Weekend Flea Market to be Much Reduced by Stanton Eastbanc Hine Development

Weekend Flea Market to be Much Reduced by Stanton Eastbanc Hine Development

by Larry Janezich

No matter what happens, the Eastern Market weekend flea market will be smaller in the future.

Competing interests of the city, the developer, and Eastern Market have put the squeeze on the weekend flea markets and the vendors who operate outside the market on weekends.   Stanton Eastbanc’s current development plans do not allow for a full weekend flea market, and the city has no immediate or obvious plans to either compel the developer to make room for the flea market or to create a new home for it that will accommodate its current size.

One of the requirements for all the contractors who bid for the Hine development was that “sufficient space” for the flea market had to be provided.  The original Stanton Eastbanc plan for the development which got the nod from the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development would have provided 90 spaces for vendor’s tents on the newly reopened C Street, and on a square plaza centrally located within the project and set back from the middle of the newly opened C Street.

After the project was awarded to Stanton Eastbanc, the size of the project increased and the space for the flea market was shrunk.  Currently the plan provides for space for 68 vendor tents on C Street.  The plaza – originally touted as vendor space – currently appears to be reserved for public space including water features and café seating (which is proprietary and not public space).

Most people don’t realize that the weekend outdoor market comprises three entities:  the food and non-food vendors outside Eastern Market, on 7th Street and on the natatorium plaza under control of Barry Margeson, Eastern Market manager; the Saturday flea market on the Hine playground, managed by Carol Wright; and the Sunday flea market, managed by Diverse Market Management, owned by Michael Berman.  The popular weekend market attracts up to 30,000 visitors and supports up to 150 vendor tents on a good weekend, according to Berman.

Councilmember Tommy Wells is currently re-writing legislation establishing a Trust which will be the new governing authority for Eastern Market, including the weekend flea markets.  The legislation – which may be revealed within days – will likely provide for consolidating the management of the three outdoor markets under the Trust.  The goal of the Market is to be self-sustaining within ten years, and it is difficult to imagine a scenario that will allow it to be so without consolidating control of the weekend market and using vendor fees toward that end.  Currently, the two flea market managers each pay $24,000 annually to the city to rent the Hine parking lot on weekends, and they in turn charge individual vendors for space on the weekends.

In addition to concern over the number of vendor tents accommodated under current plans, Michael Berman calls Stanton Eastbanc’s proposal for parking 50 vendor trucks in the development’s parking garage problematic, noting that many of his vendors deal with large pieces and that access to C Street for set up with be limited to one small service elevator.

In an apparent attempt to salvage the current weekend flea market’s size and diversity, Councilmember Wells has floated the option of closing 7th Street on weekends to accommodate vendors who cannot fit onto C Street, but Berman notes that at best, there are spaces for 50 vendors.

In addition, the Eastern Market Community Advisory Committee (EMCAC) opposes closing of 7th Street for several reasons, including detrimental impact on the “brick and mortar” merchants on 7th Street, loss of 30 parking spaces on 7th Street, and loss of access to the new development’s loading dock.  EMCAC has also gone on record opposing Stanton-Eastbanc charging vendors for use of the new C Street as well as charging vendors for the 50 spaces reserved for vendor parking in the development on weekends.  (EMMCA is currently supporting subsidized parking for vendors on weekends so as to prevent vendors from seeking parking on residential streets.)

There are other ways to provide space for vendors, including widening the sidewalks on 7th Street and/or C Street, or widening the plaza on C Street.  All of these would involve changing the footprint of the building, which will undoubtedly be resisted by Stanton Eastbanc.  The developer’s private ownership of C Street also imperils the market; as currently written, the ground lease allows the developer to unilaterally close down the flea market if it wishes.  EMCAC is strongly opposed to permitting the developer to have this authority and supports language in the new Eastern Market legislation to prevent it.

