UPDATE: Madison public market plan up in the air

UPDATED: Tuesday, September 2, 2014 --- 9:25pm

Will Madison get a public market? That's the big question at hand for city officials.

The City of Madison is creating a business plan for the Madison public market. The market will be an indoor, year-round facility that supports Madison's local food system along with many food businesses and organizations. Right now, the plan is finishing up phase 2 of 3.

The common council's food committee recommended East Washington Avenue as the best public market site, but South Park Street to be considered as a location.

The plan now heads to the city's Economic Development Committee for review before heading back to city council.

The public market plan is a big piece of Mayor Paul Soglin's version of the 2015 Capitol budget, which was presented Tuesday and stands at nearly $250 million.

City officials have been discussing the possibility of a public market in Madison; it's a conversation that started about two years ago.

The market would be a place where local producers can sell their products all year long. Vendors and potential shoppers have voiced their support, but the location is still up for debate.

"They're all hormone free, antibiotic free, many are grass fed, some are organic," said Bartlett Durand showing of the meat case at Conscious Carnivore, a Madison butcher shop. Bartlett Durand is a managing member of Black Earth Meats, which includes the Conscious Carnivore.

A public market would give them an more expansive opportunity to offer their quality, clean food.

"Everybody should have good food.... food is a basic right and clean food and good food is one, and people can come here at all economic levels and buy something," said Durand.

The whole idea is to provide locally produced foods year round, it would house the indoor farmer's market, but also add a number of other producers for a flea market-like vibe.

The next question regarding the market is where.

"The best possible sight took us to the east side. First, because it has higher traffic, a larger market, and a larger possibility of success. So the vendors are really arguing for the best possible economic location," said Barry Orton the Vice Chair for the Common Council's Food Committee.

With the help of a third-party consultant, they recommend East Washington Avenue as the best site. They say it has more traffic, need and appeal to support vendors economically.

A recent movement is trying to bring the market to South Park Street.

A petition on change.org already has over 250 signatures. Signers say the location is idea because the "undeserved" area has a "need for better quality, affordable, farm fresh produce."

"Personally, I really like the Park Street location. I see that direction is growing stronger than most of the other directions," said Durand.

The city says most vendors lean towards the East Washington site because of the predicted economic success, but Durand is one vendor hoping the Park Street location is considered.

"I understand there's a lot of infill work that can be done on East Washington, but for me, Park Street's been largely ignored," said Durand.

The city says a lot of the decision rides on the vendors, and what the majority wants.

"These vendors are the only ones who are going to be asked to make a personal financial stake in this project. So, we really need to make sure the project works for these small businesses and farmers. Otherwise, we don't have a project," said Dan Kennelly a City of Madison Economic Development Specialist.

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