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Indianapolis looks to Cleveland, Philadelphia for City Market examples

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The troubled Indianapolis City Market is looking East for a new direction. This summer, its executive director, Jim Reilly, visited Philadelphia and Cleveland to observe their successful urban markets and seek pointers that might be applied here.

Self-sufficient with a $3.5 million annual budget and 5.2 million customers annually, Philadelphia’s Reading Terminal Market is what the Indianapolis City Market aspires to be. Located downtown with 78,000 square feet under roof, it opened its doors in 1892. Crowded inside, 80 full-time tenants and 12 part-timers sell a mix of fresh meat, seafood and produce along with a variety of prepared meals, from local favorites like cheese steaks to Italian, Greek and Mexican fare.

General Manager Paul Steinke said his market struggled in the 1970s and came close to closing. Philadelphia spent $35 million to fully restore the Reading Terminal Market in the mid 1990s. It benefits from Philadelphia’s downtown population—at 80,000, the third densest in the nation. Many residents shop there for groceries, and they come from all walks of life. Steinke said it’s common to see folks redeeming food stamps in line with clearly affluent shoppers, and a wide mix of locals mingling with tourists.

Reading Terminal enjoys several features City Market lacks, all of them contributing to its constant traffic flow. The famous Reading Railroad’s main passenger terminal was built above the market, so vendors have always had a reason to take root.

Indianapolis historic City Market is struggling with low traffic. (IBJ Photo/Robin Jerstad)

Today, Philadelphia’s convention center is right across the street. There’s also easy access nearby to the new train station and access points for the subway, bus or trolley. And Reading Terminal offers $2 per hour parking in a 5,000-space garage, the same as meters on the street, but far better than the $12 per hour for private lots.

“It all adds up to a lot of people passing near and through this market every day,” Steinke said. “Our success is both a factor of our location, and the way we manage the place to keep it relevant to both locals and tourists.”

With a $1.2 million budget and 1 million visitors annually, Cleveland’s West Side Market offers different lessons. Its manager, George Bradac, said his market has 100 stands in the main building and another 81 vendors in its vegetable arcade. It was founded in 1912. Cleveland stopped subsidizing operations in the 1980s, although the city is still on the hook for capital improvements.

Located outside the city at a mass transit hub, West Side Market is open only four days each week. Bradac said the recession has been a struggle, but weekends are still busy.

Perhaps most important is West Side’s continual marketing. Its tenants charge themselves dues that are applied to print, television, radio and billboard ads.

“Tenants are very involved in the operation of this building,” Bradac said.

Both Reading Terminal and West Side charge staggered rent rates for different kinds of stands. Fresh food vendors pay less than prepared food vendors do. The best locations inside the markets also go for a premium.

Steinke advises Indianapolis to aim for critical mass inside the City Market. Ultimately, he said, the success of an urban market rests on its mix of stands, and the ability of people to easily reach them.

“It’s all about leasing and finding vendors known for service and value, having them all under one roof,” he said. “You can reach a point where the total is greater than the sum of its parts. Any one of our vendors in a storefront might not do as well as in a group.”

 

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  • Ethnicity of vendors and music
    The variety of ethnic foods would be enhanced if live entertainment inside the market on the balcony or instrumentalist walking the market like is done in Mexico and some European nations. Prepare an area easily closed off with portable partitions for business meetings, networking, or private friends/family dining together. Terry a frequent "market patron".
  • Expected problems
    The immediate area has been 'gutted' of residential, office and retail. The Market doesn't need help--the area needs development, then the Market will once again be a viable resource. Unfortunately, due to poor planning and an inability to develop the multi-year old MSA parking 'desert'..what expectations should we have but what's evolved?

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  1. why oh why does this state continue to elect these people....do you wonder how much was graft out of the 3.8 billion?

  2. i too think this is a great idea. I think the vision and need is there as well. But also agree with Wendy that there may be better location in our city to fulfill this vision and help grow the sports of hockey and figure skating in Indy. Also to help further develop other parts of the city that seem often forgotten. Any of the other 6 townships out side of the three northernmost could benefit greatly from a facility and a vision like this. For a vision that sounds philanthropic, the location is appears more about the money. Would really like to see it elsewhere, but still wish the development the best of luck, as we can always use more ice in the city. As for the Ice growth when they return, if schedules can be coordinated with the Fuel, what could be better than to have high level hockey available to go see every weekend of the season? Good luck with the development and the return of the Ice.

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  4. You do not get speeding ticket first time you speed and this is not first time Mr.Page has speed. One act should not define a man and this one act won't. He got off with a slap on the wrist. I agree with judge no person was injured by his actions. The state was robbed of money by paying too much rent for a building and that money could have been used for social services. The Page family maybe "generous" with their money but for most part all of it is dirty money that he obtained for sources that are not on the upright. Page is the kind of lawyer that gives lawyers a bad name. He paid off this judge like he has many other tine and walked away. Does he still have his license. I believe so. Hire him to get you confiscated drug money back. He will. It will cost you.

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