Why a Fresno Public Market Would Be Great for the San Joaquin Valley
Once again talk has emerged that a Fresno Public Market could be plunked in the city’s downtown. Its home would be in the former Gottschalks department store building (pictured), which once anchored the city’s thriving downtown but has been mostly vacant since the late 1980s.
Public markets have been a thriving section of downtown districts for centuries--in Europe, of course, and eventually here in the United States. Baltimore has had a network of public markets for over 200 years. After slowly dying off, they have come back and have helped cities revive their center core: witness the Public Market in Milwaukee, Washington DC’s Eastern Market and the Ferry Terminal Building in San Francisco. Cities from Los Angeles to Grand Rapids have seen the value of building or reviving these markets, and therefore providing another reason for local civic pride.
For all the diversity of the produce and other food products that thrive in the San Joaquin Valley, very little of it can be seen here locally. One reason is the value of the products: it makes economic sense to ship those pomegranates and pistachios elsewhere in the U.S. and the world. In addition, Fresno has always done a poor job promoting itself: city and county leaders have been more concerned with aligning themselves with local building developers than constructing a vision for Fresno and the surrounding region. Farming is something we should be celebrating as it is the foundation of our economy--not something we should defend or shy away from.
The result is that food products often touted as “local” in southern California and the Bay Area are often from the Central Valley. They should, however, be showcased first in Fresno. We should provide farmers and local food artisans a focal point for showing off their goods. Plus a rebirth of the Gottschalks building would help revive downtown Fresno and start the revitalization of a neighborhood rich in architecture and history but long neglected.