By C.J. Barbre

ABC Channel 30 news described Lindsay's Friday Night Farmers Market and Street Fair as akin to a European Village in a weekend report last Saturday.

This is the first such reference to this reporter's knowledge about the influx of 200 vendors and several thousand locals and visitors the market each Friday.

This is the final article in a series of three about the city of Lindsay deciding to make themselves the experts. Using a technical assistance grant designated to "conceptually design downtown," the city sent the entire city council, several staff members, the Sweet Brier Plaza market manager/events coordinator and this reporter to some workshops in New York City given by the Project for Public Spaces (PPS).

PPS has counseled more than 400 communities across the nation and worldwide in its 30-year history about creating great public spaces, town centers or squares and public markets which they say are the ground floor of revitalizing local economies. They teach that the knowledge is already within the community and just needs to be tapped, rather than bringing in outside experts.

PPS shows how to turn the architects, engineers and other professionals into resources to communities, instead of allowing them cart blanche to create grand designs. Design becomes a secondary tool to support the desired uses of community spaces. Solutions are flexible and build on existing successes. And finally, commitment grows as citizens are empowered to actively shape their public realm.

PPS referred to Bleeker Street in Greenwich Village as "one of the best shopping streets in the U.S. or the Left Bank of America." In the June 8 Los Angeles Times food section a writer took a similar walk around the area from the Green Market at Union Square over to the West Village, as the workshop participants took in our first report, but she was doing some real shopping along the way, not just what she could eat as she walked.

"I had just bought fresh asparagus and even fresher fluke (fish). And I was on my way to one of the best bakeries anywhere, an Amy's Breads that had recently opened on a block that has now become almost Parisian in its assemblages of high-end fish dealer - Wild-Edibles Seafood, world-class Murray's Cheese and Falcco's Pork Store which opened around 1900," Regina Schrambling wrote in a special to the Times. Amy Scherber, owner of Amy's Breads, said people wanted to at least pair an organic baguette with an artisanal cheese.

Schrambling is actually writing about bread. At Amy's she buys "chewy whole-grain olive and semolina loaves." A few blocks away at the Blue Ribbon Bakery she buys "a perfect flaxseed loaf and a flatbread filled with bacon and onions." A few days later she is at a place noted for pistachio-walnut bread, cheese bread and dense prosciutto-black pepper bread, where she buys saffron-walnut bread and a Viennese baguette packed with chunks of dark chocolate.

"While most of the rest of the country has to settle for squishy Italian or baked on premises supermarket bread, here in what is virtually a European satellite, we can walk into Dean & Deluca, one of several upscale markets in the city that gather breads rather than bake their own, and take our pick from no fewer than 17 bakeries." She said it had expanded into an "artisanal cornucopia."

Lindsay's farmers market has not expanded this direction yet. Although the produce dealers are selling out of some commodities and you can regularly purchase locally processed olives, other possible "European-style" food items have not appeared. It seems as if this could be courted, even by a middle-man as "agri-business" often seems to think it not worthwhile to sell retail. Some enterprising entrepreneur could market the artisan cheese, wild honey, gourmet nuts and any of the other 250-350 (depending on how you count varieties) types of food items grown and produced within 180 miles of Lindsay (the defining space for Manhattan's 26-year-old Green Market farmers market participants), although 50 miles would be more than adequate.

We asked participants how what they learned could translate into improvements in Lindsay. Following are their responses:

Ed Murray, Mayor:

To me it was a big eye-opening experience, the market thing. The first morning was duplicative (PPS had given the same workshop in Lindsay a few weeks previous), but we could take back and share with small groups of people. We didn't get a lot of it the first time, and feel a lot better equipped. I really didn't understand about all the different types of markets.

It was the most eye-opening experience because different markets appeal to different people. At a seven-day a week market in the Moore Building (that faces on the farmers market at Honolulu Street and Sweet Brier Avenue and is slated for reconstruction) I would like to see fish and meat. I don't know if it could support individual vendors, or would be one big operation.

A lot can be done as far as the type of outdoor market we develop. We're advocating vendors help pay the cost, to have a balance. We want to see more food and produce as compared to retail goods. Our local group wants produce 12 months of the year. The focus is to get as many local growers as we can.

Pam Kimball, Mayor Pro Tem:

Attending the New York City workshop was an eye-opening and valuable experience. I witnessed the vitality of life without private automobiles. Everyone in Manhattan walks. There are huge, multilevel shops, but also many, many small shops and eateries. Even with the skyscrapers, it's on a more human scale at the street level than the sprawling cities we have here in California. There was a great deal of human contact and variety, and I think people like that. We are naturally social creatures. We thrive on a bit of controlled chaos and jumble. It makes life interesting. That is one reason why our Friday night mercado here in Lindsay is so successful. Of course we need to be able to retreat to some solitude once in awhile too - I was quite happy to come home to my small town and open spaces!

