Citizens should lead

A link to my reviews of 3 new books that may inspire some to get thee to city hall or at least remind us of the possibilities of better design of urban places.

I think every food system organizer (really, every organizer) needs to know Jane Jacobs, and one other new book that I am still working my way through may help those of you not interested in reading about her life story or diving into her classic The Death and Life of Great American Cities. Vital Little Plans is a collection of many of her shorter pieces and her talks, including some of what she wrote on her way to publishing Death and Life. One of the editors (Storring) works at Projects For Public Spaces (PPS),  a consulting firm well known for its market technical assistance, Placemaking tools, and workshops. (Exciting news: They should be announcing their 2018 Public Market Conference location very soon too.)

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Readers will find classics here, including Jacobs’s breakout article “Downtown Is for People,” as well as lesser-known gems like her speech at the inaugural Earth Day and a host of other rare or previously unavailable essays, articles, speeches, interviews, and lectures. Some pieces shed light on the development of her most famous insights, while others explore topics rarely dissected in her major works, from globalization to feminism to universal health care.

Buy it near you at an independent bookstore.

West Side Market adds another day… …and some disagreement

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As many of my readers know, I spent my early years in the west suburbs of Cleveland. Like many of us, I occasionally trucked over to the West Side Market to buy special items or to soak up the atmosphere-actually, maybe the right word is rarely.

Luckily for me, I moved to the nearby Tremont neighborhood while a poor community organizer in the 1980s and 1990s and had more access to the market. My friends and I used the market quite regularly, as without it gas stations and a very dirty grocery store many dangerous blocks from us were our available shopping outlets. As we became regulars, many of the WSM vendors shared their end of day produce with us at a lower price or even threw in some items with our purchase. Later on, my nephew worked there while a teenager with a pal of my sister’s and since he had to be at work in the pre-dawn hours on the weekends moving meat up and down the stairs, now knows what hard work looks and feels like.

So for those reasons I keep up on the news from this market so closely and why changes to it remain deeply personal to me. The changes that are being made, like paid parking and more days open, sound like they are to support the nearby businesses around the market more than those within the market- not that there is anything inherently wrong with that, just that it seems like the city is mostly responding to external pressures. I will say however, that for a public market to be closed on Sundays has always surprised me. I’d have preferred to see Mondays and Tuesdays as their dark days.

Achieving balance between the needs of the neighborhood and of the vendors and shoppers is the most important task and, as any market organizer knows, is a delicate dance. Some of the comments in these articles from the vendors are implying a purely political reason for this change, others are willing to believe this is a good marketing idea in a constantly changing retail environment while still others are intractable in not changing the tradition of Sunday hours and even believe that it will only dilute Saturdays sales. (That may very well be a valid point that I will of course answer with they should be collecting data on their shoppers to know and be able to answer that question.) Shoppers’ opinions tend to line up on more days are better, which is certainly understandable. The parking woes that exist currently for shoppers are likely a large reason for people staying away and so more days open may solve that issue temporarily, but probably not permanently.

I think what is missing in the announcements is the clear plan for this market and for these vendors by the management and advisors. Is the WSM becoming part of the cafe/entertainment culture that has grown up around it and therefore expected to primarily serve it? Or is the WSM part of the robust local food culture in Cleveland and meant to align itself with those values? Or do the operators see the WSM as an anchor for small business in and of itself?

As a traditional shed market, a primary purpose must be defined and acted upon in their decision-making process because unlike pop up (open-air) markets, it cannot move and/or redefine itself easily. It must constantly draw people to its bulk through changing times and offer enough regular return to those permanent stall vendors who have also invested in shared infrastructure.

How this change was handled in Cincinnati at the Findlay Market  a few years back seemed unfortunate and led to a very public argument that meant the market had some bad vibes around it for a little while, but indications show that the changes there may have helped their growth. However, it is important to recognize that the entire area around Findlay is seeing increased vibrancy with millennials and urbanists repopulating  OTR and downtown and so this success may have little to do with its added hours. I do think the management and supporters did some great work supporting that expansion.

Certainly, there it is difficult or even impossible to achieve full agreement for almost any decision made by a market organization, but collecting data and using it to redefine the market’s mission and understand its context historically, now and for the future will help make the right decision clearer.

And yes, I’ll shop on Sundays rather than Saturdays whenever I am back in Cleveland to leave my Saturdays for the direct marketing farmers markets around town.

http://www.cleveland.com/business/index.ssf/2016/03/west_side_market_will_add_sund.html

http://www.cleveland.com/business/index.ssf/2010/10/changes_considered_for_histori.html

“Creative placemaking? What is it that you do?”

Great article linked below along with a salient excerpt about placemaking which is something all market organizations should know a little about.

We essentially believe that a creative placemaking project needs to have four basic parts:

First, the work needs to be ultimately place-based, meaning that there is a group of people who live and work in the same place. It can be a block, a neighborhood, a town, a city, or a region, but you need to be able to draw a circle around it on a map.

