City planning officials bring in co-founder of Milwaukee Public Market for advice on future market

City officials in La Crosse are considering eight possible locations for a new public market. They said the location is important for the market to succeed.

La Crosse economic planners hoped they would have had a location picked by now. However, that process has taken longer than they expected.

But La Crosse Economic Development Planner Andrea Schnick said the location is important and if they get it wrong the market won’t be successful after it’s built.

“Working through all of those processes has taken longer than we thought it would, but we want to do this right,” Schnick said.

City officials met with Wendy Baumann, the co-founder of the Milwaukee Public Market. She explained how they were able to create a plan for Milwaukee’s public market. Fifteen years later, the market draws more than a million people every year.

“I think lessons learned are good,” Baumann said. I don’t think of them as being best practices but good practices. In our journey, we researched and traveled to many markets across the country. We attended international public market conferences to really get a sense of what it would look like and what were some good ideas. What does work? What doesn’t work?

She said the downtown location of the market and the locally owned businesses have helped make Milwaukee Public Market successful. It takes a lot of hard work to raise the money to build something like this. There are other challenges La Crosse economic planners will face.

“In Wisconsin, we have seasonality,” Baumann said. “For six months of the year, we have snow on the ground. We have to address that to some degree.”

So far, Riverside North has been a site La Crosse planners have looked at a lot as a potential location, but Schnick said a location closer to downtown may be a better fit.

“It’s adjacent to the neighborhoods,” Schnick said. “There are opportunities on the fringes of downtown for additional redevelopment.”

Baumann said the Milwaukee Public Market can be a guide for La Crosse, but ultimately this future market needs to have its own unique style.

“I see that vibrancy in the city and that sense of locally owned businesses that’s not something that is not foreign to the city,” Baumann said. “That is a big magical part of the market.”

The city hired an expert from Public Market Development last year and his work showed La Crosse is a good fit for a public market.

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