If we're smart, we can take from the best of both worlds. We can't, and don't want, to mimic Manhattan, but it doesn't have to be all about sprawl either. We can promote small vendors, shops, and markets. People the world over have a natural affinity for that kind of social shopping experience. I learned some principles about what makes a great place. It's not being expensive and neat and sharp and impressive in design as much as it is being varied and comfortable and interesting with a lot of things going on and now and then something surprising. We should be able to do that in Lindsay.

I was impressed with the idea that we ought to build our communities around what makes people smile. Not that community design can make people happy, but it ought to do what it can to contribute to that and not detract. I think those of us who went to New York came back with a better idea of how we can do that as we move forward on some key projects in town.

Steve Velasquez, Councilman:

I just got a bunch of ideas of how to do some of our sidewalks and flower beds and how we think about it when we go through the process of creating the place or storefront. Streets for instance, I got ideas on outside eateries, tables on sidewalks, that sort of thing, to help our local businesses change the atmosphere of our downtown.

One specific idea that I was thinking about was actually bringing a little bit of New York to Lindsay and maybe using some properties and housing the way they do. We went through a neighborhood, the brownstones in Greenwich Village - we could build a section of downtown like that with touching buildings with the steps. There are a couple of places that it might work and would really fit in, especially with the whole design of downtown with the housing and apartments upstairs.

I think getting away and thinking out of the box was really key. It was really refreshing to be around people from other states and countries who were thinking the same way, out of the box. And if I can help these people on the spot in New York, like this guy from Australia, surely in our own community we can develop a community we can be proud of.

John Stava, Councilman:

The main thing that just impressed me in New York was the restaurants. Virtually every restaurant opened up onto the street and had seating out on the sidewalk or at least was open to the sidewalk. It was such a friendly and inviting type thing. That was probably the most impressive thing that I saw that intrigued me, that would transfer for use here to Lindsay.

I had a really great time.

Danny Salinas, Councilman:

We learned we were all on the same page. We all felt that the different areas that we visited - conversation areas and restaurant areas - we noticed that everybody was congregating in the same areas and it seemed like it was fun. One of the council members would bring up a suggestion (regardless of who it was) and everybody would play off of the same idea so everybody was working toward the same goal.

The seating areas were a big deal. One person would say we can put them diagonally, and other would say, if we put them this way could talk more. It seemed like ideas avalanched.

It was just great!

Virginia Loya, Sweet Brier Plaza Market Manager and Events Coordinator:

I learned about myself. What I did pick up at our market meetings is that there are different insurance deals for markets and a company from Florida has faxed me information. So I'm shopping for better insurance.

Compared to what other market managers said was their situation, I feel that I'm managing the market very well, so I'm happy about that. Walking around other markets showed us we can't have a lot of the same things. Things are working out very well here in Lindsay.

The other stuff about fixing Lindsay's downtown, I feel like we picked up a lot of things. We need more seating areas around town. We need different styles of buildings so they are more welcoming to people from outside that come in. I have a list at home that I've been writing down. I think if we just do a few of the things that we saw there, it would make the downtown more inviting and bring more people to the downtown area.

I think we accomplished a lot on that trip.

Diane Bucaroff, Community Development Department Manager and grant writer:

One of the important items that sticks in my mind about the workshop is that any ordinary citizen can create "good public spaces." Many of us are afraid to offer our input. But in our Friday session with PPS, we broke into small teams; each of us was able to analyze a portion of Battery Park. When we assembled back at our meeting a few hours later, I was amazed by the data everyone had. Giving insights from a user's point of view was amazing.

Using PPS' approach in creating spaces in Lindsay will be so beneficial to everyone. In the past, public spaces centered on the design, now design becomes secondary. What has proven to be successful and has taken the lead is the community input and shared vision.

Parking: I was amazed on how parking lots are now turning into parks (public spaces). After our PPS workshops I identified myself as a guilty party when it comes to parking. I am one who always wants to park directly in front of the building I want to enter. I now see things differently. For example: I should be able to park in front of Palmers Insurance, and still be able to walk to Bank of the Sierra without driving my car. We have become a spoiled society when it comes to parking. What is the problem of walking a block or two? I found that in New York it was a pleasure to walk everywhere. You are able to see things more clearly, enjoy the fresh air, say hello to a passerby and most importantly, get some exercise.

Kindon Meik, Community Development Consultant and grant writer:

I was looking over my notes and found some things that might be of interest:

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