Madison public market site

The site of the proposed Madison public market, at the corner of North First Street and East Johnson Street, currently houses the city's fleet services operation and a landmark well house, left.

AMBER ARNOLD — State Journal

In a reversal from his proposal just seven weeks ago, Mayor Paul Soglin wants to create a $14 million public market on the East Side as soon as possible.

Soglin, after delaying the project to 2021 as part of his capital budget proposal, now wants to schedule funds for design in 2017 and construction in 2018. The timing is tied to a costly relocation of the city’s aging Fleet Services garage at North First and East Johnson streets to make way for the market at that site.

On Sept. 1, Soglin proposed setting construction for the new, roughly $21 million Fleet Services facilities on the 4000 block of Nakoosa Trail on the Far East Side in 2018-19, with the renovation of the existing Fleet Services building into a public market delayed to 2021.

Soglin, a champion of the market, said he reluctantly proposed the delay due to the rising cost of city borrowing.

Now, the mayor will introduce a budget amendment to accelerate relocation of Fleet Services and essentially put the market on its original timetable. A business plan repurposes the Fleet Services garage into a public market built with city and outside funds that would offer retail, wholesale and food production facilities and potential for a demonstration kitchen, restaurants, brewery, wine bar and other offerings.

The amendment allows the market to be done as soon as possible if located at the Fleet Services building site, city finance director David Schmiedicke said.

Soglin’s pivot comes after the city’s finance committee in late September approved amendments to his proposed capital budget and nonbinding five-year capital improvement plan, including $8.6 million for a Midtown police station in 2016-17, $5.5 million for a Fire Department training center and medic unit facility to serve the Southeast Side with construction in 2017-18, and $9.8 million to redo Monroe Street in 2016-17.

“(The public market) is far more important than most other items that have been added to the capital budget,” Soglin said Thursday. “If we look at Madison 10 years from now, this is the one that will have the most profound impact.

“If we are going to exceed what I believe is a realistic level of capital expenditures, we should at least have our priorities straight,” he said.

City Council President Denise DeMarb said the mayor’s amendment means spending in excess of $30 million in years in which the city faces a tight capital budget.

“The council will review the amendment ... and balance it with responsibilities and obligations we have to residents such as public safety, removing snow, picking up garbage and fixing streets,” she said.

Soglin said he hasn’t decided if he’ll offer amendments to delay the Midtown police station or other items added by the finance committee, the Board of Estimates. The mayor and council will formally offer final budget amendments in early November, with council decisions starting Nov. 10.

Asked what happens if the council rejects his timetable for Fleet Services and the Public Market, Soglin said, “Use your imagination.” Last fall, after tussling with the council over capital spending, the mayor threatened a budget veto and eventually let it pass into law without his signature.

Soglin’s amendment would deliver $2.2 million in 2016 to design Fleet Services and a radio shop as part of a larger facility on Nakoosa Trail and anticipates spending $19 million for those pieces of construction in 2017. The mayor’s proposed capital budget already anticipates $9.6 million in 2017 for a fire vehicle maintenance facility that’s also part of that project.

The amendment anticipates $840,000 in borrowing to design the public market in 2017 and $3.4 million for construction in 2018. The public market would receive about $9.75 million from outside sources.

Ald. Larry Palm, 12th District, who represents the area including the public market site, said supporters were dispirited when Soglin proposed the delay and that he supports the mayor’s amendment.

The potential delay “brought a lot of uncertainty, especially for vendors,” said Mark Woulf, the city’s food and alcohol policy director.

A business plan by the city’s consultant, Project for Public Spaces of New York, offered three options for the public market that call for $731,700 in startup costs, and construction costs of $9.5 million, $10.6 million or $13.5 million.

The city eliminated the lowest-cost option because it would run at a deficit. It used the Fleet Services building to create 50,230 square feet of space for a hall with a permanent market and another hall for a temporary market and flexible space, offices, demonstration kitchen and storage.

A second option in play is the same as the basic one but with more production and retail space. A third option builds on the second by adding third-floor public space.

The city’s Local Food Committee, which is leading the effort on the market, will next consider an operating structure, finances and how to hand off the initiative to a nonprofit that will operate it, Woulf said.


Dean Mosiman covers Madison city government for the Wisconsin State Journal.