Madison – In a prepared statement, Democratic candidates for Madison Borough Council, Councilwoman Astri Baillie and former Board of Education member Debra Coen, point to the weekly Farmers’ Market as an example of the many exciting events that the Downtown Development Commission (DDC) brings to Madison during the year.
Baillie and Coen agree that “there is nothing like the quality of the ‘Jersey Fresh’ produce available at the Market.” The Madison Farmers’ Market, which is now in its twenty-sixth year, is open from 2 to 7 pm every Thursday until October 25 and is located on Central Avenue between Main Street and Cook Avenue.
“In addition to its three anchor ‘Jersey Fresh’ farm stands – Alstede Farms of Chester, Melick’s Town Farm of the Oldwick section of Tewksbury Township, and Vacchiano Farm of Washington Township – the market offers many additional vendor and community group booths as well as free live music,” stated Baillie. “There are vendors offering prepared gourmet meals, baked goods, gourmet nuts and dried fruits, jams and jellies, all sorts of pickled treats, Italian ice, oils and balsamics, and much more. Unfortunately the popular Kettle Corn booth will be missing this year, but the DDC expects to have them back in 2019.”
Coen added, “The Farmers’ Market is only one of many fine DDC events that brighten up our town each year. In the spring, the DDC sponsors Madison’s May Day ‘spring clean-up’ project. It is also a co-sponsor with the Rotary Club and the Chamber of Commerce of the ‘Taste of Madison’ food and wine showcase held early in March. Together with the Madison Arts and Culture Alliance (MACA), the DDC sponsors the Madison sidewalk Gallery and Auction, and in the fall, it sponsors the Madison Storytellers Festival and the Bottle Hill Day Street Fair, held annually on the first Saturday in October.”
In addition to sponsoring downtown events, the DDC, which was created by Mayor Elizabeth Baumgartner and the Borough Council in 1981, maintains four standing committees that work throughout the year to enhance the downtown district: the University Relations Committee, the Marketing and Economic Development Committee, the Public Improvement Committee, and the Sign and Façade Committee, which reviews and submits recommendations on all sign permit applications for commercial uses.
“Although Madison’s commercial districts continue to attract new businesses that quickly fill most of the available commercial space in town, there have been a few chronic vacancies and there has been a lingering concern regarding the long-term viability of our downtown in the age of ‘Amazon’ and online shopping. And so the DDC and Borough Council made the joint decision in 2016 to hire an outside consulting firm to conduct a comprehensive study of the downtown,” stated Baillie. “As a member of the Council, I supported that decision. And now, the implementation of some of the study recommendations, particularly in the areas parking, regulation and zoning, will be our responsibility.
Back in September, the Borough Council unanimously approved an ordinance developed by the Planning Board that modifies the borough’s building occupancy code to make it easier for new businesses to rent existing, vacant storefronts in the downtown district. Then in January, we hired Lisa Ellis as a full-time Director of Business Development, who is now responsible for ‘promoting commercial activity in town by attracting and facilitating the success of new, as well as, existing businesses, by promoting all commercial and corporate districts particularly downtown, and by identifying and resolving those issues that hamper success.’”
Baillie and Coen concluded, “We believe that a vibrant downtown business community contributes to the overall quality of life in Madison. We therefore, enthusiastically support the many fine activities and events of the DDC and its partners that promote and enhance Madison’s downtown commercial districts and together, we invite all Madison residents and visitors to come down to Central Avenue and discover the fine offerings available every Thursday at the Farmers’ Market.”