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Uptown Site Remains Neighborhood Attraction

December 8, 2003

Mark Miester
Phone: (504) 865-5714

mark@tulane.edu

The complex known as Uptown Square has long been a landmark on the levee in Uptown New Orleans. In recent months the site has become home to a growing number of Tulane tenants, but Tulane officials see the property not just as part of the university but as part of a neighborhood.

marketTulane has donated space at different times to both Lusher Elementary and Audubon Montessori schools, but probably the highest-profile local use of Uptown Square takes place on Tuesdays between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m., when the Crescent City Farmers Market transforms Uptown Square's parking lot into a bustling community marketplace.
 
Each week, about 30 individual, family and small-business vendors from across the region sell their seasonal fresh fruits and vegetables, flowers and bedding plants, fish and shellfish, baked goods, mushrooms, artisan cheeses and other delicacies.

You also can find unique culinary-related services, such as knife sharpening. A program of Loyola University's Economics Institute, the Crescent City Farmers Market was launched in 1995 to promote ecologically sound economic development on a regional basis. The success of the original Farmers Market on Saturdays in the Central Business District led the institute to expand to Uptown Square three years ago.

According to Darlene Wolnik, associate director of the Economics Institute, the Tuesday market is the second most popular of the institute's three markets, attracting between 700 and 800 shoppers each week, and it's unique in that its customers include many chefs from Uptown restaurants, who draw on the market's ever-changing selection to build their menus. Well-known chefs aren't the only high-profile supporters of the market.

"I go every Tuesday," says Cathy Pierson, chair of the Board of Tulane. "It's the freshest food you're going to get anywhere in town, and it's a leisurely way to shop. You run into friends and you get to know the vendors, so there's a real community-building component."

While the Tuesday market preceded Tulane's purchase of Uptown Square, Wolnik says Tulane has been a generous partner. "Tulane has donated storage space to the market, as well as offering us a nice clean bathroom, which our vendors--some of whom travel two hours to get here--really appreciate," she says. "If you look at Tulane's mission, you've got education, research and service," Pierson adds. "I think that supporting the Farmers Market really comes in the area of service to the community."

In the past, students from the A. B. Freeman School of Business have done consulting projects for the market, and students in the School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine helped redesign educational information distributed to the seniors who receive Seniors/Farmers' Market Nutrition Program coupons. In addition, the market has partnered with a Tulane/Xavier obesity program to explore ways of bringing healthier foods to high-risk neighborhoods.

With Tulane's increased presence at Uptown Square, Pierson envisions other potential collaborations with the market. Enjoying the market is easier for faculty and staff than they may realize. The Uptown Square shuttle departs from Law Road and Freret every 20 minutes throughout the day, enabling shoppers to avoid the worry of parking.

Making the trip even more appealing is a new weekly lunch feature of the market, the Green Plate Special. Each week, a chef from a local restaurant offers a changing menu of a la carte items and lunch-plate specials. Diners can either take their food to go or eat at one of several picnic tables. The latter is Pierson's preference.

"New Orleans has eight months of beautiful weather," she says, "so it's a wonderful environment."

Mark Miester can be reached at mark@tulane.edu.

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