The city of Madison released a draft business plan for the long-awaited public market Friday, detailing the possible designs, financials and tenant mix of the project.
The public market district is slated for the block bounded by East Johnson Street, East Washington Avenue, North First Street and the Yahara River, with the market itself going into the city's fleet services building.
The 84-page draft plan details operating costs, fundraising, management structure and design for the project, moving it closer to reality.
“I think it’s a good place to start because up until now, the public market has been a vision and a collection of ideas and now we’re sharpening the focus on what can happen,” said project manager Dan Kennelly.
The plan lays out three design options for the market, ranging from $9.5 million in capital costs to about $13.5 million for the more comprehensive option.
The bones of the Fleet Services Building are very strong, the plan notes, with its design of high ceilings, overhead doors and a two-story mezzanine readily lending itself to conversion into a public market. The plans involve an interior mix of large, permanent stalls that can operate 24/7 for vendors, temporary stalls for vendors that cannot be at the market full-time, and smaller, more affordable stalls.
The market building will operate on several levels, with the first floor serving as the heart of the building and the location of wholesale, retail and production-based market activity. The mezzanine and optional third-floor rooftop could then accommodate various sized spaces for meetings, events or classes. The outdoor plaza would also offer space for temporary stalls and events.
“I think the ultimate opportunity is that Madison can really become, as the report says, the Midwest epicenter for food,” Kennelly said, noting existing elements like the Dane County Farmer’s Market, great farm-to-table restaurants and the proposed Baum Development food processing project at Garver Feed Mill.
“There’s so much going on around food in Madison that one of the central opportunities with the public market is the chance to have a place that combines everything together,” he said.
The public market will open with approximately 35 tenants, ranging from fresh food vendors and restaurants to nonfood items like cookware and cookbooks.
The first design option for the market would use only the existing footprint of the Fleet Services Building. It would be the cheapest to construct but would run an annual operating deficit since it would not have as much leasable area as the other options.
Options two and three would have a small positive net operating income, with option two costing almost $11 million to build and option three costing $13.5 million. The most significant difference between the two is that option three would add a third floor community space and roof garden, also adding income from events using that space.
Based on the option three design, operating costs are projected to run about $883,000 a year, with revenue surpassing that by year four.
The primary source of revenue for the market will come from renting spaces to vendors and tenants, with some also coming from events or possible sponsorships. The primary expenses will be costs like staffing, maintenance and other daily costs of running the market.
The plan notes that while the public market will be a place where small businesses can succeed and earn profits, “the Market itself is not a business and is not expected to turn a profit from its operations.” It should, however, have the goal of achieving operational sustainability with revenues roughly equaling expenses, the plan notes.
For capital costs, fundraising possibilities include public sector federal and state funding and private sector or small-donor campaigns.
The timeline for the project is not yet determined and the city’s fleet services have not yet moved out of the building, putting the opening date at least two or three years down the road.
Over the next few months, the city will discuss the draft plan with community members and potential vendors to get feedback. There will be a community meeting May 26 at 6:30 p.m. for all interested parties and a vendor meeting on June 3 at 6:30 p.m. for interested vendors or tenants, both held at the Goodman Community Center.
“This is a major step forward for the project and is yet another indication of the strong interest, both from the public and private sectors, in investment in our local and regional food system,” said Mayor Paul Soglin in a statement. “We look forward to hearing from the community as the final plan is developed.”
After public input, the next steps for the city will start with establishing a Transition Committee to take the lead in establishing the public market management and governance organization. The plan recommends a non-profit model for managing the market with the city retaining market ownership.
The next steps also involve naming the market, developing a mission statement, hiring an executive director and staff and moving into the development and operations phase of fundraising, finalizing construction and leasing.
"I think it’s a really good start and a really solid draft," Kennelly said. "I think an extraordinary amount of public outreach has gone into getting us to where we are today, and that really comes through in the plan."
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