I've often wondered why urban advocates don't clamor for more street markets and flea markets in our communities. They might be a little rough on the eyes (though certainly not always), but they do something important: they actually get people out walking around. They bring life to places. And that's not to minimize that they also promote commerce and entrepreneurship.
I remember my first visit to the locally-famous Keller's Market in Savannah a few years ago. I was amazed at the size of the place, the variety of things for sale and the amount of people walking around. If that market was in the center of any small town or neighborhood it would instantly be one of the liveliest places around, even if it was just Thursday-Sunday. Sadly, Keller's is on its own along a highway strip, forcing all who want to shop or eat to drive there.
I mention this topic because Mike Lydon and his company, the Street Plans Collaborative have released a new document called Mercado: Lessons from 20 markets across South America. It's 100+ pages of examples, photos and more that celebrate Latin American markets. In my mind, it's a topic long overdue and ties in so directly with his previous efforts on Tactical Urbanism. I recognize some may cringe at the thought of flea markets as a positive, but I'm a firm believer in looking for techniques and practices that actually work to get people out walking around and make lives better. Maybe a flea market like this doesn't have a home at Main & Main (though a fair number of small towns could do much worse), but we absolutely should find places for these somewhere in the hearts of our cities and towns.
Below I've added a few photos of my own from markets I've visited (apologies for the quality of some of these). Markets are from Colombia, China & Hong Kong.