The North Market in Columbus, Ohio, could serve as a model for efforts in Colorado Springs.
The North Market in Columbus, Ohio, could serve as a model for efforts in Colorado Springs.

Among the many learning experiences during the recent regional leaders trip to Ohio, this one was purely personal.

After checking into the downtown Columbus hotel, I wanted to find a local place for a late lunch. Several other early arrivals offered the perfect solution.

Go to the North Market, they said, giving high marks to the city’s historic public market about four blocks away.

I’ve always had a weakness for public markets, so I jumped at the opportunity. As it turns out, the “North Market” in Columbus dates to 1876, and for decades the Ohio state capital had similar markets in every direction — north, south, east and west. This is the lone survivor, but it’s doing just fine, housing about 35 businesses within a short walk of much downtown residential development, hotels and businesses, including Progressive Insurance’s corporate headquarters.

North Market was easy to find, and the large parking lot was virtually empty, since the lunch crowd had cleared. The variety of food offerings was highly impressive, from sushi and pasta to barbecue, Mexican, Polish, Middle Eastern, deli, ice cream and more, even a Belgian place serving fresh-made crepes.

It was also fascinating to check out the North Market’s floral shop, cookware store and souvenir spot, not to mention a place with plenty of fresh produce. Along the way, I found out the market has more than 1 million visitors a year and a popular farmers market.

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Two days later, we saw a similar but larger place in Cleveland called the West Side Market, with a history tracing to 1840 and more than 100 vendors.

Those markets, but especially the North Market in Columbus with its more modest size, drove home a point. I’ve thought all along that Colorado Springs will have to make a public market happen at some point — it’s a critical ingredient in revitalizing our downtown’s residential appeal and to serve the needs of a growing center-city workforce.

But for Colorado Springs, that effort has encountered several obstacles, mostly tied to the uncertainty of the market’s location and finances. It looked to be heading for the former Gazette building east of downtown, but that didn’t work. More recently, the old Payne Chapel on South Weber Street has been the site.

After seeing that market in Columbus, I started thinking about the public market issue in a different way.

Just having a public market is important, but its location probably means more. It has to be in the true downtown area, not on the fringes. And if it can be in a recognizable, even historic building, all the better.

I thought about it at great length, trying to come up with an option that would have some of the attributes I’ve seen in Ohio and other cities.

Then, suddenly, a new idea came to mind. Perhaps we have the perfect location for the Colorado Springs Public Market, right under our noses.

That would be none other than our classic City Auditorium, at the corner of 221 E. Kiowa St., with its east side facing Weber. Sure, the City Aud is still capable of hosting different events, and it still has that big stage, not to mention the adjacent Lon Chaney Theatre.

The building has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1995. And without doubt, the Lon Chaney is worth saving, no matter what happens.

But why not at least consider turning the rest of the City Auditorium into the Public Market?

It’s just a block from the main bus terminal, it has ample parking and it’s convenient to anyone working or living in the heart of downtown. If the city would be willing to make a favorable deal, especially considering the potential impact of developing several dozen new small businesses, it could happen more quickly than you think.

And instead of just housing events, many with limited and/or fading appeal, the City Aud/Public Market could become a regular gathering place for thousands of people, perhaps eventually seven days a week.

Why not? Let’s at least talk about it — and see what happens.

12 COMMENTS

  1. I love this idea! It would be wonderful to see what could happen with the City as a partner in the Public Market effort as well.

  2. Love the idea! Wasn’t opposed to the church location, but this does sound like a possibility. Thanks for sharing your insight!

  3. I think the old restaurant by the train tracks behind the antlers hotel would be a good spot too.

  4. When I saw the image I had to read on because I thought this was the old Giuseppe’s location. This would be a good spot as well, walking distance from the busy spots downtown and the business around there.

    • I agree the old Giuseppe’s location would be great and the park across the street could be taken back for public use; family picnics and games. Parking is ample and you don’t have to drive around the block several times to find a parking spot. I love our downtown but with little parking and the endless requests for help I just don’t visit downtown or support local business like I should.

  5. I am pessimistic about such a mkt in our city having much success. Columbus, OH is smack in the middle of some of the richest soil in the country. We are not. Their growing season is much longer than ours. I know that each year when our farmers’ markets open up (usually around the end of June), all we get is lettuce, spinach, and other cold crops for several weeks. “Real” veggies begin to creep in around the middle of July but it’s Aug and Sep when we seem to reach our peak. States like Ohio, Indiana, Iowa have much more variety and have it earlier in the season. States like Ohio are turning out really good sweet corn in July. Not us.
    So I don’t want to be too negative, but I think we have a lot going against us for a good downtown market.

  6. I’ve long thought the Columbus North Market model would be so amazing here in COS. The whole concept is doable. Vendors and stalls. With weekend farmers market.
    Personally don’t see it as a good fit for the city auditorium. Mainly a parking issue. But other issues too. Possibly the Giuseppe’s location- unsure the price on that building. Too bad the ghost town museum by round house is not for sale …. Now that would be awesome.

  7. Great idea! @Curtis Pogue the Depot would be a great location as well. Hoping the organizers of the Public Market can find an adequate location. This would be a huge benefit to the downtown area.

  8. I think the ground floor of the Antlers hotel where all of the empty atrium shops are would be a good location. Great for a walkable lunch crowd and underground parking. There is also room for some outdoor seating in the courtyard. Great for hotel guests if they put a pharmacy/drug store in as well.

  9. We’ve been wondering all along why Walmart, Sprouts or Whole Foods doesn’t open a neighborhood market store downtown. The area could also use a Dollar Tree and a pharmacy too! Let the rebuilding begin!

  10. This foolish. There is not enough of the clientele for something like this to fly in COS. After being here for 20 years I’ve come to the conclusion no one really cares about this type of development & this would be destined for failure. Good luck with the idea, just don’t foist the burden on the rest of us when it collapses.

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