EMCAC Votes to Keep Eastern Mkt 7th Street Closed to Traffic and Active – Pending a Strategic Plan

Concerns of future Hine project retailers could affect the use of the 300 block of 7th Street, currently the home of the weekend flea markets.

EMCAC Votes to Keep Eastern Mkt 7th Street Closed to Traffic and Active – Pending a Strategic Plan

by Larry Janezich

Last Tuesday night, the Eastern Market Community Advisory Committee (EMCAC) voted to keep 7th Street closed to vehicular traffic on weekends, and to continue unspecified activity on the 300 block after October 31, when the current licenses for the weekend flea markets on that block expire.  How the block is used after that date is up to the Department of General Services.  Both the Saturday and Sunday flea markets have asked the city for an extension to continue to use the 300 block in addition to their three year contracts with Stanton-Eastbanc for use of the newly opened C Street between 7th and 8th.

EMCAC board member Chuck Burger pushed hard to get EMCAC to recommend that the current “physical layout and format of vendors (on the 300 block) cannot continue” and to recommend that EMCAC oppose issuance of any request for proposals (RFPs) to program or sublease the street until such a proposal was incorporated in an agreed upon Strategic Plan.

ANC6B Commissioner Diane Hoskins, in whose single member district Eastern Market lies was having none of that.  Hoskins adamantly opposed the two proposals by Burger, insisting on dropping the language condemning the current physical layout as well as the recommendation on the RFPs.  Hoskins eventually prevailed on both points and the modified language was approved on a 4 – 3 vote, with Hoskins, Angie Brunson, Nikki Dean, and Monty Edwards voting “Aye.”  EMCAC Chair Donna Scheeder, Chuck Burger, and Bill Glasgow voted against.  Board members Jonathon Page, Tom Kuchenberg, Richard Layman and Susan Oursler were absent.

In reality, EMCAC is an advisory committee and DGS can legally do what it wants with the block.  It appears that other forces are already in play guaranteeing that the street will remain closed for another year.

Burger, who represents CHAMPS, the Capitol Hill mini-chamber of commerce, justified his proposed language by saying that it would probably be next spring before the Hine retail merchants were signed.  He said that the Hine developers had stated that their intention is to use the sidewalk fronting 7th Street for café seating and service operations, and Burger said they should have input regarding use of the street.

Objections to the current configuration of vendors on the street (who are set up in front of the Hine project because the brick and mortar retailers on the other side object to tents being set up in front of them) could complicate future use of the block.  Carole Wright, manager of the Saturday flea operation says that there are ways to address this concern.

The recommendation calls upon DGS to determine a Strategic Plan for the Eastern Market Special Use District by March 1, or as soon as practical and that the city consult with community organizations and professional consultants to achieve that goal.  Community organizations would include ANC6B, EMCAC, Eastern Market Mainstreet (in which Stanton Development is a key player), DCRA, DDOT, MPD, the Fire Department and DC Homeland Security.

On Friday afternoon, a snafu developed when Scheeder initially sent to the city an incorrect version of the final recommendation which mistakenly included the controversial language stating that “the past physical layout and vendors cannot continue.”  Hoskins fired off an email to Scheeder noting that the letter contained some language not agreed to by the Committee and asking her to retract the letter.  Scheeder subsequently issued a corrected version on Saturday.

On September 12, ANC6B voted 10 – 0 in support of a letter to DGS requesting there be no change in the current use and operations of the 200 and 300 blocks of 7th Street and that DGS work with community stakeholders before implementing any new policies that may include vending on 7th Street.

To read the final EMCAC recommendation, see here:  http://bit.ly/2weZ0gl

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