The flea market manager’s contracts with the city extend until construction on the new project begins – currently slated for September 2013.  What happens after construction begins and in the interim until the newly reopened C Street is ready to accept vendor operations is uncertain.  Commissioner Brian Pate, ANC6B’s representative to EMCAC, reported to ANC6B Tuesday night, that EMCAC’s current position is that the developer created this problem and should solve it without shifting responsibility to the city to close 7th Street.  He also called upon EMCAC to step up and develop a plan for the flea market during the construction phase.


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17 responses to “Weekend Flea Market to be Much Reduced by Stanton Eastbanc Hine Development

  1. Eric

    The solution is easy. Close 7th and part of C. It’s ridiculous that cars try and drive up 7th street anyway with all the pedestrians about. The only loser are the people who rent the spaces to the vendors. I don’t feel sorry for them. A permit should be required to set up on the street and that revenue go directly to the city. I’d much rather be able to walk the entire length of 7th without fear of being run down anyway.

  2. Vernon

    At the risk of the wrath of all opposing the Stanton design (myself included), I think it is important to remember that the weekend flea market will be decimated during the entire construction period regardless of the final design.

    That would be the best time to try different arrangements and work out a solution.

    Regarding “closing part of C” do not forget that there are homeowners on C. It is primarily a residential street. I really hope no one is proposing to close my street 104 days a year.


  3. cc

    Why not close 8th as well? I guess the residents would totally flip out.

    How about N. Carolina? Like from Independence west up to the pool, vendors can set up on the street, and then the rest of NC from 6th east up to the pool would be open to cars, but only to residents. A security person would need to be hired, or just strong meter maid enforcement, including on Sundays.

    I moved to Capitol Hill because of Eastern Market and the flea market.

    I was against the Hine plan because it’s hideous, but it didn’t seem to affect the function, so I was going to live with it. However, the loss of the flea market is unacceptable, so now I’m going to have to fight it.

  4. There’s already a large, flat, mostly open and underutilized parcel available – the Metro plaza.

  5. Eric

    cc – there is no need to close additional streets unless you want to expand the number of vendors.

    Vernon – closing 7th, the new C street connection and the portion of C from 7th to the alley behind the market would likely provide enough space. This wouldn’t close off any residential street area. Of course the construction will make some of that impossible (the C street expansion doesn’t yet exist and I’d imagine some of 7th may closed off during construction.) I’m not sure what you do for vendor space while construction is taking place.

    There is always the space at the Eastern Market metro plaza, but that’s really not a good plan as PA Ave separates the two areas and it would create a really disjointed flea market.

  6. Kathleen

    Actually, the space along Metro plaza is largely unusable for market purposes because of landscaping and the inability to park and load/unload.

    So, I’m actually having difficulty understanding exactly what this development IS going to do for the neighborhood. The developer’s can’t name a specific benefit to the neighborhood in their PUD, and they obviously weren’t kidding. A couple of weeks ago some people posted that they’d rather have an empty school building, and I remember thinking, “that’s nuts.”

    But if we get a big ugly building in place a vibrant neighborhood institution, I’m starting to see the wisdom of that position.

  7. goldfish

    LJ, thanks for this article; it contains a lot of good data. Viz: “The popular weekend market attracts up to 30,000 visitors.”

    As the flea market will diminish, how does Stanton Eastbanc propose to keep these visitors coming during construction and afterward? Without them, the retail space they expect to rent will not be so very interesting to retailers. The decline of the flea market makes the entire project less profitable. I wonder if Stanton Eastbanc will attempt to compensate by increasing the size of the buildings, further diminishing the flea market, to the point where it approaches retail meaninglessness and the weekend vibrancy of the whole area is wiped out?

    This project has been getting worse and worse. What Tommy Wells should do is write a law to create an entity that will advocate for and protect the flea market. This is the goose that lays the golden eggs.

