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The role of public markets in urban habitability and competitiveness

Carlos J.L. Balsas (Independent Researcher, New York, USA)

Journal of Place Management and Development

ISSN: 1753-8335

Article publication date: 7 January 2020

Issue publication date: 6 February 2020




The purpose of this paper is to examine public market functions in three different continents (Europe, North America and Asia) and to identify a set of planning implications for their use in contexts of urban regeneration.


The paper presents a comparative analysis of four downtown market functions based on the LABiMAAM framework: [L]ocation; [A]ccessibility; [B]uilding; [i]nternal structure; [M]ain trading area; [A]menities and services; [A]nimation program; and [M]anagement structure.


The lessons learned suggest that centrally located public markets possess: social functions aimed at guaranteeing food security, urban development goals that prevent the leap-frog suburbanization of the territory, walkability goals that reduce automobile dependence and welfare goals that support disenfranchised, usually minority, populations.

Research limitations/implications

Positive and dire implications are identified. The former are structured in terms of these five categories, namely, social, financial, macro-spatial, environmental and public space; while the latter tend to result mostly from the abandonment of the public good orientation associated with having a public market function in a central location.


This study results from the realization of increasing developmental pressures and widespread tendencies to multiply specialized retail offers in both traditional, and especially, innovative commercial formats. The findings comprise the identification of public policies aimed at augmenting the relevance of commercial urbanism and urban regeneration strategies.



An earlier version of this study was presented at the VIIth International Seminar on City, Retail and Consumption, September 16-21, 2019 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The author would like to thank the participants for their perceptive comments. The author would also like to thank the two anonymous reviewers and the special issue editors of the Journal of Place Management and Development for their insightful comments and suggestions.


Balsas, C.J.L. (2020), "The role of public markets in urban habitability and competitiveness", Journal of Place Management and Development, Vol. 13 No. 1, pp. 30-46.



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