First public input session held to discuss Market at the Square

The first public input session to discuss Market at the Square, the City of Urbana’s farmer’s market, was held at the Urbana Civic Center on Tuesday night.

The goal of the session was to receive feedback from residents in the community about what they would like to see more of at the market, what they would like to change and what is needed.

New projects for the 2010 season include: attracting more produce vendors, making wine and beer sales more feasible, increasing programming for children and attracting low-income families by accepting LINK cards, said Lisa Bralts, director for Market at the Square and economic development specialist for the city. LINK cards allow food stamp recipients to purchase food at the market electronically, similar to using a credit or debit card. Market at the Square is operated by the city of Urbana every Saturday from May through November for 28 weeks.

Bralts said the market has continued since the mid-to-late 1970s on the corner of Illinois and Vine streets.

Bralts said the city staff is utilizing marketing tools, such as print, radio, television and the city’s Web site for advertising. They are also using Twitter, Facebook and Flickr for advertising purposes.

“There’s so much I like about the market. I don’t know where to begin,” said Diane Marlin, Ward 7. “We’re counting on community input. It’s (the market is) an economic engine in downtown Urbana.”

Last year there were 179 registered vendors at the market, averaging about 70 vendors per weekend, Bralts said. As many as 95 or as few as 45 vendors were present on any given Saturday during the Market at the Square season. There was also an average weekly attendance of 6,220 customers at the market.

Brandon Bowersox, Ward 4, said that Urbana should be prepared for a large growth from the market. He added that “all kinds of big ideas should be on the table.”

“I’m just very civically interested,” said Theresa Michelson, Urbana resident since 1976. “I like the market, and I’m curious about what the plans are.”

Bralts said the market means many different things for many different people. She added that it is important to find out what the hopes and expectations are for the market’s future.

“We are at the beginning,” she said. “These first steps are very important. We want people to think differently. We’re heading in a direction where we need some sort of road map.”