The Future of Eastern Market, Part 1. 30 Eastern Market Food Merchants Oppose Closure of 7th Street

The 200 block of 7th Street, where the weekend arts and craft vendors set up.

The 300 block of 7th Street, current home to the Saturday and Sunday flea markets.

The unfinished newly reopened C Street between 7th and 8th Streets, is where the weekend flea markets will move to from the 300 block of 7th once they get the green light from Eastbanc.

The Future of Eastern Market, Part 1.  30 Eastern Market Food Merchants Oppose Closure of 7th Street

by Larry Janezich

Thirty* Eastern Market inside and outside merchants, farmers and food vendors have signed a position paper opposing the weekend closure of 7th Street between North Carolina and Pennsylvania Avenue.

The statement, circulated by Tommy Glasgow of Market Lunch, claims “The road closure has created a real accessibility issue that has had a negative effect on our fresh food sales, is problematic for our farmers, and of great concern to all of us in regards to the long-term viability of the fresh food Market.

We recommend 7th Street be re-opened one-way south bound. The new configuration will save resources, solve many of the Markets access/egress issues, and provide a safer and more enjoyable shopping experience for all visitors, especially those with disabilities.”

Glasgow says, “It’s not so much an issue of whether the street is open or closed, but whether the community wishes to have an old-fashioned food market.”

If the street were reopened, those most affected would be the 36 arts and crafts vendors who set up in 7th Street outside the Market in the 200 block between C Street and North Carolina Avenue.  The 200 block was closed my Mayoral order following the restoration of Eastern Market after the disastrous 2006 fire, to accommodate the arts/crafts vendors and to facilitate access to the Market.  Reopening the street, they say, would put them out of business.  One of the vendors, artist Joe Snyder, says “There would be a lot of people who would lose their livelihood.”  He acknowledges that the vendors could be relocated, “…but not to a place that would enable them to earn a living.”

The supporters of reopening the street to traffic are taking advantage of the timing on the city’s pending decision on whether to reopen the 300 block of 7th Street between C Street and Pennsylvania Avenue to weekend vehicular traffic.  That block was closed to traffic to accommodate the two flea markets which were displaced from the Hine School playground by construction of the Hine project.

Those Saturday and Sunday flea markets in 7th Street’s 300 block are separate and distinct from the arts and crafts vendors which operate on 7th Street in the 200 block.  The flea markets are operated respectively by Carol Wright and Mike Berman.

Upon completion of the newly reopened C Street between 7th and 8th Street, the two flea markets will move there, under contract with Stanton Eastbanc.  (By an agreement with the city, the street will be private and maintained by Eastbanc, but open to public parking and vehicular traffic unless programmed by Eastbanc for other purposes.)  Eastbanc’s project manager has said that C Street will be finished and ready for the flea markets by September 30.

If C Street is ready for the flea markets by September 30, Berman says that since his contract with the city to operate on 7th Street runs through the end of October, and since he will have two valid contracts, he will continue to use the 7th Street through the end of October, as well as C Street.  “What happens after that,” he says, “depends on (Eastern Market Manager) Barry Margeson.”

Berman says he supports 7th Street remaining closed to traffic and an independent manager to operate there.  Opening the street, he says, will not solve the Eastern Market merchants’ problems and will not provide additional customer parking.

Wright says that her vendors prefer to stay on 7th Street, but she will move her Saturday operation onto C Street as soon as Eastbanc says that the street is ready for occupancy.  Eastbanc hopes that date will be September 30, but if it slips beyond October 31, both she and Berman will have to go back to the city to extend their 7th Street contract.  Wright wrote a letter to the city saying that she would like to continue to operate on 7th Street, but will do what the community wants – if that is a decision to open 7th Street, she would like to revisit the question in a year.

The Eastern Market Community Advisory Committee (EMCAC) has called a special meeting for Saturday, August 12, at 3:00pm in the Coldwell Banker training room at 605 Pennsylvania Avenue, SE.  ANC6B will consider the future of the 300 block of 7th Street, SE, at a special meeting on Tuesday, August 29th, 7:30pm at Hill Center.

Councilmember Charles Allen did not respond to an email asking for comment on this story.

