A very good description and some simple rules for revitalizing public shed markets written by a Baltimore architect. He focuses his attention on the Lexington Market (which I have visited when in the area for farmers market business) and is a market that he seems to work near enough to observe regularly. I remember on my visits being impressed by the vitality of this market even though the quality and quantity of healthy goods seemed low. I actually still think about this market regularly, because it was a particular kind of anachronism that reminded me of visiting the old West Side Market in Cleveland in the 1960s/1970s; in other words, it still seems exactly like those dark and chaotic largely forgotten shed markets that were sprinkled throughout many American cities back in the mid 20th century. He points out that Lexington already has regular shoppers and acts as a food hub in what is largely a food desert, which is a significant point. It’s interesting that he seems to think that finding ways to attract tourists is one key to making this market really work, which may or may not be true in my estimation. I’ll leave that discussion for another time and post.
In any case, as pointed out by the author, the attention paid recently to many of these markets has often led to one of two outcomes: either successfully engineered spaces full of event activities and local color/products, filled regularly with proud residents on the weekends and eager tourists during the week, OR badly re-designed ones with ridiculous lighting and signage telling us of their authenticity with wide empty aisles and too much of one thing. Unfortunately, the French Market (especially after its hot mess of recent equally overdone and underdone renovations) is more of the second with chunks of the Lexington Market’s structural and place-based issues to solve, but I do believe that it is due for its renaissance. However, it has always seemed to me that the job of French Market director may require someone with the letter “S” on his or her undershirt. Last time I checked, I believe that the job included:
maintaining a significant number of historical buildings for the city
being landlord to the uptown side of the Pontalba building/apartments
overseeing the anarchistic artist and reader colony space in Jackson Square
recruiting and serving the permanent storefront tenants from Jackson Square to Ursuline
creating and managing events constantly. (This seems simple, but one question I always have is why they hold events on the big days like French Quarter Festival and why not instead spend their time on driving traffic there once those events are over and just ride that wave of big days with little programming and lots of amenities available like available seating, well-stocked bathrooms and helpful FQ ambassadors on hand.)
and oh yeah- somehow revitalize the 2 open shed markets at the Barracks end so that locals will come too. Honestly, having watched the last few eras of FM leadership closely, it seems that these open sheds take up 75% of the time and goodwill in that job, while supplying little of the income. What must be understood by the FM board and city officials is that the location of these sheds is now and will remain out-of-the-way for residents, and with no access to public transportation that fact can be deadly for robust day vendor sales if not addressed directly.
In addition, the massive size and varied uses of the French Market district presents a very different set of spatial problems and possible solutions than what was possible for the small D.C. Eastern or even its slightly more appropriate D.C. sister, the newly fabulous Union Market or any number of others that I or others have visited in the last two decades. The bad history of the last 40 years at the French Market has also meant that people actually have a negative perception, not just a neutral perception of this space and working on those sheds a little at a time is too little to change that to positive. The very serious lack of nearby farm production also needs to be acknowledged and means that simply signaling that local goods are welcome to be sold will not be enough to have enough on hand. And lastly, what to do with the dozens and dozens of vendors who exist there presently? Incentivize a product change or focus on encouraging them to move on to storefronts to make way for new ideas?
One can compare the French Market to the St. Roch Market to see how different their outcomes and the work to make it so. And yet, even with the small footprint and uses needed for St. Roch, look how many millions and how much time it has taken to just get to someone leasing it, much less actually successfully filling it with dynamic retail operators!
The good news is that new leadership at the French Market has the energy and the experience as a storefront business owner to understand and address many of the issues that remain to be solved at the French Market, but will still need time and patience to get his board, staff and neighbors to understand the nature of open space, day vendors and the shoppers/visitors that they might attract. And the entire team will need to add to their skill set because there is a different level and type of attention that must be paid to the engineering of activity and products here than was needed in the golden age of American public markets or even that has proven to be successful in public market projects in other cities. Finally, as a FQ resident, I want it to be identified with my neighborhood and to underscore the type of cultural qualities that we hold in high esteem.
from the original post:
Consultants, of course, also aim at the currently totally un-yuppified food selections, in which each baker (there are seven) has the same yellow cakes smothered in colorful oily frostings, and where there is more fried food than exotic fruit. But here, too, lingers the danger of eliminating the authentic Baltimore grit, with specialties like pigs’ feet, freshly cut veal liver (“baby beef”) that can only be had here or in some of the Asian supermarkets out in the County. Most famously and maybe most Baltimore, of course, is Faidley’s, with its seafood, oysters and crabs and, most importantly, the Baltimore crab-cakes, which are shipped on demand nationwide.
