Will beer save City Market?

Dateline: Fri 04 Jun 2010

A $3.1 million plan to "save" City Market, as reported by Jason Thomas in the Star -- does anyone else agree that this sounds about as sensible as pouring brews down a rat hole?

The story quotes Wayne Schmidt, president of the board and a local architect who always seems awash in public dollars (Indianapolis Public Schools renovations come to mind). Schmidt says, of the paint job, etc., "This is not a timid plan." Big bucks, in other words.

Besides offering cold beer and live music, the market is poised in theory to become a bicyclists' hub, with spaces to park 400 bikes. The idea is that bikers will hop off the Cultural Trail and run in to scarf down some Enzo Pizza or something.

What I have never understood is that, thru various leaders and makeovers and much much money spent and it seems wasted, the market has failed to take off. Yet outdoor farmers' markets, and the indoor winter market Downtown, do a dynamite business; they are packed. And nobody seems concerned that the walls are painted spiffy bright colors or that alcohol is for sale.

I suspect the city market suffers from a history of over-management, aided by an infusion of politics, with managers getting the director's job based on whom they know whether (or supported financially) rather than what skills and understanding they bring to the table.

Are there examples of successful big-city indoor markets? (I know of one abroad, but can't think of any in the U.S.) What are the ones making it doing to draw crowds? Why is this one -- which is a wonderful building, really -- always on the brink of disaster? Is it the same formula that struck down Union Station -- too many little weird shops, not enough stable or cool places to draw consumers?

If anyone has the answers, fire away.



Ellen McKinney [unverified] said:

honolulu's chinatown has a couple. not sure if privately or publicly owned.

and then there's seattle's pike place market. according to wikipedia:

Pike Place Market is a public market overlooking the Elliott Bay waterfront in Seattle, Washington, United States. The Market opened August 17, 1907, and is one of the oldest continually operated public farmers' markets in the United States. It is a place of business for many small farmers, craftspeople and merchants. Named after the central street, Pike Place runs northwest from Pike Street to Virginia Street, and remains one of Seattle's most popular tourist destinations.
The Market is built on the edge of a steep hill, and consists of several lower levels located below the main level. Each features a variety of unique shops. Antique dealers, comic book sellers, small family-owned restaurants, while the area contains one of the few remaining head shops left in Seattle. The upper street level contains fishmongers, fresh produce stands and craft stalls operating in the covered arcades. Local farmers and craftspeople sell year-round in the arcades from tables they rent from the Market on a daily basis, in accordance with the Market's mission and founding goal: allowing consumers to "Meet the Producer."
Pike Place Market is home to nearly 500 low income residents who live in 8 different buildings throughout the Market. The Market is run by the quasi-government Pike Place Market Preservation and Development Authority (PDA). The Pike Place Market sees 10 million visitors annually.

2010-06-04 17:27:27

Matthew Stone [unverified] said:

Ruth, for bikers, being able to park their bikes in the evening would be a good benefit. I, however, question what kind of hours the bike storage facility and showers will provide. And if it was such a great idea, why isn't there other "bike clubs" or whatever elsewhere in downtown?

Even though I like the idea of City Market thriving,they need to move away from the fresh produce and meat nostalgia idea. It isn't going to be a successful market, ever.

2010-06-04 19:55:30

hendy [Member] said:

Pike Place, Fanuel (sp?) Hall in Boston, the market in Philly, all of them near transportation hubs. We have no transportation, therefore no hubs. But it is across from the CC building, near the crater where MSA used to be, and kind of on the E hub of downtown.

Of course, it competes with Mass Av, who will drain it dry as it's a REAL entertainment and 'destination'.

They should move the traffic court there, instead of making all the offenders go to the far east side to battle their tickets. One more gin joint isn't going to do any business; the bars and restaurants are barely hanging on. But don't listen to me-- I live in Bloomington now. Much different place. Today it's not even a suburb, but one day, a century from now, it will be. Drat.

2010-06-04 19:59:58

ruthholl [Member] said:

Such interesting ideas...thanks for the info. And to add one to the list: has anybody been to Ann Arbor, Mich., lately? Because I think they have a vibe like Seattle, and they may well also have developed a successful marketplace.
I hate to give up on the nostalgia angle, but Matthew, I think, is right -- time to throw out that old model. The outdoor markets have got that angle covered anyhow.
The market I was thinking of abroad is in Bangkok, but it's so radically different: LOTS of stalls with lots of cool stuff for sale, and of course, everyone barters. Or maybe ABC Carpet in New York City, which is what Midland Arts & Antiques is modeled after.
Oh, I know...let's put an antiques/arts venue in there...
My problem is it sounds like the ideas the city is entertaining are just not fresh enough. It's going to be a big expensive bust...

2010-06-04 20:15:39

Tell The Truth [Member] said:

The answer to your question is: no. Beer will not dave City market.

Art, antiques. There's a unique idea.

Lord save us from architects who suck at the public trough endlessly and shamelessly, recycling the same old damned plans and making gazillions. And they they wax poetic about our public ills, oblivious to the fact that they've sucked us dry over and over again.

But I gotta admit, I love me some Jumbos. Damned fine service and sandwiches.

Here's what I will demand from my city councilman: do NOT give money to any idea that will collapse an existing downtown business. Make it unique or send it to the showers.

I am through spending tax dollar son abatements and ideas that merely redistribute the existing money pool on a monthly basis. That, we don't need. Freshness: we DO need.

Here's another idea: ask IPS if they have a need for something. Maybe an extension of the Junior Achievement Academy on N. Keystone. Kids running a business that is a lab and a service, all in one.