Next, you need to talk about the community conditions for all of the people who live in that place and identify some community development change that that group of people would like to see: a problem with housing that needs to be fixed; an opportunity with a new transportation infrastructure that needs to be seized; a problematic narrative around public safety that needs to be changed. (There are ten categories of community development changes that we currently track.)

Third is when the “creative” comes into play: how can artists, arts organizations, or arts activity help achieve the change that has been articulated for this group of people?

And, finally, since these are projects that explicitly set out to make a change, there needs to be a way of knowing whether the change has happened. Some people call this “project evaluation.” We simply say it is important to know when you can stop doing something, cross it off your list, and move on to the next thing.

"Creative placemaking? What is it that you do?" | ArtPlace.

Project for Public Spaces | Apply Now for Free Technical Assistance

Is your community working to become more livable and sustainable? Are you running into barriers in achieving these goals?

Project for Public Spaces is excited to announce free technical assistance (through January 9, 2015) to address these challenges. Livability Solutions partners, which include the nation’s leading experts in creating sustainable communities, will lead one- and two-day targeted workshops in communities around the U.S. Communities will learn how to use PPS’ tools or workshop approaches, such as walkability audits, green infrastructure valuation guides, shared use agreements, and community image surveys, that can help achieve goals of enhancing livability, creating lasting economic and environmental improvements, and improving residents’ public and social health. A short report will be prepared for each community following the technical assistance. Eight to ten communities will be selected to receive technical assistance this year.Link to application and more information.

Public Farmers?

I often have discussions with people about the term public markets, I assume partly because it is on my business card! I wanted to share these two market definitions: the first done by Project for Public Spaces and the second, by the Farmers Market Coalition:

1. A public market is a public and recurring assembly of vendors marketing directly to consumers, engineered by a neutral regime.
• have public goals;
• are located in the community and/or create a public space in the community; and
• are locally owned, independent businesses.

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2. A farmers market operates multiple times per year and is organized for the purpose of facilitating personal connections that create mutual benefits for local farmers, shoppers and communities. To fulfill that objective farmers markets define the term local, regularly communicate that definition to the public, and implement rules/guidelines of operation that ensure that the farmers market consists principally of farms selling directly to the public products that the farms have produced.
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What is interesting to me about these two descriptions is that the public market definition may not encompass all farmers markets, since a “neutral regime” may not always be found, nor is the concept of public goals (transparency if you will) expressly outlined in the farmers market version.
Conversely, the farmers market definition explicitly defines the “principal” role of farmers selling products produced from their farms while the public market definition does not stress product origin.
Both assume that the market will define what local means, both mention direct sales and stress the concept of recurring.
What would you add or change? Does one seem more appropriate to you?
Is there a need for more markets definitions or for less? Do stakeholders within your region agree on the definition of a market?
Is this where typology could be most helpful, especially within a region with many markets?
I’d love to hear people’s opinions on these definitions and whether these seem accurate or relevant for their own regional definition.

Here at the PPS conference, unexpected relationships can start too

Just like a market, conferences bring people together and from that moment good things can begin. Things like flagship markets meeting up and sharing ideas:

(below) Leslie from the Athens OH market community chats with Chris of the Burlington VT Farmers Market. Both of these markets have existed for decades, are over 80 vendors and are year round. Their markets definitely have plans and issues that the other can truly understand!

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or things like people from the same city meeting and openly sharing ideas across projects:
Toronto Food Policy Chair Helene St. Jacques and Greenbelt Farmers Market organizer Anne Freeman make friends with St. Lawrence Market vendors Odysseas and Sandra Gounalakis of Scheffler’s Deli and Cheese while they are all far from home and waiting on a “rapid” to the evening PPS conference event. Odysseas and Sandra paid their own way to the conference to learn about public markets so that they can be of assistance to the managers.

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Meeting the larger market community can lead to unexpected lessons, ideas and friendships. Take the time to take a “busman’s holiday”!

Still time to join the PPS conference…

About every two years, Projects for Public Spaces hosts a dynamic public market conference that draws a wide selection of market organizers, researchers and municipal officials. This time, this it’s being hosted by my other home town of Cleveland, Ohio. The city worked hard to get the conference to showcase their 100-year-old market West Side Market AND its vibrant alternative food system. If you haven’t been to what USED to be called “the mistake on the lake” ever or recently, you would be amazed at some of the changes around town. Those of us who have done community organizing there shouldn’t be: the long tradition of neighborhood and issue organizing on issues like housing, utility reform and brownfields has been expanded to excellent food campaigns.
I can’t wait to see my colleagues, to hear about what they are up to and to see more of the Northeast Ohio food and farming system. If you haven’t checked out PPS’ website and excellent work to support public space and markets role in them, please take the time.

PPS