Update on Fate of Weekend Flea Markets at Hine – Eastern Market Committee Seeks Party Status at Zoning Hearing To Support Flea Markets
by Larry Janezich
The fate of the weekend flea markets has been one of the issues which galvanized the Eastern Market community with respect to the Hine Development. Here is a summary of where things stand on the eve of the Zoning Commission’s hearing on Stanton-Eastbanc’s application to change the zoning for the site. The hearing, scheduled for Thursday, June 14, at 6:30pm, will be one of the last – if not the last – opportunities for public input on the project.
It appears that the zoning hearing will proceed with the fate of the flea markets unresolved. Generally speaking, the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development and the Department of Housing and Economic Development are fine with a 68 tent weekend flea market.
Community members who oppose reducing the size of the flea market have brought political pressure to bear on their ANC representatives and Councilmember Tommy Wells to remedy the situation, and Wells’ response has been to amend his proposed legislation providing a new governing structure for Eastern Market to give the new body (the “Trust”) authority to site the flea markets on 7th Street between North Carolina Avenue and Pennsylvania Avenue on weekends. This end would be accomplished by incorporating 7th Street between North Carolina and Pennsylvania Avenue in the “Eastern Market Special Use District,” which would be under the control of the Trust. The legislation was fast-tracked and headed for a hearing last Thursday, when the resignation of City Council Chair Kwame Brown resulted in a hearing postponement.
Other developments last week shed light on, or raised new concerns about the fate of the flea markets.
Donna Scheeder, Eastern Market Community Advisory Committee (EMCAC) Chair, filed papers with the Zoning Commission asking for party status for EMCAC to oppose the Hine Development’s public space benefits at the Commission’s June 14 hearing. Public space benefits refer to the developers’ limited plan to accommodate the flea markets. Party status before the Zoning Commission gives entities granted it, more standing before the Commission, more time to present their case, and the right to cross examine witnesses and others with party status. Scheeder is Councilmember Tommy Well’s appointee to the Committee and the Committee voted earlier this year to seek party status in the upcoming hearing. There was some question whether EMCAC’s filing for party status was timely, and it may depend on a waiver by the Zoning Commission to be in order.
EMCAC, which has statutory responsibility for advising city agencies on the preservation and operations of Eastern Market, was one of the organizations which endorsed Stanton-Eastbanc’s bid for the development before the city chose a developer. That support was contingent on the developers providing space for the flea market and as well as adequate parking for Eastern Market shoppers. EMCAC’s support for the development began to waiver when the developers began to scale back the amount of space for the flea market, then appeared to firm up once Wells’ legislative solution was proffered.
Details of how the plan could work were revealed at a CHRS community forum on the Hine Development last Monday. A representative of Oheme Van Sweden, landscape architect for the Hine project, presented an aerial photo taken July 28, 2010, that showed 204 tents including the flea market and all the additional vendors abutting the Market and in front of Natatorium. The landscaping firm has prepared a plan providing for 250 tents in the new Special Use District, including 68 on C Street, 19 on the Eastern Market Metro Plaza, 163 on 7th Street between North Carolina and Pennsylvania Avenue and in front of Natatorium. Their count includes tents that not only include weekend flea market vendors, but also those under Market management. Serious issues regarding logistics and accommodation for the 7th Street ‘brick and mortar” merchants remain and have yet to be addressed.
Although the focus of Scheeder’s application for party status concerns preserving space for the flea market, another issue arose last week which could jeopardize the Market’s interests. On Monday, the DDOT Transportation Report became available and recommends a substantial reduction of 100 to 125 parking spaces in the total parking available for the project. Since parking is expensive to build and slow to return a profit, it would seem that the developers would be only too happy to scale back the parking. The issue is complicated by the developers’ pledge to provide 50 spaces for flea market vendor parking on weekends (at half-price) but reducing the total parking for the project would make this problematic and likely would come at the expense of parking for patrons of the Market.
ANC6B will meet on next Tuesday to vote on whether to endorse the project based on a number of recently negotiated benefits, amenities, and mitigations. Moving forward without the flea market issue being resolved may have to be an article of faith, and that may be asking a lot of the Eastern Market community.