Main streets are the backbone of a community, but they don't have to have just one look and form. Ithaca Farmers Market has all the makings of a great main street even though, technically, it isn't one. All the vendors are local. Everyone is a unique character with deep roots in the community, cordial and full of pride. There is diversity and joyful interactions that take place everywhere. The social connections are bursting at the seams. The only problem is that it is not located downtown, it's on the water. However, this could be considered a benefit rather than a drawback as it has the potential to become a great waterfront destination with people coming by boat to shop and partake in this wonderful experience, especially if it expands its activity to more days and evenings.

What Can Main Streets Learn From Markets?

Sitting on the waterfront, Ithaca's market shed is the length that a good small town main street often is. It is what we call "double-loaded" which means there are offerings on both sides of the pedestrian path, just like a good main street should have. It is full of local businesses, things to see and do, and its atmosphere is vibrant with a camaraderie that brings joy to all. This is the kind of look and feel that we find in the best main streets.

The Main Street Hall

People come with families and friends, creating a vibrant and fun environment.

There are numerous vendors providing goods of all kinds.

Stalls expertly show off their diverse offerings to attract visitors.

Vendors with warm and interesting personalities make you feel welcome.

Each vendor is highlighted with creative and memorable signage.

The "main street" doesn't end inside the market. Gathering places line the outside of the hall with spots to sit and enjoy the goods bought within.

This concept of market-as-main-street could be woven into failing main streets or act as a burst of new energy that so many main streets desperately need...Main street could grow in or around a market setup, occupying existing empty buildings and creating public spaces around them. Village Greens could be turned into squares with market stalls. Existing businesses would benefit most with a vibrant new location to showcase their goods.

The Ithaca Farmer's Market is a great example of how the backbone of a community doesn't have to be a street. While its form is different, its function of bringing people together and providing a platform for local businesses remains the same as it is on a great main street. The key to a main street is creating opportunities for social and commercial life to flourish. A market like Ithaca's is one way to make that happen.


Street Markets


Paris does inside-out especially well on Neighborhood Market Streets. Here are some photos of Paris mastering the concept through outside seating, displays of produce and more.

Rue de Buci
Rue Montorgueil

Other great markets:

London’s Borough Market: A Public Market Driven by and for Social Life
The Borough Market is woven into the neighborhood. Coming at it from multiple directions one finds themselves suddenly in the market. The intensity increases as you get into the many the hearts of the market.
Public Markets - Social Life Project
Using Markets to Bring Social Life Back Everywhere: Markets are hubs of community life; People are drawn to markets that attract a diverse set of visitors; they tend to shop at markets with friends and family; and the energy of a market allows us to “bump” into neighbors and friends, because a trip…

Who We Are

The Place Man Documentary
We recently attended a pre-premiere of The Place Man, a new documentary about our work in placemaking over the last 50 years, made by the wonderful Guillermo Bernal. It got us thinking about the state of the placemaking movement and what’s next.
The mission of the Social Life Project is to incite a renaissance of community connection in public spaces around the globe. Our work grows out of more than 50 years devoted to building the global placemaking movement. It is an initiative of the Placemaking Fund, along with PlacemakingX — a global network of leaders who together accelerate placemaking as a way to create healthy, inclusive, and beloved communities. Through our online publication, presentations, campaigns, and catalytic projects, we can create transformative impact on communities everywhere.

If you are interested in our helping to build a community-wide campaign or catalytic interventions, presentations, exhibits, and more or supporting the cause contact us.

"There are more and more of us fighting for a different vision of the world—a world that takes care of our most precious resources: the air we breathe, the water we drink and the places we share."   -Mayor of Paris, France
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