Personal reflections on urbanism, urban life and sustainable urban design in Wellington, New Zealand.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Open market

File under: , ,

The council is considering a proposal (68kB PDF) for a market in the Wellington CBD. Not a farmers' market, nor the sort of deli/market that I've been suggesting, but a weekend arts and crafts market, presumably similar to that at the Christchurch Arts Centre. They've long considered that this would fill a gap in the city's retail sector, and in fact they have had discussions with someone who proposed such a market for Queens Wharf, but nothing came of that proposal.

For such a market to work, it needs a lot of elements to come together. The council considers that the critical mass would require about 80 stallholders, so it certainly sound like a major undertaking that would require at least 500 square metres. They also don't see it as a free-for-all full of second-hand knick-knacks and knock-off designer handbags (thank god!), but as an event that is actively managed to ensure quality, variety and entertainment. That sounds like it runs the risk of being a Disneyfied tourist experience, put perhaps we can look to Craftwerk to remind us that "arts and crafts" doesn't have to mean Uncle Fred's watercolours and Auntie Marjorie's doilies (or vice versa).

The other key element is, of course, location. According to the proposal, the ideal location would:
  • be available at the appropriate times

  • be cheap

  • work well with the rest of the city

  • have high foot traffic

  • suit the installation of appropriate infrastructure (e.g. power connections, storage facilities for stalls and coverings, anchor points for stalls on the surface or on neighbouring building)

  • be highly visible

  • have good access (which, typically and depressingly, is interpreted as having plenty of parking rather than being close to public transport)

  • offer shelter to shoppers and stall holders.

That's quite a list of requirements! In fact, they almost seem mutually exclusive, since any space that's large, sheltered and well-located is unlikely to be cheap and available. Also, if shelter is a prerequisite, then it will need to be indoors. Given Wellington's low rate of retail vacancy, that will be a challenge, and it seems a waste to leave a large retail space unoccupied for all but a few hours a week.

Several sites have already been considered, though the report doesn't specify where. Here are my own thoughts on some possible locations for an indoor arts and crafts market at weekends.

The ground floor of the NZX building has already been leased to a corporation that naturally seeks a decent return on its investment, but it's been empty for a long time now and maybe it's possible to lease it cheaply on a temporary once-a-week basis. If nothing else, that would demonstrate its value to potential commercial tenants.

Another potential waterfront location would be the atrium at the Chaffers Dock complex. That would complement the surrounding retail spaces under the old Herd St building and Boathouse apartments, as well as adding vitality to the edge of Waitangi Park. It could also combine with the "creative café" (whatever that is) suggested for one of the John Wardle buildings planned to go east of here. On the other hand, it's hard to see 80 stalls fitting within the atrium, unless they spill out into the surrounding spaces.

Of course, we already have an indoor weekend market: the Wellington Market between Cable St and Jervois Quay. But that's awaiting redevelopment, and has been looking dowdier and sadder as time goes on. Perhaps it would be possible for the council to take out a head lease on most of the ground floor, with a "skin" of permanent retail around the outside to provide commercial return and maintain active edges all week.

Another possibility is Shed 13 at Kumutoto. The current plans are to renovate it and use it for the sort of temporary events and exhibitions currently hosted by Shed 11, which would rule it out unless the exhibitions only ran during the week and could be quickly packed away. On the other hand, if it's primarily used for functions (conference, parties, product launches) during the week, then the uses could complement one another quite well

Those are some thoughts on indoor locations: I'll write soon about possibilities for open-air markets or temporary shelters.


At 6:02 pm, September 11, 2006, Blogger mikeymike said...

Nice work Tom

It's great to see Council looking at this. But you're bang on in stating that some of their requirements seem mutually exclusive. Cheap with high foot traffic? Not likely.

I see that Council see one of their likely roles is as provider of a suitable public space. The options are slim. That they'll consider a public pvt p'ship probably recognises this. Getting the "low-cost space" desired will require the "clever property-share arrangement" that I've speculated about before (cheers for the link).

I found this aspect particularly interesting:
"Plans for Waitangi Park include the possibility of market-type activity, although this may need to be realised in the next stage of development which could provide all weather backup. The sale of fresh produce and food which occurs there at the moment is not necessarily compatible with an arts and craft market, although these are combined in some examples elsewhere and this remains a possibility."
It looks like giving the veggie market the heave is a consideration.

I'm looking forward to where they get to with this... Keep us posted!

Cheers, M.

At 9:36 am, September 12, 2006, Blogger Tom said...

Hi guv,

As far as I'm aware, the plans for that area of Waitangi Park still include the vege market. The inclusing of a surface carpark/market space was a requirement of the design competition.

It's interesting, though, that the chosen UN Studio scheme was the only one that didn't explicitly allow for the market. They rearranged the public spaces to provide an "elevated balcony" north of the building and the Chinese Garden south of the building, above a covered carpark. Both could conceivably allow for some sort of market, but not something that requires access by lots of big trucks.

