The Downtown Austin Alliance is hosting a meeting this Wednesday (you can RSVP here) to discuss whether downtown Austin is ripe for a public market. They’ll also be bringing in a public market expert from a group called the Project for Public Spaces to discuss them with us.
I’m no expert but to me public markets are different than farmer’s markets. They should operate every day, often have options to sit-n-eat, and enjoy a cosmopolitan experience. Above all, a public market should be a “place,” a “destination,” and unique experience that melds cultures where you would take in-laws visiting from out of town.
Where would it go?
There are only a few sites downtown that could host a large public market. Fortunately, most of these sites desperately need more activation.
Below are four site options in order of best opportunity! (Hat tip to mi amigo, Jake Dirr, who helped brainstorm with me on this)
1) Convention Center Parking Garage ground floor (600 E 4th St): The ground floor of this city-owned parking garage is set up for retail, but fell victim to years of litigation regarding the original property owner, Harry Whittington. It’s adjacent to transit, and surrounded by parking. The ground floor could be gutted to create an indoor bazaar and market. Because this option is climate controlled, it offers a year-round option, where as open aired public markets will suffer considerably in the 100-plus degree heat.