Michael Ervin wasn't all that surprised to learn Central Market was named one of the top 10 "great public spaces" by a national planning organization.
"It's because we're a great place in America," Ervin, market manager since 2008, said Tuesday. "Everybody already knows that - but it's nice to have a national organization select us."
"Amen, brother," Mayor Rick Gray agreed.
"Without it, I don't think downtown would be what it is," Gray said. "It flourishes, and our city flourishes."
The American Planning Association, a group dedicated to "advancing the art, science and profession of good planning" in the United States, announced the 10 designees this week.
Sharing the honor with Central Market are East Park in Charlevoix, Mich.; the boardwalk in Virginia Beach, Va.; the Squares of Savannah, Ga.; the Grand Rounds in Minneapolis, Minn.; Central Square in Keene, N.H.; Queens Botanical Garden in Flushing, N.Y.; Lincoln Park in Chicago, Ill.; New Haven Green in New Haven, Conn.; and the Green in Dover, Del.
"This means everything to Central Market. That's a rather prestigious designation to receive," Ervin said.
Ervin said the focus and mission of APA is "to help make cities livable and visitable and special. For them to designate Central Market as one of the great places in America is just tremendous."
Ervin lauded chief city planner Paula Jackson for helping to secure the award for Lancaster.
Jackson, he said, "just dove in … and did a tremendous job" supplying APA with information.
"We do not know who nominated us," Ervin said. "I'm going to make the assumption that someone from the APA organization came to our market and saw what a wonderful place it was."
The market, laid out in the original town plan for Lancaster by Andrew Hamilton in 1730, is the oldest in the country to be in continuous operation in the same location.
It functioned as an open-air market until the first market house was built in 1757. The current brick market house - designed in 1889 in a Romanesque Revival style, including twin 72-foot-tall towers and Spanish roof tiling - was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1972.
It currently features 57 vendors from a variety of social, cultural and ethnic backgrounds and is visited by an estimated 3,000 customers each week.
APA Great Places, according to the organization's press release, "offer better choices for where and how people work and live every day, places that are enjoyable, safe and desirable. Such places are defined by many characteristics, including architectural features, accessibility, functionality and community involvement."
Central Market, the release stated, is "an exemplary model of a community's longstanding commitment to providing access to healthy foods for urban residents that is less transportation-intensive and more sustainable compared to grocery stores where often the majority of the products they sell have been shipped long distances."
"This historic market with its rich architectural details is the crown jewel of downtown Lancaster," APA CEO Paul Farmer said. "City officials, community leaders, stand holders, volunteers and residents are all to be commended because without their efforts and support, the market could not prosper as it has."
Gray said Central Market is "the garden spot of the Garden Spot, really. It's where it all comes together.
"It confirms that we're doing the right thing to make substantial investments in it … to preserve it for the future."
"It's been said time and time again," Ervin added, "but Central Market is the anchor of the downtown. It's where people who come downtown want to go, just for the experience.
"It's not just about shopping. It's a place to meet and make friends, socialize and just have a great time."