  8. RCJH20

    I found this statement hard to believe “After the project was awarded to Stanton Eastbanc, the size of the project increased and the space for the flea market was shrunk. “. Especially given the high visibility of this project. I highly doubt that Stanton Eastbanc has changed at all from what was approved. Instead of unfounded statements I would prefer that exact points of difference be highlighted and shown with empirical evidence. It is time for our neighborhood to do something productive with space I am more than tired of empty building sitting on such a prominent block and neighborhood.

  9. Bobbi Krengel

    One of the stipulations of the RFP, and the top concern of the neighborhood expressed in the visioning sessions and charrettes, was space for the flea market.
    It was not for dividing and inconveniencing the immediate neighbors with a half-brained plan to usurp public space for private enterprise.
    The RFP did not include and the neighborhood did not request closing streets, losing parking, and blocking sidewalks, or otherwise stringing out the flea market and wedging it onto streets and sidewalks, or otherwise using public space to twist it out along corridors. We had tennis courts, basketball courts, a dog run and an intact, flourishing flea market. We are losing everything but the flea market, and that’s all we are asking for.
    It’s what we want. And it’s what we were promised.
    Bobbi Krengel

  10. RCJH20

    The current proposal has what appears to be plenty of space for the Flea Market – http://www.hineschool.com/project-concept/

    As this appears to be the most official news I don’t think the neighborhood should be raising its voice over rumors.

    Am I the only one tired of wasted space in our neighborhood?

  11. goldfish

    @RCJH20: I think you mean

    The drawing show that the flea market space is a small fraction of what is used for it currently.

  12. RCJH20

    @Goldfish, both links show plenty of space for Flea Market vendors. I will admit that it will be less than we currently have right now. But I will happily trade that for a functioning building with new residents and shops than an empty building.

    I still don’t get why people are happy having Hines sit their vacant, wasting our tax dollars on up keep and electricity. Why is this better than saving a few spaces for vendors that are there a fraction of the year?

  13. Thom Riehle

    @RCJH2o, I have not met one single person who is happy having Hines sit vacant. Can you give me any examples? You seem to think, mistakenly, that if anyone raises questions or objections, then we are stuck with this vacant school building forever.

    Being in favor of completing this development as soon as possible does NOT mean passively accepting a project that is too big, too ugly, too intrusive on the residential neighborhood, and lacking sufficient space to house the flea market that now uses the space on Saturdays and Sundays, etc. etc. There is a very efficient process at Historic Preservation Review Board and DC Zoning Commission where these objections are heard and ruled upon, then the project, as revised, proceeds.

  14. RCJH20

    Thom – that’s exactly my point. We have a process in place with checks and balances. What I see reported on websites such as this is purely propaganda and speculation about the proposed project.

    All of the public plans I have reviewed see more than adequate and meet the needs of the neighborhood. I am not arguing for the neighborhood to roll over on this, but rather more proactively work with the city in a constructive manner than all of this NIMBY hype.

  15. goldfish

    @RCJH20 — it is the developer that has abused the process, by gradually changing the design until is does not meet the original RFP. Then apparently it is the residents are the only ones left to enforce the agreement. If if the project is delayed because of this, the fault lies with the developer.

  16. ET

    Obviously what happens during construction will be different that what happens after. I am sure accommodations can be made for both and the situation will adjust things will be in transition for a while until a new norm is reached. maybe the vendors will move closer to the sidewalk (though there is the permitting) and there won’t be as much opens space dedicated to the market like the Hine school. As for how much Stanton left for the market. They left some and for them to develop this that had to make it economically viable. Open space not being used was cutting out on the bottom line therefore they didn’t leave the whole are of what is the parking lot open – that was never going to be an option. I am neither for nor against this project or how it plays out but listening to some of the arguments against it just makes me tired.

    On another note, I am not sure why we call it a flea market – it seems to have become more like a craft fair in the last decade or so. For me it is less interesting than it was back in the 1990’s.

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