Discussions about the Lexington Market quickly touch nerves, depending on with whom one speaks, because the market serves various needs and maybe evokes even more aspirations. There are those who love its gruff authenticity and old fashioned food choices, there are those who use the market for their daily shopping because adjacent neighborhoods to the west have scarcely any stores, and then there is a growing number of people who think that the market surely doesn’t live up to its potential and needs a major re-set. Community Architect: The Future of Public Markets and the Case of the Lexington Market in Baltimore.
Writer Katy Reckdahl covers New Orleans with her usual tact and fair approach in this article from the Advocate. I wish there was more of the story covered here, but at least the idea of examining New Orleans’ “exceptionalism” has been raised along with comparing that assertion to its massive challenges. Certainly, the larger idea of American exceptionalism and its etymology should be examined as well. In other words, only reminding ones citizens about “positive” indicators-what for us is tied up entirely in our culture-seems to blind or restrict a more in-depth conversation about the systemic inequalities that also characterize life in New Orleans. Or as one astute online commenter said : let’s not keep falling for bread and circuses.
Allison Plyer, of the Data Center, who has crunched the city’s demographic numbers for nearly two decades, said the city is exceptional “only in terms of culture.” For the few indicators the Data Center keeps about culture, New Orleans is “well above the national average,” she said.
“We’re also well above the national average in incarceration,” Plyer said. “But we’re not different than other places in other measures of hardship, and those are glaring and need to be addressed.”
For all of New Orleans’ numerical similarities to places such as Cleveland, when Plyer looks up from her spreadsheets and PowerPoints, she sees a city that is special, she said. “And because it is special, I am interested in working to address issues of hardship and well-being here,” she said.
Tony Recasner, who heads Agenda for Children, said that because of the city’s small size and tight geography, the problems of the poor are often in plain view, just like the brass bands and parades. That proximity among people of all income levels contributes to high levels of volunteerism here, he thinks.
I think there is a lot to be discovered about self organization, itinerant communities, illegal and informal activities and much more from the Jackson Square community. There is much good and maybe some bad to this place no doubt, and the more that city officials, police and nearby businesses and residents understand it and specifically understand how the space works (or doesn’t) with new groups taking control at different times of day and events, the better.
Jackson Square artists
I disagree with the writers’ stance that airbnb is the chief cause of rentals to be unavailable to residents. As someone who believes in the informal economy, I have used it quite often in my travels. Almost all of the airbnb places where I have stayed have been people’s homes with an extra set of rooms for guests or a mother-in-law house. Many of the folks have raised kids who are now off at college and want to share their home still and so I have met some wonderful people and felt safer being in a neighborhood than staying in a large corporate hotel often found in a industrial park without access to local business or any where to walk after the work day is over. And as someone who has been a renter in this city for over 30 years, it is my contention that it ain’t airbnb that has stopped rent controls or that reduces the number of rentals for residents, but the corporate infrastructure that encourages profiteering on home flipping or corporate rentals without any management oversight, as well as the inability of the city or state to enact a post-disaster punishment for those who delay their repairs for no reason except that they own too much or refuse to pay for good repairmen to get it all done right in a reasonable time. Let me be clear-I am not identifying those folks who STILL wait for payments or are fighting bureaucracy, or have been ripped off by unsavory workers as the problem because the system is also weighted against them to work in favor of those connected and ruthless profiteers. Also, slumlords or invisible homeowners who abuse airbnb.com probably abused Craiglist, or the TeePee classifieds, or any other short or long term term rental situation that has benefited other neighborhoods or visitors who want to be good citizens and keep their property kept up and rented. Outlawing airbnb.com is not the answer; the answer is more likely direct action among citizens on rental property rules and protecting renters rights along with good homeowners rights. Too many short term rentals in one block IS wrong, but is not the stem issue, I believe.
