Madison is moving ahead with planning for a public market on the east side after the City Council decided to keep funding for the project intact Tuesday night.
Three alders — David Ahrens, Lauren Cnare and John Strasser — had sponsored a capital budget amendment postponing $6.25 million in expenditures to 2016. At final budget deliberations, community members, farmers and potential vendors came out to protest that idea.
“2015 is really going to be a critical year for this market,” said Madison Local Food Committee chair Anne Reynolds.
Others testified to the same effect, saying the market's momentum needs to continue, not be halted by putting off plans for another year.
Stephanie Kaat is hoping to sell mini cheesecakes as a future vendor in the market. She is currently working on her business plan to sell them at the MadCity Bazaar.
“Things like this is what makes it possible for me to start, to grow,” Kaat said. “I think it’s super important to consider people like me who have a fantastic idea and need — almost need — the public market in order to grow.”
In recent months, the city has settled on using the east side location, encompassing the block from East Johnson Street to East Washington Avenue and bounded by North First Street and the Yahara River.
Planners are now moving ahead on to phase three of the market's business plan, delving into details of design, vendors, cost, operating structure and other specifics. Once that business plan is complete, they will move forward on site acquisition.
Some council members have expressed concern about designating millions of dollars in the capital budget before the business plan is completed, but language added to the budget Tuesday night helped sooth those worries.
Ahrens proposed a substitute amendment that, instead of delaying funds, would simply require council approval of the business plan before any of money is spent on site acquisition — likely the largest chunk of the $6.25 million.
“This business plan needs to be first,” Cnare said.
Economic development specialist Dan Kennelly confirmed that the amendment would be consistent with what they were already planning to do, leading some to question why they should bother with the amendment at all.
“I do think it makes sense for us to have language that codifies what the steps for us are in our budget,” said District 5 Ald. Shiva Bidar-Sielaff.
If everything moves ahead as planned, construction and an opening would take place in 2016.