*Blue Iris Flowers, Bowers Fancy Dairy Products, Canales Quality Meats, Capitol Hill Poultry, Eastern Market Grocery,  Fine Sweet Shoppe, Capitol Hill Produce, Southern Maryland Seafood, Union Meat, Market Poultry, The Market Lunch, Buds Creek Farm Agora Farms, Dunham’s Produce, Knopp’s Farms, Long Meadow Farm, Sunnyside Farm, Ashton Farms, Morgals Produce, Gardeners Gourmet, Swiss Peeler, Tony’s Flowers, Ma Browns Baked Goods. Puddin’, She Peppers, Boso Foods, The Freshmobile, The Pretzel Place, Mano de Maiz, Conceptos.


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15 responses to “The Future of Eastern Market, Part 1. 30 Eastern Market Food Merchants Oppose Closure of 7th Street

  1. Hillster

    Leave 7th Street closed to see how this pans out. Don’t make quick and rash decisions. Maintaining the status quo to see how this plays out is the only rational thing to do.

  2. David S

    Open the street; the city needs additional markets on the Anacostia waterfront and in NOMA, not just one megamarket at Eastern Market.

    • Linda

      NOMA has Union Market. Setup may not be like Eastern Market. Anacostia has an open farmer’s market.

    • karen cohen

      Eastern Market is a good model for other pedestrian “villages” to come to DC. There are enough visitors and residents to flock to all corners of D
      C and most like to do it on foot, metro or bus.
      Once all the old warehouses are torn down at Union Market and new residents take up their places, they will be happy to walk to Union Market. I predict that huge parking lot will become a crafts/artists flea market once a huge supporting population live right on site. Many folks don’t even own cars in DC.

  3. As an art vendor who served eight years on East Market Tenants Council, I am familiar with market issues. First let me point out that only a slim minority of businesses that comprise the market signed the above referenced petition, and some them did so thinking it involved only the 300 block of 7th Street, not the 200 block where the market is located.

    I live in the city. I paint the city. I sell paintings of Capitol Hill houses to the Capitol Hill people. If I lost the 7th Street location where I have done business for 10 years since the fire, I do not how I would make a living. I am certain that anyone who says that the 35 vending spaces in 7th Street could be accommodated elsewhere at Eastern Market do not know what they are talking about.

    This proposal would not only deprive me my livelihood but deprive the entire community of a treasured urban amenity, the child-friendly communal pedestrian zones that so many families treasure, all for the sake of an imagined commercial advantage for a very few. There is free parking behind the building 7 days a week, and more than ample metered parking on weeks days, not to mention the enormous parking garage that will open across the street very shortly.

    I suppose there are institutions in which the most senior members bring leadership and wisdom. Not so at Eastern Market. The problem is not parking; it is a lack of imagination.

  4. Don Heffernan

    Leave it as is. It fosters a vibrant street scene and neighborhood and brings in more customers, not less. The 300 block could be open for deliveries only from Pennsylvania to the alley adjacent to the doctors office if needed to accommodate the new development. That would make the 7th Street driveway accessible.

  5. John

    Opening 7th Street to traffic on weekends creates a number of safety concerns. Children, pets, and groups all enjoy the space provided by the wide pedestrian area. Taking it away clog sidewalks and drive many shoppers away from Eastern Market.

  6. karen cohen

    In all my years, I have never heard anyone advocate for more vehicular traffic in a neighborhood. Let’s keep 7th St SE CLOSED to automobiles and parking jams.
    Capitol Hill is a pedestrian village and that’s why I moved here. Eastern Market’s food vendors are an attraction for me and I love walking there almost daily for my food needs. On Sats and Sundays, I always take guests/family down to see the arts and crafts on 7th Street. Then we go inside Eastern Market, grab a bite and take home food for meals and fresh flowers. It is really one stop shopping, a win-win for everyone, no car needed or wanted, pollution avoided, and a great way for getting some exercise and walking. Whether you are a visitor, a buyer or a resident, Eastern Market Flea Market and the inside food vendors are a great attraction to our neighbor, bringing in business to everyone there including all the restaurants. Let’s keep the cars OFF 7th St SE so it is safe to safely stroll around the street on weekends.

  7. Sally James

    The number of people whose vehicles can be accommodated on the two reopened blocks would pale in comparison to the number of cyclists and pedestrians who will find it less hospitable. The market is well served by the 30s buses, the Circulator, and (on good days) three Metro lines. Want to increase its popularity as a destination? Try adding protected bikes lanes on Penn. Ave. SE.

