By Jeff Sherman Staff Writer Published Jul 01, 2004 at 5:28 AM

{image1} On Wednesday afternoon at the northwest corner of Water Street and St. Paul in the Third Ward's Riverwalk Park sat an antique John Deere tractor, a plow and a few roaming cows. Signs of the state's farming heritage, of course, but on this day a new, state-of-art, yet organic year-round public market finally broke ground -- or plowed ground, as the organizers put it.

Music, animals, nearly 200 guests and market samplings prepared by local chefs also were on the agenda, as well as a cast of several speakers including David A. Sampson, US Dept of Commerce, Asst. Secretary for Economic Development, a representative from Sen. Herb Kohl's office, Congressman Paul Ryan, State Secretary of Commerce Cory Nettles (filling in for Governor Doyle who had another commitment), Alice in Dairyland Betsy Francoeur, County Executive Scott Walker and Mayor Tom Barrett.

It was more than fresh news for the downtown Milwaukee neighborhood, as the official groundbreaking for the market was another shot in the arm that will put Milwaukee on par with cities that already have similar markets, most notably Seattle's Pike's Place Market. The Pike Place Market began in 1907 and is a vital part of Seattle's social and economic fabric. Milwaukee area leaders and residents know the Milwaukee Public Market has the same abilities.

Wendy K. Baumann, one of the project's initial champions, thanked sponsors and friends and said The Milwaukee Public Market will be "a public space, an open space with no entrance fees that welcome people at all times."

Ryan said the project is "a clear winner for the Milwaukee community and Milwaukee."

Sampson, who represented the EDA which has committed $2.5 million to the project, said, "The Commerce Department is pleased to partner with the people of Milwaukee and set the stage for investment and innovation through economic development grants like these. President Bush is committed to working with local communities to grow the economy, create jobs and encourage investments."

Organizers are still in the midst of a $10 million campaign that has reached 87% of its goal.

Actual construction is scheduled to begin July 12, 2004 with completion by Summer 2005.

Here are some facts:

  • Milwaukee's Public Market is a catalytic project that will re-invigorate the downtown area. It is a year-around indoor Market Hall that will house 25 independent food vendors employing 120 people full-time and an additional 40-65 people part-time. There will also be a seasonal outdoor farmers' market. Annual sales are estimated to be over $10 million.
  • Public Markets, by their very nature of promoting small independent businesses, are not able to carry debt service. The entire cost of developing the Market Hall and assisting with operations for three years is $10 million. Milwaukee's Public Market is projected to be self-sustaining by the third year of operation.
  • A $2.5 million grant proposal was announced April 22, 2004 from the U.S. Department of Commerce's Economic Development Administration. The EDA grant brings the total raised to $8 million. Lead gifts of $1 million each have been pledged by the Richard & Ethel Herzfeld Foundation, the Jane B. Pettit Foundation and an anonymous donor.
  • Significant public support has also been provided by the State of Wisconsin, Milwaukee County and the City of Milwaukee.
  • An additional $2 million will need to be raised from private foundations, corporations and individuals and a pending $750,000 Brownfields grant with the State of Wisconsin.
  • Milwaukee Public Market will provide opportunities for a variety of independent, locally owned businesses to sell fresh foods, including locally produced organic meat, poultry, seafood, cheese, produce and specialty foods.

The Milwaukee Public Market web site is:

Jeff Sherman Staff Writer

A life-long and passionate community leader and Milwaukeean, Jeff Sherman is a co-founder of OnMilwaukee.

He grew up in Wauwatosa and graduated from Marquette University, as a Warrior. He holds an MBA from Cardinal Stritch University, and is the founding president of Young Professionals of Milwaukee (YPM)/Fuel Milwaukee.

Early in his career, Sherman was one of youngest members of the Greater Milwaukee Committee, and currently is involved in numerous civic and community groups - including board positions at The Wisconsin Center District, Wisconsin Club and Marcus Center for the Performing Arts.  He's honored to have been named to The Business Journal's "30 under 30" and Milwaukee Magazine's "35 under 35" lists.  

He owns a condo in Downtown and lives in greater Milwaukee with his wife Stephanie, his son, Jake, and daughter Pierce. He's a political, music, sports and news junkie and thinks, for what it's worth, that all new movies should be released in theaters, on demand, online and on DVD simultaneously.

He also thinks you should read OnMilwaukee each and every day.