We've done worse.

I don't know about bikes. I ride mine on the city's new $2 million Pennsy Trail, several times a week. Love it, but it's too short. Lousy for cardio, OK for a gentle ride or walk. And that was two mil.

2010-06-05 07:03:15

Tom Greenacres [unverified] said:

Plans for the market continue to over reach. The place ahd its place in former years when it had simpelr ambitions.

Is there enough traffic to support the new business plan? Is there enough interest to warrant spending for it?

I recall clearly the initial jubilance when Union Station was repurposed...and then when annually downhill becausse there just wasn't enough headcount to support the many small shops, many of which tried heartily to hang on.

Union Station is a great example of a facility that the public waxes about, as they continue avoiding it.

A repurposed City Market will require more than occasional visitors. No product can be sustained by trial usage: it must have sustaining patronage.

Faneuil Hall works (and has had its own ups/downs) because it has positioned itself as a tourist attraction, while still earnng visits from the locals.

2010-06-05 08:31:39

Tell The Truth [Member] said:

Tom, your history on the failure of Union Station is incomplete, by one major point: Circle Centre

The Simon Property Group refused to allow an access tunnel, skywalk or other access, to Union Station. That sealed the station's fate.

2010-06-05 13:44:56

Tom Greenacres [unverified] said:

Borns and the Simons were not on the same page. And from self interest, there was no real advantage to Simons to accomodate Borns with access to CC.

Union Station was on the walkability periphery. I recall its restaurants being on the good but pricey side. A number of interesting businesses failed there, one after another. I was particularly fond of the gokart track....

I am not confident that access to CC would have made that much difference in the long run. Different demographics.

2010-06-05 16:51:47

Tell The Truth [Member] said:

I think access would've allowed the station to survive, in some form. CC is successful by industry standards, altho its earnings model was about 75-26 local-vs-tourist, and it's turned out to be dramatically opposite.

The go-cart track was post-CC. It lost money from the day it opened.

2010-06-06 06:11:06

Janet Irwin [unverified] said:

Eastern Market in Washington, D.C. is a surviving indoor market of roughly the same vintage as the City Market in Indy.

Summer and fall offers lots of outdoor vendors as well with fresh veggies, funky jewelry, cool clothes, etc.

2010-06-06 20:03:40

Ms. Cynical [unverified] said:

I've traveled the world, and there are vibrant city markets everywhere. But those markets sell unique foodstuffs AND have either accessible, efficient public transport or free parking (or both).

There's nothing worth going to the City Market for and besides, it's big bucks to park downtown.

Once upon a time, I bought all my fruits and veggies from the Raimondi Sisters, stashing them in a cooler in my car until after work. But that was because they had the best produce in town.

Can't say any stand at the City Market these days has the best of anything!

2010-06-06 22:32:36

Tell The Truth [Member] said:

Janet: Eastern Market works because it was rebuilt 20 years ago using millions in federal (**our**) funds. Standing alone, on its own, it would never have been remodeled. It was damaged by storm or fire a couple of years ago, and once again, big federal funds stepped in. It's a great urban market, busy every spring-summer weekend.

Cynical: ooooh, those Jumbos are unique, and affordable!

2010-06-07 07:05:15

Sven [unverified] said:

As mentioned, Seattle has a terrific market, as does New Orleans, Nashville, Baltimore, Columbus, Ohio, St. Louis . . . I do not understand why we have little markets pocketed here and there and cannot support a central market, when these other cities obviously can.

2010-06-07 07:36:49

Crossed Wires [unverified] said:

Day stalls could be the answer. Pike Place does it, not sure if the others do. Lease small spaces by the day to craft vendors. Similiar to the indi craft fair that is a huge draw elsewhere.
And the redesign? Those Red Ribbons over the walkways are atrocious.

2010-06-07 08:44:49

mlw [Member] said:

Would Baltimore's "Harbor Place" count?

2010-06-09 11:20:11

IRV_dweller [Member] said:

I work a few blocks from City Market but very rarely do I get over there other than the outdoor market on Wednesdays, and even then maybe every other month. I think there is a biking community that would appreciate it -- but most of my bike commuter friends leave their bikes at work somewhere and shower at a gym, or some employers have showers for employees who bike/run to work.

I love the suggestions other commenters have here for City Market because I don't think it's entirely a lost cause -- hopefully something will be done to fix it.

I especially love these ideas:

Let's put an antiques/arts venue in there

Ask IPS if they have a need for something. Maybe an extension of the Junior Achievement Academy on N. Keystone. Kids running a business that is a lab and a service, all in one.

And the idea to have day vendors -- like the Indieana Handicraft Exchange on June 12. The founder of that event is also opening a store on E. Washington in Irvington -- Homespun -- where some of the Handicraft Exchange's vendors will be able to sell their goods.

And regarding the comment about the Pennsy -- it's one of my favorite parts of the neighborhood. But I've yet to go on it because I'm paranoid about safety (maybe I'm overthinking it but I rarely walk in my neighborhood by myself, so I'd definitely need a buddy and/or dog spray. I'm also hoping/guessing any would be attackers realize us Eastsiders don't carry much of value on us). But I am hoping to check it out soon following rave reviews of friends who skate in quad skates and roller blades, and bike, and walk on it on a somewhat regular basis. It's short, but my friends tend to go back and forth a few times. I am also looking forward to the expansion that eventually will connect Pleasant Run to Cumberland, which will make it more worthwhile.


2010-06-11 14:23:24

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