  8. Tommy Glasgow

    It brings me great joy to see so many posting their love of Eastern Market and the Capitol Hill community. I wanted to step in to clarify some key misunderstandings regarding the issue.

    How blessed this group of Capitol Hill community members is to be able to walk or bike to the market. While I also believe that the pedestrian-friendliness of the neighborhood is a beautiful component, there are critical aspects of the road closure that prompted myself along with many other vendors to express our concern.

    -Eastern Market prides itself on being open and inviting to all, but with the current road closure, it is nearly impossible for the elderly and disabled to have an easy shopping experience. We all need to put aside the ease of our own accessibility to think about others for a moment. Do I believe in increasing vehicular traffic and endangering walkers and bikers? Absolutely not. But am I concerned about numerous 30 year-customers no longer being able to enjoy the gem of Eastern Market? Yes. 7th street would not be turning into 395…but allowing accessibility through the front doors to those who don’t have the privilege of walking or biking. I believe we can allow traffic flow and still be a walkable community.

    -Unfortunately, the neighborhood alone cannot sustain Eastern Market. While all vendors love our locals and regulars, businesses are struggling. If we want Eastern Market to remain a viable part of the neighborhood, we have to allow those outside of the neighborhood access.

    • Hillster

      Yes, those from outside the community can park and walk. The disabled can get off on N. Carolina and enter through the North Hall, which has a handicapped door. I don’t see how your weekend business is suffering.

    • karen cohen

      Everyone has to “walk” into the market whether they park out front, in the back or on another nearby street. Where are there ramps for disabled? 7th Street parking slots open on weekends does NOT guarantee that the elderly or disabled will be able to grab those spots. Elderly doesn’t mean you cannot walk to shops, etc. Disabled also doesn’t confine one to a car; disabled folks have wheelchairs. Perhaps the back parking lot area could be all handi-cap reserved. Another solution is vendors provide a call in order service for curb pick up like Harris Teeter does, drive up and your groceries are loaded in the car for you.
      I drive down several times monthly during weekdays when the street is open and still can’t secure a parking space right out front of the market and park on nearby streets. It is so easy and convenient and the side streets are FREE for Zone 6 residents. Walking is good for you and I am a senior!
      With the Eastern Market Metro and bus service one block away, all DC neighborhoods have access to Eastern Market and they come in droves on weekends when the flea market/craft vendors are also selling their goods. Regardless of whether they buy or just browse, they are potential customers who may be back to buy another time and will tell friends, too.
      The real competition will be Trader Joe’s who will carry meats, cheeses, breads, flowers, veggies, etc. I sincerely hope that the Eastern Market food vendors can compete with TJ. Prices/service must be comparable. That is my concern.

    • Eastern Market prides itself on being open and inviting to all, but with the current road closure, it is nearly impossible for the elderly and disabled to have an easy shopping experience

      If this is the primary concern, how would opening the street to traffic help make for a better disabled shopping experience? If you’re concerned about disabled parking, the new parking garage will offer far superior facilities (and elevator access to a pedestrianized street) than on-street parking could ever offer.

      If you want on-street disabled parking, why not reserve all of the few parking spaces behind the Market for disabled customers?

      Unfortunately, the neighborhood alone cannot sustain Eastern Market. While all vendors love our locals and regulars, businesses are struggling.

      I’m just having a hard time squaring these statements. Are the businesses struggling because of a lack of disabled and elderly patrons?

      The businesses can’t be struggling that much if the merchants believe that a handful of on-street parking spaces will make a big difference – particularly if those parking spaces mean destroying the incredibly successful pedestrian space outside.

      Note that success here means that it’s full of people – and those people are potential customers. Any solution that proposed replacing those people with parked cars is almost certainly going to be delivering fewer actual customers to the market.

      • karen cohen

        Right, it makes no sense at all to turn away throngs of people who visit the craftsmarket and replace them with cars. I think they are grasping for reasons and need to start beefing up their advertising and marketing whether they want to or not.

      • Cassie

        “If you want on-street disabled parking, why not reserve all of the few parking spaces behind the Market for disabled customers?”

        Exactly this.