The city of Madison is continuing on its path toward establishing a public market by instituting a vendor survey. The Local Food Committee, charged with overseeing the survey, is interested in the responses of potential vendors -- farmers, small business owners, and other entrepreneurs who might be interested in locating in a future public market.
At a press conference Monday afternoon, Mayor Paul Soglin and others from the Local Food Committee including Aaron Olver of the Economic Development division, alder Anita Weir, Topf Wells, and RP's Pasta owner Peter Robertson spoke about the importance of the survey in going forward with the concept of a public market.
Soglin called it a "simple survey," but a "very critical step" in establishing a "viable healthy market" or even multiple markets. The idea of a public market has been floating around the city for "almost 40 years," said Soglin, and while plans have changed -- the city is no longer looking at a downtown site, for instance -- there is great interest in the market as a road to increasing "access to great food" and as a way to help "build a robust economy." Ultimately, the market should act to lower the barrier to entry for food-based entrepreneurs.
Soglin commented on the "disparity" between the success of the Dane County Farmers' Market on the Square and many other neighborhood farmers' markets, and the continuing lack of a public market in the city.
The city wants a broad response to the survey; those who might be interested in a public market to vend are encouraged to participate. That would include farmers, but also would-be food (and other) entrepreneurs who might use local agricultural products to make value-added items -- Soglin mentioned fresh pasta, pretzels, salsa, other deli and prepared and preserved foods. A public market would work in tandem with the FEED Kitchens commercial kitchen space that's in the works for the north side as a place to cook those foods to be sold at the market. The survey asks specific questions about selling arts and crafts, cut flowers, baked goods, and "honey/jam/jelly/vinegars/sauces/seasonings."
Peter Robertson of R.P.'s Pasta underlined the market's commitment to local foods with integrity and its potential to be an asset to the city.
In trying to pin down who might be interested in vending at the market, the survey also asks about interest in a possible anchor tenant such as a restaurant "or institution."
The survey also asks respondents about their level of interest/enthusiasm in the possible locations-- east, west, north or south -- as "very interested," "somewhat interested" or "not interested/doesn't matter."
A downtown site was once considered, at the current Brayton parking lot location (bounded by East Washington, South Butler, East Main and South Hancock) and later at the Government East ramp, but the cost of land in the center of the city and the lack of parking have prompted Soglin to look elsewhere.
While no specific potential sites have been selected, Aaron Olver from Planning and Economic Development says that the city may be looking for anything from 20,000-50,000 square feet, again, depending on vendor response. Current vacant shopping center space may also be considered.
The current survey is available online in English, Spanish or Hmong, or through the Office of Business Resources at 608-267-8737. It will be open until January 15, 2013. After the vending survey, another gauging what potential shoppers want will be developed.