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Potential vendors voice thoughts on Madison public market

Plans include feedback from interested businesses, city says

MADISON,Wis. - Potential vendors voice thoughts on Madison public market

The first rule of bread-making: you need to knead.

Madison Sourdough co-owner David Lohrentz said that's not all he and other businesses in town need.

"There needs to be more options down here," Lohrentz said.

Lohrentz said the majority of his money comes from selling bread at outdoor farmer's markets. The prospect of more profits and a chance for other entrepreneurs to get in on the competition is why a public market concept is enticing to Lohrentz.

"We would hope our participation in it would give some momentum and kind of make it better for those people who are just starting out, who don't have a spot in any farmers market," Lohrentz said.

Lohrentz was one of many businesses involved in focus group discussions with the city and the Project For Public Spaces consulting firm. Those talks targeted specific groups of vendors, asking them what they would like to see in a year-round space devoted to selling local fare.

"Madison is moving in a direction that is really good for food producers," Lohrentz said. "But there's still a lot of room for growth in this city, and I think this will push us to the next level."

Dan Kennelly with the city's economic development department is spearheading the conversations and planning for the public market. He said the goal is not just to provide another outlet for profits in Madison.

"As a part of the public mission of the project, we want to explore the opportunity of using the public market as a catalyst to help revitalize neighborhoods," Kennelly said.

However, Kennelly said he understands the balance that needs to be struck between attracting a diverse consumer base and those vendors making money. He said that is part of the challenge in determining the best location and figuring out exactly what will be sold in the market.

"We want it to be a place for everyone, and if we can do that, then the business will take care of itself because it will be such a destination for the community that things will get sold there," Kennelly said.

Kennelly said there is $3.5 million in next year's budget to acquire a site for the public market, and more money in future budgets to build or renovate the space. The city and consultants will take the next nine months or so to go through feedback and have more public discussions before coming up with their choice location and design.

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