Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Rx for the Portland Public Market

Neil Takemoto writes one of my favorite blogs, CoolTown Studios, which focuses on how high-quality, vibrant cities and towns attract the creative individuals and businesses that drive the 21st-century economy.

In a recent post, he critiques our own Portland Public Market:
"This is what a public market should look like, but not developed and managed... In the end, it was lack of a public-private partnership, not as much the norm back in the mid 90s as it is today, that simply made the project too costly for the private sector to succeed alone. This is especially the case with new construction - as noble as replacing a parking lot is, private sector new development without public partnerships typically means it must be upscale, and that's simply not what public markets are about."
Guilty as charged - particularly towards the end, the Market felt more like a fancy food court than a place to buy fresh veggies from a local farmer. The following post on CoolTown Studios takes a look at the "grungy" Pike Place Market (the photos at left accompany the post), which is celebrating its 100th anniversary as the longest-running and most-successful public market in the nation.

Seattle's a lot bigger than Portland, but other markets in smaller cities and towns are thriving all over the place. We have a strong food products sector in Portland: in addition to farms and the fishing industry, we've got growing value-added food producers with businesses like Morrison's Chowder and Standard Baking. We also have lots of tourists anxious to import dollars into the local economy, and there's the busy, twice-weekly farmer's market. A truly public Public Market - not a food court - would have clear and measurable benefits for the whole region, if not the entire state.

So who's got the economic development strategy to revitalize the public market - at least the idea, if not the building itself - as a self-sustaining institution that supports local farms and businesses?

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