The Role of Public Markets in Community Building

Since 2007, the American Planning Association has designated 245 Great Places in America. As a part of the Great Places program, APA has often recognized public markets, old and new, for adding vibrancy, character, and functionality to communities across America.

Public markets increase access to healthy foods, honor historical legacies, and highlight the local culture of the communities in which they are found. These markets bring together community members, local business leaders, and visitors to celebrate and recognize the importance of these Great Public Spaces, and their roles in helping to create communities of lasting value.

Here's a look back at the public markets we've recognized as Great Public Spaces over the past eight years:

Church Street Marketplace, Burlington, Vermont — 2008

The product of an inclusive and careful planning and design process, Church Street Marketplace features many historic buildings, thriving retail trade, and carefully maintained streets and walkways, but also strong community support for a downtown plan to help guide future economic vitality. Also known as "the gem in the crown" of Burlington, the Church Street Marketplace demonstrates how good planning and design, a committed citizenry and supportive business owners, and quality management can maintain the vitality and vibrancy of an outdoor pedestrian mall.

West Side Market, Cleveland, Ohio — 2008

The West Side Market offers shoppers an authentic and human experience in Cleveland. Cultures from around the world collide here as Chilean sea bass, homemade Lithuanian sausage, European cheeses, and freshly baked bread are all found beneath one roof. Vendors hail from all over the world and some have had family stalls at the market for generations. West Side Market was named one of the 2008 Great Public Spaces in America for its functionality as a neighborhood gathering place and fresh food market; its engaging atmosphere; and its role as an anchor in the community, stimulating nearby commercial and residential activity. A great deal of work by resident groups, city officials, and planners during the past century has helped ensure that the market has remained a vital center for the community.

Central Market, Lancaster, Pennsylvania — 2009

Central Market is a 20,540-square-foot, brick market that sits at the historic center of Lancaster, adjacent to Penn Square, the old City Hall, city's first skyscraper, and other historic buildings. After 280 years, Lancaster Central Market has remained in continuous operation in the same location — making it the oldest such marketplace in the country. Central Market is not only a place to buy local food and produce, but is also a place to meet friends and socialize; during warm months, outdoor furniture, canvas umbrellas, and hanging flower baskets strengthen Central Market setting as place to socialize. Central Market has 57 vendors who are socially and culturally diverse — Amish, Mennonite, Latino, African, Asian, German, Greek, and others.

Reading Terminal Market, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania — 2014

World-renowned as an enclosed public market, Reading Terminal Market is conveniently located in downtown Philadelphia. The market is home to 76 independent locally based merchants, selling fresh foods, groceries, prepared meals, and merchandise. The market is easily accessible to residents and tourists via public transit facilities, including nearby rail stations, seven subway and trolley lines, bus stops, a Greyhound bus terminal, and over 50 bike racks on the perimeter sidewalks. Reading Terminal Market accepts SNAP/food stamps with the goal of making healthy food more readily available to everyone. More than six million people visit the market each year, generating upwards of $50 million in annual sales. Watch the 2014 Great Places announcement.

Flint Farmer's Market, Flint, Michigan — 2015

The Flint Farmers' Market represents the importance of planning in community building. This landmark market has had a home in Flint for many years, and provides local businesses, farmers, and vendors the space to share their products and their work with their neighbors, friends, and visitors. The Flint Farmers' Market has also provided many people in Genesee County unprecedented access to fresh and locally grown foods. Twenty-five businesses at the market accept the SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) Bridge Card, and the Double Up Food Bucks program allows patrons to double the value of their purchases (up to $20 per market visit).

About the Author

Lauren Pollack is an intern with APA's Great Places in America program.

March 11, 2016

By Lauren Pollack