Global Communities and society, Culture, sport and tourism

Markets: Case studies and resources for local government

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Every week, we highlight inspiration and innovation from local government worldwide. In this article, we focus on the councils working to create markets that are a source of pride to their communities. You’ll find best practice from the UK, Sweden, the USA and the Netherlands, along with plenty of practical policy and resources to for more insight and guidance on the topic.

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Market innovation and inspiration examples from the local government sector

UK: Borough Market in London has published its 2030 Strategy to explain its strategic direction over the next few years.  The market is a charitable trust run by a board of volunteer trustees which is unusual for a British food market.  It has agreed upon a statement to encapsulate its organisational purpose: “For community, the love of food and a better tomorrow.”  The market aims for outcomes that go beyond the economic: it seeks to serve the charity’s broader function as “an asset for [our] local community, a source of high-quality food, a beacon for sustainable, ethical practices, and a crucible of specialist knowledge and skills”.  The market is referenced as an example of good practice in the Failte Ireland paper, with its strong reputation for quality food, commercialisation by way of cook books and its bi-monthly magazine, ‘Market Life’, strong connections with local schools and ‘Borough Market Cookbook Club’ which has over 1000 members.

Netherlands: Markthall, Rotterdam opened in 2014 and is a municipal market that has become a city attraction.  It has futuristic architecture and has combined a market that sells organic and multi-ethnic food, with an apartment block to accommodate housing needs.  During the day it has fresh food stalls and shop units for local vendors and businesses.  In the evening, there is a selection of lively restaurants on its lower levels. 

Sweden: In 2020, the renovation of the Ostermalms Saluhall in Stockholm was completed.  This has made the new food hall“the centre of an urban food district and one of the nodes of the city’s artistic and cultural system”.  The refurbishment project is part of the city’s “Vision 2030” which outlines a long-term vision for sustainable development of Stockholm.

USA: Pike Place Market is operated by the Pike Place Market Preservation and Development Authority (PDA).  It has recently released the first draft of the ‘Pike Place Market Master Plan’ for consultation, a strategy document that will present a vision and direction for a sustainable future. Following the Covid-19 pandemic, it had to adopt new strategies to help its vendors, including giving $3.9m in rent credits over 16 months.  It is now aiming “to keep the Market relevant in a vastly changed economic and technological environment, while keeping it a “people place” where social interactions are as important as ever”.

Resources on markets for municipalities

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Handbook: Markets 4 People has produced a best practice handbook which is a practical guide for market operators on “how to operate and develop traditional retail markets (TRMs) as community hubs for inclusive economies”.  This is in response to market operators in the UK seeking advice and examples of how to avoid, minimise or balance the gentrification of retail markets.

Resource: The Project for Public Spaces published ‘Placemaking: What if We Built Our Cities Around Places’ in 2022.  It explains that “Placemaking inspires people to collectively reimagine and reinvent public spaces as the heart of every community…More than just promoting better urban design, placemaking facilitates creative patterns of use, paying particular attention to the physical, cultural and social identities that define a place and support its ongoing evolution”.

Research project: The Market Cities Initiative at the Project for Public Spaces undertook research post-Covid, in an attempt to kickstart citywide market strategies in Seattle, Washington and Pittsburg, Pennsylvania in the United States, and Toronto in Canada.  When businesses closed and stay-at-home orders were issued globally during the pandemic, it was recognised that many markets across the continent stayed open, providing fresh and healthy food, which was a lifeline to farmers and other producers.  Three strategic actions came from the project.  The first was to “Appoint an individual or group (council, body) to represent and advocate for markets at the highest levels of government in the city or region”.  The second was to “Increase investment in market management capacity and infrastructure” and the third was to “Recognise markets as a key tool for creating equity in our cities/regions”.  The paper, ‘Toward Market Cities: Lessons on Supporting Public Market Systems from Pittsburgh, Seattle and Toronto’ can be found here.

Resource: In 2016, as part of a partnership with the ‘National Main Street Center’, the Project for Public Spaces produced ‘Making your Market a Dynamic Community Place’.  It is an introduction for Main Street managers to some of they key principles in respect of developing and managing a successful public marketing.  It covers site selection, marketing and promotion, partnership building, vendor and product mixes, and programming.  It also includes sample market layout plans and case studies of markets in the United States that have become central destinations in their communities.

Article: ‘Social Value and Urban Sustainability in Food Markets’ discusses how “urban food markets can promote sustainable development through the generation of social value in the spaces where they are located and contribute to sustainability on a global scale”.

Looking for even more on this topic? Check out our collection on food, agriculture and rural communities! Make sure you subscribe to LGIU to never miss out on this essential service for the local government sector everywhere.



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