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.