Greg Peck: Would Janesville support indoor downtown market?
Janesville has been using a federal grant to study its downtown riverfront, and a year-round indoor public market could be a boon to redevelopment efforts. It's not a novel idea. Vandewalle & Associates suggested it in a broader 2007 study of downtown Janesville. The consultant urged expanding on the success of Main Street's Saturday farmers market with a year-round indoor market that incubates food service start-up vendors and restaurants and offers customers taste samples.
Some cities offer indoor markets. For example, at the Oxbow Public Market in Napa, California, and the Granville Island Public Market in Vancouver, British Columbia, customers buy items such as fresh fruit and vegetables, cheese, candy, nuts and baked goods. They dine on offerings such as hot and cold sandwiches, ice cream, tacos and pizza slices. While traveling, my wife and I enjoyed visits to both these markets. (We twice took the ferry shuttle to reach the island in Vancouver.)
In recent weeks, I've read stories about proposals to start an indoor market in Madison. A committee in Madison recommends that the city pursue a public market and food district around East Washington Avenue and First Street. The Wisconsin State Journal reported that such a venue could provide a 50,000-square-foot indoor, year-round center for retail, wholesale and perhaps even produce and other foods.
The Dane County Farmers Market brings crowds to the Capitol Square each Saturday morning spring through fall. You'd think if any Wisconsin city were ripe for a year-round indoor public market, it would be Madison, our capital city with throngs of government and office workers and university students.
Janesville can't compete with Madison's potential customer base. Likewise, Janesville doesn't pull in tourists like Napa, Vancouver or even Madison.
But if a large downtown building could be retrofitted to meet code for food preparation, I'd like to think a smaller indoor market in Janesville could succeed and boost the flow of people who patronize all downtown businesses.
What do you think?