MDM: Mankato open air market

Ok, so MDM is just going to be any day from now on…because it’s Monday somewhere?

Shut up. I know it’s not.

Anyway, this week’s MDM is inspired by the Public Market Conference that’s been happening for the past 9 years. Wish I was attending, but I’m not.

This got me to thinking, Ben and I have always been advocating for the Mankato Farmer’s market to move downtown, along with others, but it just hasn’t happened for a whole lot of reasons. Maybe it’s because we don’t have the space? Front street, yes, would be cool, but I know it would be cramped because of trucks, vans and what have you. You would also have to shut down the street completely, something I can see people not being too happy about, especially given the fact that the parking ramp for the Tailwind buildings isn’t open yet.

This idea then kind of spiraled into something more. Why should the farmer’s market get their own thing…why can’t we have a bunch of markets? There are plenty of makers in Southern Minnesota and around the state that would love to be part of a market event.

Enter stage left, Mankato’s open air market. Open air markets are all over the world. A quick Flickr search will show you the endless amounts of pictures that people have taken of said markets. Some of them are part of an “event” some of them are part of every day life. Either way, they’re all pretty cool.

So, if not Front. then where? Well friends, I think I have just the spot.

Screen Shot 2014-10-20 at 11.46.31 AM

If you’re not sure where that is, you can view it here in relation to the rest of the city, or I’ll have it later in the article.

The warehouse that you see is currently privately owned (though I have no idea what they do there), however, the large adjoining lot (dirt) is owned by the city… again, I have no idea what they’re planning on doing with it or currently use it for.

But that building is pretty cool. You can see it when you drive over the Northstar Bridge. I think that this would be the perfect spot for a large, public, open air market.

Now, granted renovating the building could be a pretty expensive project, I think it would be worth it if you could secure funding to build a steel truss type of “roof” on the open cement area. My thoughts were something similar to the train stations in Germany:


Berlin HBF Courtesy of this guy on Flickr

A roof like this would let in lots of light while simultaneously keeping rain or snow out. There’s a lot of different roof styles you could use, but this is just the first one that came to mind.

A market like this could foster a lot of different groups that want to use it in both the summer and the winter. In fact, I was thinking in the winter, you could have the outdoor market area double as an ice skating rink. I’d imagine you could get permission to pump water from the Minnesota River, conveniently located over the dike.

In my ideal world, the building would be renovated and restaurants and/or shops would bid to have a chunk of it. Can you imagine a place like Olive’s or Number 4 right inside a cool old building connected to a market? I see the cash flowing already.

Here’s my crude mockup of what I think it could look like:

Likewise, I think this is a good space because it could act as an attraction and anchor to an area in need of redevelopment. You’re also only a 6 minute walk from the new Children’s Museum, a 15 minute walk from Front St and/or Sibley Park.  You’re also within walking distance of a pretty dense area of town, the Lincoln Park neighborhood.

Not to mention, it’s right at the intersection of the Red Jacket Trail and North Minnesota river trail… The more I write, the more I realize how much this spot has going for it. I’ve just now remembered that a good chunk of Sibley parkway is slotted for high density development.


So, there you have it. A market for Mankato. Something that could be multi-use, promote local economic development and fun for the community.

Cover courtesy of Ali Eminov on Flickr

About Matthias Leyrer

Matthias Leyrer is a resident of Mankato looking to restore a fraction of its old glory. He writes about the economic, aesthetic, practical and financial issues facing the city of Mankato going forward.