Public Market rendering

While members of the Public Market Development Committee said they found the rendering of the Public Market underwhelming, the committee voted to move forward with a site plan and finalize the design of the building at a later date.

The Madison Public Market Development Committee voted Thursday to move forward with the market's site plan, allowing city staff to work with developers on a letter of intent.

The committee, although not fully content with some details of the site plan for the property at the corner of East Washington Avenue and First Street, voted to advance the formal development process with property owners Steve Doran and Todd Waller, who are building a mixed-use facility on the west side of the property and a retail space adjoining the planned Public Market.

The vote came after Amanda White, a fundraising consultant for the Public Market, told the committee that she needed to start confirming investors, which she couldn't do before the committee finalized plans.

"I'm not ready to fundraise yet ... and I desperately need to start fundraising," White said. "We want this building to be an amazing space and iconic, but I really need to move forward at the same time."

White said to secure funding, she would need to have a letter of intent from the committee and private developers to show potential investors that there is an agreement in place. The committee's approval allows city staff to draft that letter of intent using the site plan as a basis.

She also said she would need to be able to sell the Public Market in more concrete terms rather than ideas of what could be at the market. 

"Right now, most of what I'm able to say is, 'Well we could do this. We plan to do this.' I need some more detailed confirmation" on the site plan, White told the committee. 

As committee members discussed the site plan and renderings of the Public Market from Graham Baba Architects, city business manager Daniel Kennelly expressed his concern that the members were becoming hung up on details of the market that could be smoothed out as the project continues to develop. 

"We do need to make progress here," Kennelly said. "We're kind of getting into a pattern here, and it's extremely inefficient in terms of our budget with Graham Baba."

Graham Baba Architects created the renderings of the Public Market at the committee's request. The firm will also work on the final schematics and design of the building.

Design and logistics will continue to be "chewed up and spit out" as the process moves forward, Kennelly said, but the big picture of the buildings' placement on the site and the operations and functionality of the market need to be decided before those smaller decisions are made.

Public Market Site Plan

The site plan for the Madison Public Market places the market at the corner of East Washington Avenue and First Street

Topics of debate

Before voting to ultimately move forward with the site plan, committee members voiced their discontent with the positioning of the Public Market and the private mixed-use building. The committee originally proposed to have the market on the west side of the lot to provide access to the green space of Burr Jones Park and the Yahara River, but the developers opted to place their own building at that location.

Kennelly said the property owners had no interest in making major changes in the placement of the buildings.

Ald. Larry Palm, who represents the district, said the Public Market does not need to be abutting the park to thrive.

"There are a lot of things that actually prohibit us from crossing to Burr Jones," Palm said. "If I could just put it on the park, I'd have a whole 'nother story. It never will be on the park. And so, if this is the compromise I have to make in order to make (the Public Market) a reality, then I'm perfectly willing to support that."

Traffic flow through the Public Market site was a concern for committee members. The current site plan has one entry and exit point for the underground parking garage located on Mifflin Street with an adjacent loading dock, which committee member Adam Haen said would create a choking point. 

Lindsey Day Farnsworth asked if changes could be made to Market Lane, a vehicular thoroughfare in the middle of the site with short-term parking. She said the traffic driving through to get to the parking garage would remove the pedestrian friendly atmosphere the committee had desired.

Renderings of the potential design of the Public Market drew criticism from the group as well. Ald. Amanda Hall said the Public Market should be an iconic landmark for Madison. 

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Shelley K. Mesch is a general assignment reporter for the Wisconsin State Journal. She earned a degree in journalism from DePaul University.