Madison Public Market updates location plan

City returning to first tabbed spot for market

There’s been talk of a public market in Madison for years. Mayor Paul Soglin moved the idea forward when he created the Public Market Development Committee to research a market in 2012. The city council approved the idea in 2015 with the original plan to move into the City Fleet Services building at 200 First St. The proposed location changed since then, but as of this month the current plan is back to the Fleet Services building.

While it may seem like a long time in the making, the market is making progress, says Jamaal Stricklin, president of the Madison Public Market Foundation Board. “It’s going. It’s happening,” says Stricklin, who also works as sales director at SuperCharge! Foods. “I would rather take our time and do it the right way than to rush the project.”

Dan Kennelly, city manager of the Office of Business Resources, agrees. “The Madison Public Market project is building momentum,” Kennelly says. “2018 has seen a lot of progress. This includes the Madison Public Market Foundation Board being formally selected by the city as the future operator of the market and launching a fundraising campaign that has raised nearly $1 million.” Kennelly also says the site change back to the location at the Fleet Services building — as opposed to a brand new building at the corner of East Washington Avenue and First Street — is positive. “The Fleet Building is a solidly built, 50-year-old facility that has been used to maintain large vehicles. The building is 45,000 square feet with three large garage bays, 20 foot high ceilings and big overhead garage doors. Reusing a big old garage will also result in a market that has unique character and architectural interest,” Kennelly says.

But while city council members have been hashing out details and architects have been drawing up plans, a group of 30 entrepreneurs — the heart and soul of the Madison Public Market, say its organizers — have been busy since 2017 creating business plans, purchasing equipment, touring other public markets and taking business classes with support from the city’s MarketReady Program. Guided by the mission of the Madison Public Market, the MarketReady Program provides resources to future market vendors. Priority was given to vendor applicants that belong to populations facing historic barriers to entrepreneurship, including low-income populations, people of color, immigrants, women, displaced workers, veterans and LGBTQ individuals. “We want to give opportunity to those who historically haven’t had it,” says Stricklin. “We want to represent the city as it actually is. We’re not trying to create more dishwashing jobs, we want people to make a living being able to represent their cultures [through making food and goods.]” For a full list of MarketReady participants, see Madison Public Market’s website.

Madison Public Market updates location plan

Stricklin, who moved to Madison from Milwaukee to go to college in 1995, has toured public markets around the country. One of his favorites is the Eastern Market in Detroit. He calls it a convergence of food, community and art. “It’s tremendous to see what happens when you build diversity in from the beginning,” Stricklin says. “You get buy-in from the city.” Stricklin sees the Madison Public Market as an opportunity to create that kind of community here. “One of our biggest struggles in Madison is that we give lip service to being inclusive, but we’re not,” Stricklin says. “We’re cliquey, we’re separated, it’s east side versus west side … but this project forces people to step up. People from all parts of the city will want to visit the market. One of the reasons I love this project so much is because it’s so hard to be against it.”

With the ground-breaking planned for 2020 and the market set to open in 2021, Stricklin is excited to see the market come to fruition. “It’s an opportunity for people to get a piece of the American dream,” Stricklin says. “We want to share people’s stories — those stories that don’t often get told– with the city.” Leaning back, Stricklin pauses before a huge grin crosses his face. “And it’s going to be such good food.”