Sunday, July 13, 2014

20 Years of Urban Design in Maine 13

As I mentioned in my last blog entry, I loved the Camden Market in London and thought Portland Maine could use that great urban experience. The thriving, burbling market atmosphere jived nicely with the current ideas on economic stability. The relatively new science of complexity shows us that a healthy macrosystem can only be achieved through a large number of very small changing events. Economists use complexity theory to show that a healthy macroeconomic system can only be achieved though a large number of very small changing businesses. 

In Maine, instead of people creating things at home and then jumping to a storefront on Congress Street and failing, we could have a street market as a step up from selling at home and a step before opening a storefront which would ensure more likely success and economic stability.

Here's the second half of the original article:

(To Jumpstart Livelihoods, Create A True Marketplace
By Michael Belleau copyright 2001)

...I propose that Portland make a big space for a marketplace, say six to ten times the size of Monument Square. A location within walking distance to the Old Port is key, but marketplaces can be in any area. They do not call for precious sites like the Old Port.

I have been to many markets in Europe, which you come upon by walking through the streets. These are dynamic places. Indoor markets, such as Fanueil Hall in Boston or the GUM in Moscow are one or two levels up from the starter stall of the street market. Frankly, they don't count as marketplaces in the traditional sense.

They are more like malls, and that is why the wonderful Portland Public Market (since closed a few years after this article was published) does not work as a market but more as a mall with restaurants and outlet stalls. This market has done great things by placing a public place in an area in need.

I lived in London for a short time and used to go to the Camden Market in the Camden Town section of the city on Saturdays. There, all kinds of products were for sale, and you could always find something someone made or resold that you needed.

It might be a sweater, socks, jewelry, books, or things completely invented by creative people, who all looked different from each other and had different temperaments and attitudes.

It is no secret that clothing designers go to marketplaces to discover the next trend.

When I walk into a marketplace I always feel I am in the beating heart of life itself. A thriving human life, unpredictable and yet continuously celebrating human existence.

A marketplace is the perfect petri dish for enterprise to grow. It is a seemingly chaotic system based on simple rules of stall and product that achieves remarkable success because it is always changing and adapting.

The relatively new science called, "complexity", used by economists, shows us that a healthy macrosystem such as an economy can only be achieved through a large number of very small changing events. 

Success at the marketplace micro level can lead to opening a shop on Congress Street with a good chance at success.

Without a micro success, macro successes are reserved for the gifted business person or the person with startup capital he can afford to lose.

The marketplace is not just for those without money. A person from a household with some means may want to stay at home and knit sweaters that she can sell at a stall, her children by her side.

Our education and career systems train us to go to school every day and learn how to focus for long periods of time in order to pick a career and then go to work from 9 to 5 and behave within very strict, "norms".

But people are all very different from one another and one person's normal is not necessarily another's. Employers expect a person to show up at a certain time and behave a certain way. Marketplaces are performance based. They allow for quirks in behavior and changing patterns of sales techniques. 

Our fixation on careers bypasses the most critical component of free enterprise: the mechanism to start from scratch with no established path of study.

Creating a marketplace is like handing everyone a fishing pole instead of handing out fish.

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