Mayor Paul Soglin as it toured the proposed Public Market district (Franco Latona/Madison Commons)One group encountered Madison Mayor Paul Soglin as it toured the proposed Public Market district (Franco Latona/Madison Commons) basis,” local artist James Shulkin said.  “So I think the hope is that the Madison Public Market District becomes accommodating to artists...and it's a place where people can have a more permanent, year round space to sell their art work.”

Shulkin said he attended because he is interested in selling his creations at the public market.  He makes “giant pinwheels” from recycled bicycle frames and other metal parts.  Shulkin hopes the public market district will provide opportunities for artists as much as food vendors.

The Placemaking Workshop was in accord with a new initiative by the city to implement a Racial Equity and Social Justice Tool to city projects.  The initiative was first presented to the Local Food Committee at their meeting last Thursday.  The proposal defines equity as “just and fair inclusion into a society in which all, including all racial and ethnic groups, can participate, prosper, and reach their full potential.”

“I feel like a market is exactly the place where you can start to have the casual interaction between people who wouldn't necessarily come into contact with one another,” attendee Ian Aley said.  “And [it] helps people get to know each other in a way where everyone has dignity.”

Aley, who said he grew up, and still resides in Madison, attended the event as a representative of a cooperative group called the Spring Rose Growers.  It is a collection of multicultural farmers who provide produce to area businesses.  Aley said they view the public market as a potential venue to sell directly to consumers.  Aley said he also supports the concept of a public market as a community gathering place. 

Bert Stitt, who is the Public Engagement Member of PPS, said he supports the cities initiative to generate diversity in major projects, and is anxious to see how the proposal will be implemented into the public market district. 

“By bringing everybody into this room, you're creating community here,” Stitt said.  “People are meeting one another that have never met one another.  New relationships are being created even as we stand here this minute, and that energy lifts, and drives, and creates.”

The first two phases of creating the public market-conducting market research and selecting a site location-are complete; it is now approaching its third phase.  The city as well as Dane County residents are tasked with converting ideas into a well functioning, inclusive and sustainable market. 

Representatives of PPS said they will evaluate the ideas presented at the “Placemaking Workshop,” and communicate their findings to the public.  A date has not yet been set for the next community meeting.