Madison Public Market Foundation Announces the Hiring of New CEO

The Board of Directors of the Madison Public Market Foundation (MPMF) is pleased to announce that Keisha N. Harrison has been selected to serve as the Market’s first Chief Executive Officer (CEO). In this role, Harrison will have responsibility for shepherding the final phases of the facility construction, lead the tenant build-out phase, and establish the Madison Public Market as the premier regional market location. She will provide strategic, operational, and financial leadership while fulfilling the mission and vision of the MPMF and the Market – to create a vibrant, year-round public marketplace where entrepreneurs and businesses owned and operated by women, first generation immigrants and people of color can get their start.

Harrison leaves her role serving as the Executive Director of the Indianapolis City Market Corporation. She led activities related to the operation and restoration of the historic city market. Duties included implementation of policies and procedures, vendor leasing operations, stakeholder collaboration, budget development and monitoring, strategic planning and organizing special events. Harrison worked to improve food access for the community with responsibility for a weekly farmers’ market operating alongside the City Market. She received her Bachelor of Arts degree in English at Dartmouth College and her Master of Science degree in Library and Information Science at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

“I’m thrilled to join the vibrant community of Madison as CEO of the Madison Public Market Foundation. Together, we will create a dynamic and inclusive space that celebrates local food and entrepreneurship, and brings fresh opportunities to our city,” Harrison said.

Karen Crossley, President of the Madison Public Market Foundation, is pleased that this important element of the long-awaited project has come to fruition. “On behalf of the Madison Public Market Foundation that will serve as the Market’s operator, the City of Madison and the community at large, we are beyond thrilled to introduce Keisha Harrison as the Madison Public Market’s first Chief Executive Officer. Keisha brings abundant skills and talents to this position, and is enthusiastically and fully committed to bringing our shared community vision for the Market to life.”

The Madison Public Market Foundation (MPMF), a 501(c)3 organization, has been working closely with the City of Madison, community leaders and engaged local citizens for nearly two decades to build a Public Market. The Madison Public Market promises to be an inclusive, lively marketplace highlighting much of what makes the Madison community so special: locally grown and prepared delicious food, refreshing beverages and handcrafted artwork, jewelry, wearables, and collectibles. The Market will be a vibrant, year-round public marketplace where new entrepreneurs and long-established Madison favorites grow their businesses and achieve success.

The Market’s TruStage MarketReady Hall will house a food -oriented entrepreneurship and business center that will support small business owners who wish to grow, scale, and create food-related products. TruStage MarketReady Hall entrepreneurs will be offered shared, affordable access to commercial food production equipment and infrastructure that are often beyond the reach of typical low-capital start-ups.

The City of Madison is currently repurposing the former Fleet Service Building at the high-traffic corner of First and East Johnson Streets along the bustling East Washington corridor in downtown Madison. Following national best practices among the nation’s large public markets, the city will maintain ownership of the building while the MPMF will oversee the daily operation of the Market.

The former Fleet Services Building, located at 200 N. First Street dates back to the 1950s. It boasts a large open space with 45,000 square feet to house up to 30 permanent vendors, 100+ seasonal/temporary vendors annually, areas to host public/private events, a commercial kitchen, and large garage doors to welcome an open-air breeze during warmer months. Situated on 3.5 acres, the site will accommodate outdoor seating, live entertainment, food carts, and parking. To date, more than 230 applicants have expressed interest in vending within the Market.

MPMF is under the direction of a committed 16-member Board of Directors and is expected to have an initial operating budget of just over $1MM. The CEO position is MPMF’s first hire, the initial step in building a talented and dedicated team to carry out the mission and strategy of the organization. The Market is projected to attract 500,000+ visitors each year, support 130+ local businesses, create 100 jobs, and generate $16 million in local sales annually. The renovation was initiated in December of 2023 and the Market is currently scheduled to open in late Spring 2025.

Harrison will begin her position as CEO in mid-July. The Madison Public Market Foundation will notify the press and the community when she will be available for interviews after her start date. In the interim, Karen Crossley, President of the Madison Public Market, is available for interviews.

Cap Times: Madison Public Market funding proposal increases by $3.3 million

The Cap Times has reported on September 28 that City Council member Sabrina Madison has introduced a budget amendment to pay the extra money needed to build the long-awaited Madison Public Market, but her proposal depends on more help from Dane County.

The lowest bid from a contractor to reconstruct the building came in this month at $15.2 million, which is $2.7 million more than originally estimated and about $1.64 million more than the city can spend without additional funding approval. Madison officials cited inflated construction and labor costs as a reason the bids came in higher than expected.

Madison, the alder for District 17, partnered on her funding proposal with Ald. Regina Vidaver of District 5, and their plan would commit nearly $2.3 million in additional city money toward the project to help meet the total estimated costs including construction and furnishings.

