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Thursday, July 24, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 77.0° F  Mostly Cloudy
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City seeks consultant to develop business plan for a Madison public market


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The city is seeking a consulting team that would begin to make a Madison public market a reality. It's an idea that has been imagined, researched and talked about for almost a decade.

Mayor Paul Soglin and the Madison Local Food Committee announced Tuesday that the city is requesting proposals from consultants to create a business plan for the public market. The plan would help flesh out details of the proposed market, including the location, hours and types of products it would offer.

A public market would be similar to the popular Dane County Farmers' Market, except that it would be indoors and operate year-round.

Dan Kennelly, an economic development specialist heading the city's search for a public market consultant, says Madison needs a team that has experience setting up public markets. "We're really looking for people who can help the city figure out things like the right location, financial plan, design and mix of vendors," Kennelly says.

Many successful public markets already exist in such cities as Seattle, Philadelphia and Minneapolis. Kennelly says there are a few public market consultants he hopes will submit proposals, but declined to name specifics. He says consultants from around the state as well as outside Wisconsin would be considered.

The idea of a public market was championed by former Mayor Dave Cieslewicz. Now Soglin has taken up the cause, although his vision differs slightly from Cieslewicz's.

"The Public Market has the potential to bring numerous benefits to our city including improving access to healthy food choices, growing food-based local businesses, and building connections between Madison consumers and regional farmers," Soglin said in a statement (PDF) released Tuesday.

A public market has long been on the radar for Madison. Efforts to make it happen have been in the works since 2004 when a Vermont consulting firm published a report (PDF) about the feasibility of a Madison public market. Earlier this year, the city conducted a survey to learn about prospective vendors.

Kennelly says he thinks a business plan will help the city realize what size and format of public market makes sense for Madison.

Proposals for the public market are due to the city by August 5. The Madison Local Food Committee will select the best contender; the Common Council approved a resolution in February authorizing the panel to make the decision. Kennelly says the city should have a contract with the chosen consultant by October.

Once the consultant is chosen and the business plan is underway, there will be "ample opportunities" for the public to give input on the future market, says Kennelly.

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