Chew On This
Personally, I’m big on local food and try to buy organic products. As a journalist, I find the organic/local food movement a fascinating topic, but don’t see my role as that of an advocate. In this column for Isthmus, I detail my reservations about the city building a large public market in downtown Madison.
For sure, the public market is beguiling in the abstract. Imagine a glistening 10- or 11-story office tower rising next to the Great Dane Pub and Brewing Co., where the aging Government East parking ramp now sits. Picture the first floor with 51 vendors situated inside a festive kiosk environment selling everything from chocolate to seafood to wine, with another 30 carts and stalls offering local farm products and goodies. A consultant predicts 808 new jobs.
Sounds marvelous, but there is reason for skepticism.
Real estate developers I’ve talked with see any number of major problems. Among other things, they say the costly, open-space, “clear-span” construction needed for the Public Market would drive up construction expenses to the point where the building’s rental rates would be dangerously expensive for the Madison real estate market. They warn that managing so many small and financially at-risk tenants is difficult, and worry about the impact on existing restaurants and the Wednesday Farmers’ Market.
“The Public Market would be a nice thing for Madison, but my concern is that will end up requiring a very large taxpayer subsidy,” says developer Sue Springman. “If it does, we need to know that going in and not be surprised later.”
In a city stung by the Overture Center miscalculations, Springman’s warning ought to be taken seriously.
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