An additional $1 million would come from Dane County if approved by the County Board.

If the City Council chooses to move forward with the project, approximately $1.64 million would be enough to fund the original budget for reconstruction. However, to buy furnishings, fixtures and equipment would add another $1.64 million to the project for a total of $3,279,755 beyond the current project budget. Read the Cap Times article Madison Public Market funding proposal increases by $3.3 million. Also, Dean Mosiman of the Wisconsin State Journal wrote an informative article that describes efforts to fully fund the Market following the higher than anticipated construction bids. Madison Council members propose $3.3M for Public Market traces the history of the Market project and provides insight into the current predicament.

In Memoriam: Leslie Watkins

Leslie Watkins

We mourn the passing of our friend and former Madison Public Market Foundation board member Leslie Watkins. She died March 5, 2023 at her Madison home surrounded by family and friends after a battle with pancreatic cancer. A Wisconsin State Journal article describes her as “the brightest light in any room”. Leslie was an entrepreneur, marketing expert, community advocate, retail guru and arts impresario. With her stationery store Paperteria, she became one of the first female African American retailers in Downtown Madison. She will be missed by many friends, family and associates.

Madison Community Foundation funds Market’s art expressions

The Madison Public Market Foundation is pleased to have been named a recipient of a $40,000 grant from the Madison Community Foundation (MCF). Announced on December 28, 2022, MCF offered total of $697,500 in grants to 12 nonprofits throughout the Madison area. The grants address opportunities and support organizations are in five focus areas, which include learning, community development, arts and culture, environment, and organizational capacity building. To support “Art, History and Culture”, the MCF grant will be used by the Madison Public Market Foundation to support art at the Public Market, particularly works celebrating Madison’s Indigenous, Black, Hmong and Latinx artists and communities. Read more.

Judge’s Ruling re: Homeless Shelter Bodes Well for Market’s Progress

The City of Madison has been hosting a men’s homeless shelter in the former Fleet Services building since the beginning of the COVID pandemic. Recently, the Common Council approved the purchase of a vacant big box location on Zeier Road, near East Towne. The City intends to use this site as a temporary location for the men’s shelter and continues to search for a permanent location. A private lawsuit was filed seeking to prevent the re-location of the homeless shelter to the Zeier Road site. In a favorable development for the commencement of Market construction, slated for fall 2022, a judge has declined to halt the City’s plans for the temporary shelter, allowing the City to proceed with their temporary shelter plans. Read the article describing the details of the lawsuit and the judge’s decision.


Small Business Spotlight: Melly Mel’s owner prepares for permanent storefront at Public Market

Please take a moment to watch this wonderful spotlight on Carmel Jackson and her dream of being a Public Market vendor. We are so enamored with her dedication to the Market and love of great food.

Channel 3000: Madison Public Market remains on track to open in 2023, despite site’s current use as homeless shelter

Special thanks to Channel 3 / Channel 3000 for their feature story of October 12. The reporter notes that the Madison Public Market, more than 15 years in the making, remains on track to open by fall 2023, and the Fleet Buiding’s current use as a temporary men’s homeless shelter will not change that timeline. Read the article and watch the video on the station’s webpage.

Isthmus Article: Steadfast despite setbacks

“Supporters of the Madison Public Market say construction will begin next fall” is the sub-headline in the October 11 online article published by Isthmus. Written by Jane Burns, the current status of the proposed Madison Public Market is discussed. The article gives insight into Carmel Jackson’s up and down journey as a someday vendor and the role the City of Madison has taken in helping the Market come to fruition. While the impact of COVID has been substantial, the article notes that we may finally be on our way to starting construction as planned.

We hope you find the article to be both interesting and informative.

Madison Magazine: City with a Heart

Read the full story

January 29, 2019. Madison’s nonprofits provide critical services that ensure the city’s rich resources are accessible to all its residents. In turn, they rely on the support of donors and the larger business community. So many private business leaders step up to the plate every day, knowing their employees value service and the opportunity to give back. These efforts not only benefit the populations each nonprofit intends to serve, but all of us. This is good, old-fashioned, genuine community building, and it’s alive and well in Madison. With this section, we honor our local nonprofits and the companies that go the extra mile to keep them running strong.

Madison Public Market

Imagine a bustling, vibrant, 45,000-square-foot public market showcasing the best of Madison’s local food and handmade goods. A treasured destination and important economic driver melding a 21st century local food economy with innovation and growth, particularly for communities that traditionally face barriers to entrepreneurism. Yet another spectacular landmark for which this city becomes famously known: Capitol Square. Monona Terrace. The Overture Center for The Arts. And, in 2021, the Madison Public Market.

“When we look at the best cities across our country and the world, most of them have thriving, colorful public markets. Madison is long overdue for a public market of our own,” said Jamaal Stricklin, Madison Public Market Foundation president.

Read the full story