The Importance of Public Markets
As we discovered in our post ‘Great Places and Where to Find Them,’ not all great public spaces are parks. With the recent opening of the Easton Public Market, this truth is made clear. This being so, it seems high time we explored one of the most exciting forms of public space, the public market.
Public markets are in many ways, a fundamental building block of societal complexity. They are the original public spaces. Public markets have been bringing people together from the ancient Roman Forum to today’s Pikes Peak Market. As soon as hunter-gatherers abandoned their nomadic lifestyle and came together in settled society, human kind has had public markets. Before we had parks and city squares we had markets. So it is no surprise that they are so valued by our communities today. The Project for Public Spaces has shown that public markets have a transformative affect on the cities they call home. PPS demonstrates that public markets link and stimulate rural and urban economies, promote public health, revitalize downtowns, create active public space, and bring together people of diverse racial, cultural, and economic backgrounds. With this in mind, let’s take a look at some of the world’s leading public markets.
Borough Market – London, England
Located near the world famous London Bridge, Borough market is London’s premier gourmet food market. As with many great places, the market has deep connections to the community. Connections so deep, in fact, that the market claims to have roots dating back to at least 1014 AD. Borough market operates both a retail market, for the casual shopper, and a wholesale market for industry professionals seeking out high quality ingredients for their shops and restaurants. Made up of over 100 stalls, market goers can find an array of goods from exotic meats, to gourmet cheeses, to fishes, vegetables, and pastries both foreign and familiar. And while Borough Market’s thousands of annual visitors come for the delicious food and drink, they stay for the human interaction with friends and local vendors. Pro Tip: go hungry! Borough Market is big on freebies and you can make a meal out of cheese, jam, honey, and bread samples!
Portland Saturday Market – Portland, OR
Younger, but no less spectacular than the Borough Market, the Portland Saturday Market (PSM) is celebrating its 43rd season in 2016. With 252 spaces available for local craftspeople, artisans, and food producers to show their wares, the Portland Saturday Market has been nationally recognized as the largest continuously operating open-air arts and crafts market in America. Bringing in an estimated $8 million in sales annually, PSM has become an economic force in the Old Town Chinatown neighborhood. This market is a Placemaking exemplar for its local engagement as well as its excellent accessibility. PSM proves that a market well integrated into the local neighborhood can also be a great economic and cultural asset.
Pybus Market – Wenatchee, WA
When a public market tells you they have the “world’s best fruits and vegetables, and the world’s best local producers, in the world’s coolest and most gorgeous setting,” you can’t help but pay attention. Wenatchee, Washington’s Pybus Market acknowledges they’re a quirky bunch but these boasts are backed up by a devoted public following and fantastic reputation. Sometimes compared to the exemplary Pikes Place Market, Pybus Market located on the banks of the Columbia River in an old steel warehouse (sound familiar, Allentown?) in small town Wenatchee is a year round market that has a lot to make it so confident. Live music every Friday, Apple Capital Loop Trail adjacent, the decades old Wenatchee Farmers Market, permanent and temporary vendors, and more draw visitors and keep them coming.
Reading Terminal Market – Philadelphia, PA
We discussed Philadelphia’s Reading Terminal Market in our earlier post on great places, but so great and close to home is this market that our praise bears repeating. This market, occupying the titular Reading Terminal’s former train shed and refrigerated basement storage, is a descendent of Philadelphia’s original open-air markets. Today the market hosts more than one hundred local merchants selling goods of all kinds. It is regularly packed to the gills with hungry shoppers sampling treats, buying supplies for the week ahead, and lounging at one of the Market’s many gourmet restaurants. Reading Terminal Market even features various musical events and festivals amongst its maze of stalls, drawing even more visitors to this bustling public space. This project not only brings important economic opportunities to local business people and pumps revenue into the Philadelphia economy, it helps to preserve an important historical landmark and Philadelphia tradition for future generations.
Easton Public Market – Easton, PA
So by now you’re probably dying to visit a public market yourself. Luckily, the brand new Easton Public Market (EPM) is now open for business. Just recently opened on April 15th, this new public market is already bringing a great new energy to the Lehigh Valley. As a community supported project and outgrowth of the Easton Farmers Market, America’s oldest continuously operated open-air market (as opposed to PSM’s largest continuously operated market), the Easton Public Market incorporates the Placemaking principals fantastically to produce a gathering place for locals and an attraction for visitors. This is reflected by their stated values that include sustainability, hospitality, education, and connection along with such goals as public engagement, economic stimulation, and local gathering. EPM features a selection of local vendors, classes, and events there is something for everyone. Check it out this weekend!