First read of Madison Public Market plan met with praise

About 60 public market enthusiasts appeared to like the city’s $9 million-$15 million idea to turn the East Johnson city garage into an indoor public market that would include selling prepared foods, local produce and arts and crafts.

“A lot still needs to be worked out on these operational questions. Like how many days a week is the public market open,” Madison project manager Dan Kennelly said. “Things like hours of operation. And days of the week. And months of the year. How does this place really become the epicenter of the food system in southern Wisconsin.”

Public members viewing the draft business plan Tuesday at the Goodman Community Center gave their input by working in small groups to fill out worksheets.

“So far there hasn’t been a clear plan to respond to. So now we have that plan and we’re looking for feedback,” Kennelly said. “What features and amenities do they want to see included. What’s missing? What excites them about this draft business plan.”

The plan’s price tag is broken into options based on how much space is utilized. Developers like the more expensive options because of the space flexibility.

“So different spaces in the market can have different operating hours,” Kennelly said. “There are different storefronts that are built into the market operating somewhat independently when the main market is closed.”

While a key question also left to be answered is will there be enough supply or demand, since a city report showed the majority of public market supporters might only occasionally use the facility, farmers like fourth-generation Peck’s Farm Market owner Dick Peck said they stand by ready to produce more crops.

“When we close down after Halloween, after pumpkin season, the bills keep coming but the income stops, it’d be nice to have something year-round were to come in as well as the bills,” Peck said.

After city economic development planners finalize the draft plan, based on public suggestions, they will turn it over to the city council for final approval.

So far the city council has only approved $5.6 million for the project.