Businesses on North Main Street don’t like it, and Janesville Farmers Market leaders don’t want it, but moving the farmers market 800 feet to the town square is the right thing to do.
Could the city have done a better job communicating with the businesses and vendors about the move? Probably. Is the timing of the move perfect for all involved? Probably not.
But the town square is a gorgeous space spanning the Rock River. It needs to be utilized to its maximum potential to show off what downtown Janesville is becoming. And it can’t go without saying that the public and private sectors have poured millions of dollars into downtown revitalization. That investment should not go to waste. It should be put on display and used to its fullest potential.
North Main Street has hosted the farmers market for 15 years, and businesses along that stretch benefited from the foot traffic generated by farmers market visitors most Saturdays in spring, summer and fall.
They want the farmers market to stay put, and farmers market organizers wanted to delay the move to the town square for at least a year, according to documents obtained by Gazette reporter Neil Johnson.
But meanwhile, the city has been fielding complaints from businesses in other parts of downtown, asking why the farmers market couldn’t be on their street. Why does North Main Street get exclusive rights to the market, they wanted to know.
At the town square—a public space designed to host events—that won’t be an issue. Market booths will line the Rock River. People will be able to cross the river using the new pedestrian bridge. It is what the space was built for.
Market organizers, still stinging from last year’s financial losses caused by COVID-19, wanted another year to get ready to move. They don’t want the market to fail. That’s understandable, but we believe their concern is misplaced.
Our prediction? The farmers market on the town square will have its best year ever.
The city also agreed to waive some fees associated with use of the town square, giving the farmers market a financial break.
Some are worried the farmers market will monopolize the town square, preventing other events from using it every Saturday for 27 weeks. So far, that’s not a problem, “not even close,” City Manager Mark Freitag said.
If there becomes so much demand for the town square that the farmers market is an obstacle, then that will be a good problem—a problem the farmers market helped create by luring people downtown.