I think that it's that aspect of the vege market that they see as incompatible with the craft market. Having bits of cabbage flying around in the wind, and a space dominated by trucks, isn't quite what they have in mind for their market, though I'd definitely see some sort of food and produce stalls being compatible with arts and crafts.

While I personally don't use the Waitangi or Victoria vege markets very often (I don't eat at home much, don't eat a lot of veges, and find there's too little variety there to draw me as a spectator), I think they're a vital part of Wellington and should continue. There are plenty of other possibilities for outdoor markets, which I'll consider in my next post on the topic.


At 11:04 am, September 13, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I lived for many years in Portland, Oregon (USA) and they have a very thriving Saturday craft market (Sundays too) which runs much of the year (late spring through our North American Christmas). It's housed under a bridge, in what is a parking lot for city workers during the week. It spills out into a paved square as well, so those stalls owners have to provide their own covers. It's done with some commitment from the stall folks- they sign up for the year. But they also go early on Saturday a pick out a spot for the weekend and this is tracked by the central staff. It's nice to have some organization to it all. There is also a food stall area, often music as well. Portland is a fairly rainy place, but it draws some tourists who make the trip to see the Saturday market, usually on the light rail line that runs right by the market.

I've got 2 thoughts on your potential market-
could it be placed in a neighborhood to start with and see if it grows from there?
is there any space in the CBD that seems a bit empty at the weekends? Even a carpark would work?
I've only visited once so I have the vaguest of notions, sorry.

At 3:30 pm, September 13, 2006, Blogger Tom said...

Hi Laura,

From what I understand, Portland sounds like it's a bit of a kindred spirit to Wellington, so we've probably got a lot to learn from you.

We definitely have some spaces on the edge of the CBD (which in Wellington means "10 minute's walk from the centre") that are empty at the weekend, at least two of which are currently used for Sunday vege markets. There's not a lot of covered space to use, though. There are some spaces under the motorway overbridge, but apparently these are still full of cars at the weekend, as our public transport (while great by NZ standards) is pretty infrequent off-peak, so they're used as carparking for weekend shoppers.

By "neighbourhood", do you mean an inner suburb rather than part of the CBD? That might work in a place like Thorndon or Newtown, though there's a danger that they'll never get a chance to build up a critical mass unless they're more central.

There are very good reasons for requiring shelter in Wellington (we may not be all that wet, but the wind is the big issue), but I'll write soon about other possibilities for street, carpark or semi-sheltered locations.

At 6:17 pm, September 14, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks Tom. I'm hoping to move to Wellington with my family this year, so that's why I'm here reading you to get to know some of the issues. I think that it would be hard to live in Portland as long as I did and not get interested in urban planning. Right now I live in another US city which wouldn't know good planning if it was hit over the head with it. So I'm missing those things like a vibrant center and good public transport. Yes, I was thinking about something like Newtown or the park in the Aro Valley? Mostly just because the city isn't risking much to try it out there. Who organized Craftwerk? Are they supporting this? Or is the government going to actually fund this?

At 2:14 pm, September 15, 2006, Blogger Tom said...

Maximus: yes, it would be a great site, especially if there's at least one semi-permanent shop in there as well so that it's not blank during the week.

Laura: Newtown or Aro Park could certainly work, as there have been one-off or annual fairs and markets there. It could be a way of starting small and building up a core loyalty, but it might not necessarily indicate how well it would scale up to a central market.

Craftwerk was just organised by a bunch of crafty people, evolving out of Bitchcraft, which had a little more of a feminist approach. As far as I know, I don't think they're behind it, though the council report says that someone had come to them with a proposal at one stage and it might conceivably have been them. But I imagine that the council has something a little more mainstream and "marketable" in mind (i.e. not so many crocheted vulvas!).

According to the report, the council sees its potential involvement as:

• Permitting an operator to use a suitable area of public space
• Provision of seed funding or setup funding
• Assistance with marketing, promotion, and linkage to other events
• Logistical and other support

So yes, the council intends to at least partly fund this, though they's look for operators from within the arts and crafts communities to run it.

At 2:31 pm, September 17, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"crocheted vulvas" ?? How the hell do they do that? Doesn't it hurt?

At 2:44 pm, January 22, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just moved from Oregon and stumbled upon this post in my search for something like Saturday Market here. I would think that PDX's Saturday Market might be something to borrow ideas from (http://www.portlandsaturdaymarket.com/). The bridge its under is actually an underpass as the road approaches the bridge. It is fairly sheltered from wind (two buildings on each side). You can take stairs down from the road, get off the train right there, or walk to it from just about anywhere. Its so popular because you don't have to plan to go (just show up on a weekend), has great things that you can't easily buy in stores (I'd buy most of my wedding gifts there - the pottery was great), a fun fair like atmosphere that drew non-shoppers as well who just want to people-watch or eat something from the food carts, and its very easy to get to. Its so popular that even if it was far from street parking, people would just walk/train to it. Its become a vibrant destination in and off itself, in spite of the raining weather Portland is known for. I could see something like this being really successful here, particularly if it tapped into weekend ferry traffic or was in an accessible park setting. - Shannon


Post a Comment

<< Home