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Landmark starts over Broadway Market management resigns and city seeks a new team with vision

If it were an easy matter to turn the moribund Broadway Market into the kind of unique destination that would not only rescue the city-owned landmark but also help revitalize the declining neighborhood that surrounds it, someone would have done it long ago.

After all, we've had 120 years to make a go of it.

But with the sudden demise of the Broadway Market Management Corp., which is abandoning ship after a 24-year tour, comes a new opportunity.

Common Council President David A. Franczyk, among those who was upset that the outgoing management outfit seemed to have little success and less vision, is happy to seize the opportunity. He has named a task force of business people and activists who have experience running community businesses, and festivals that should serve as models for the ongoing event that a modern urban market can and should be.

The indoor market, configured as a mix of meat markets, bakeries, diners and other shops, has been running as much as 40 percent vacant in recent years. Disputes between tenants and management have been frequent, and not everyone has felt good about paying his rent.

The management corporation, tired of what it saw as a maddening mixture of interference and nonsupport from City Hall, up and quit the other day. And it cannot fairly be saddled with all the blame for the decline of the market.

The Broadway-Fillmore neighborhood where it sits is not an economically thriving area. Fresh arugula and Italian espresso are not in great demand there, and the ethnic treats that are offered generally draw only during the Easter and Christmas seasons, when former neighbors, their children and grandchildren visit.

But a recent request from the market managers to lease space, recently abandoned by a bank, to a check-cashing business stood to do nothing but cement the market's image as the center of a low-income neighborhood, catering to poor families, with nothing to offer more affluent customers whose interest and disposable cash are necessary to build up the market and the neighborhood.

The lease to the check-cashing business is on hold for now, as the entity it was to sign with will cease to exist at the end of October. The management company's long-term replacement, when it comes into being, will have to consider whether such a business fits the new vision for the market.

But that vision should be a unique marketplace that seizes upon the growing popularity of local and healthy foods, combined with entertainment and some hot java. It would seem clear that the Broadway Market would have something better to offer its neighbors, and those it could draw from miles around.

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