The writers’ assertion that the bike lane along Esplanade is a white stripe of divide is so foolish that is shows that the basis of the article is far-fetched, and badly researched. The percentage of New Orleanians that do not have regular access to automobiles has always been a large number (over 25% before the federal levee breaks) and for anyone who gets around before the sun is entirely up will see more working men using those lanes than porkpie wearing hipsters. As one commenter points out, the complete streets approach to adding the lanes is based on adding the chosen and researched lanes when the streets are repaired. That St. Claude was outfitted before Esplanade and that these lanes act as a traffic calming device for regular people to cross the streets or to check for a bus are important points of which the writers seem unaware.
Honestly, the issue with short term rentals is one that should be discussed in each neighborhood but to identify neighborhood associations as the savior that the city has not been is as foolish as his bike lane bashing; My opinion is that these organizations are often protectionist home owner associations and do almost nothing for renters. I left a longer comment at the end of his article and would recommend that folks peruse some of the thoughtful comments left by others on there as well.
Local writer CW Cannon defends the vitality of the current vendor base and questions the new French Market director’s understanding of tradition and desired products.
Jackson Square meeting
Scott Hutcheson, Asante Salaam, and city attorney had a second meeting with folks interested in maintaining Jackson Square as a dynamic public space.
Artist, musician and psychic spokespeople were in attendance and spoke convincingly about their wish for a viable community space in Jackson Square. Here are my notes from the meeting: in the notes below, the statements were made by the artists, musicians and readers that attended the meeting. SH is Scott Hutcheson, Mayor’s Advisor on Cultural Economy and is the city staff person who responded during meeting, and his responses are in italics. Overall, it was a very amiable meeting.
SH has talked to Farmers Market Corporation (FMC)
FMC security may start patrolling the Square
City can do in-depth training with FMC security personnel
FMC has 11 security personnel, 3 full-time, the rest part-time
Psychic org: fine with that, but no one will still have permit oversight.
Recently, readers leaving set-ups 24 hours a day.
Vendors illegally chalking their spaces to hold, including artists.
Out of control artists ignoring rules and entreaties from peers to follow rules; video on YouTube of artist on Square passed out with needle in arm.
Can licenses be in jeopardy when they ticket?
NOPD has said in past that they will not enforce the rules, they have just woken people up and told them to stay awake.
SH said they ticketed Thursday before FQF
Ticket should go to revenue dept, rather than municipal court to relate the infractions back to license.
All artists should have to show licenses. Some scofflaws leave a homeless person with their stuff so it is “attended”.
Guidelines before Katrina were clear and enforceable, need to go back to that.
Pre-Katrina: Set up more than an hour was unattended, the setup would be moved by NOPD or other readers or artists.
SH: not sure it’s legal to do that, have to be clear about codified law versus standards of conduct
Illegal activity is widespread and unenforced.
Calling emergency services is almost impossible as they want street addresses.
Extra space when big events for artists? State museum says yes, but FQF says no.
Want to talk to French Market about using more space.
Dutch Alley, used to be an open spot, street entertainers still get run off.
SH: FMC asks street performers only to “register”, although it says “permit” on it.
SH: No such thing as a street performer permit in the city.
dba licenses, can anything be done? (No says city attorney)
Enforce before 6 pm on St. Peter and St. Ann that readers cannot hold spaces.
FMC security already has oversight over Jackson Square: can manage city owned property.
FMC demanded FMC permit for Decatur reader
Illegal vending happens on Jackson Square and artists/readers are powerless to stop.
Vieux Carre church sets up table and does ceremonies illegally.
Segways in the square are problem.
Stanchions-have a hard time getting them unlocked in emergencies and locked to stop cars and trucks.
Slope of the entryways is problematic for older people, needs to be textured.
Loading zone tickets are given to musicians and artists even though they have been told they can use them to unload and load.
NOPD says artists and musicians can unload in the “curve” but only informally.
Barkers are working illegally, overwhelming honest vendors.
Street performers with amplifiers are a problem.
Television from museum plays constantly and loudly.