Are Farmers Markets a Cure for Planning Fatigue?

Years of public forums and planning exercises aimed at reviving Detroit have left residents craving results. Recent work by the Project for Public Spaces with farmers markets in the city may reveal a replicable avenue for action.
June 1, 2012, 11am PDT | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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Attractive for their relative ease of implementation due to their temporary and flexible nature, PPS worked with food markets in two very different areas of the city - the stable, middle-class Grandmont-Rosedale neighborhood and in depressed Central Detroit - to create more robust community gathering places. According to PPS's Elena Madison, the advantage of focusing placemaking efforts on food markets is their ability to, "spark immediate improvements and build local confidence today, while also informing strategies for long-term change at both the site and neighborhood levels."

In many neighborhoods, markets provide a necessary resource that goes beyond food. As PPS's Steve Davies explains, "Markets often arise to address existing food deserts-in Detroit, a lot of the markets are citizen-driven: they sprang up because people were responding to a local need. But another major issue that we're addressing is that many Detroit neighborhoods are also Place deserts. These are communities where there's just nowhere to go; you have all of these people living near each other, you have schools, churches, and social services, but there's little public civic life to speak of."

"In a city like Detroit, where needs far outstrip resources, public markets offer a lot of bang for the buck. Markets need people, and plenty of them–vendors, customers, volunteers–meaning that they offer plenty of easy ways for people to interact and take part in changing the way that their public space is used."

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Published on Wednesday, May 30, 2012 in PPS: Placemaking Blog
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