City Extends Weekend Eastern Market Flea Market Use of 7th Street for 7 Months. But….
by Larry Janezich
On October 12, the Department of General Services offered to extend the license agreements with the two weekend flea market managers, to allow them to continue to operate on the 300 block of 7th Street, SE, from November until the end of May, 2018. During the period, DGS will develop an official Request for Proposals (RFP) process for any and all potential managers of the Saturday and Sunday flea markets on the 300 block of 7th Street, SE. Attached to the offer was a substantial increase in rent for the space.
Currently, the total rent the two managers pay the city for use of the street is $4000 a month. The new rate based on the findings of an MAI Certified Appraiser will be $6100 a month. Currently the two operators pay a total of $48,000 per year. Under the higher rent, the operators would pay $73,200, a difference of $25,200, roughly an additional $1000 a month increase for each flea market manager.
Barry Margeson, Eastern Market Manager for DGS, says that the Market pays DDOT $56,000 a year for the loss in weekend parking revenues for the 300 block of 7th Street.
The current licenses for operating on the 300 block expire at the end of October, upon which the flea markets are scheduled to re-locate to the newly reopened C Street between 7th and 8th Streets. The re-opening is now projected to be the first weekend in November.
The community strongly supports continued closure of 7th Street between Pennsylvania Avenue and North Carolina Avenue, but there is uncertainty how the 300 block will be used, with much depending on the voices of the future retail merchants who will occupy the first floor of the Hine project.
Saturday flea market manager Carole Wright is cautiously optimistic and intends to use both C Street and the 300 block of 7th Street during the 7 month extension. She says, “We intend to have a wraparound market ….however, we are still not able to lock in the date of completion for C Street”. Regarding the use of the 300 block after the seven months, Wright says, “We do not know if those new stores will even want vending in that block.”
Sunday flea market manager Michael Berman says he strongly objects to the increased rent and that the extension should be at the current rent, given the lack of notice and due process. He says, “We are not able to pass cost increases on to vendors in form of rent increase to them.” Berman called the appraisal flawed as the result of faulty input involving a disparity in size, rent and amenities of the spaces which were used as comparables.
Berman says, that the Sunday flea market will continue on the 300 block of 7th through Sunday, October 29 – “The continuation after that is uncertain.” Berman would like the Eastern Market Community Advisory Committee (EMCAC) to give the flea markets the same deal they gave the South Hall Merchants in delaying any increase in rent until a strategic plan for all outdoor vending areas under Market control is developed.
EMCAC chair Donna Scheeder held out little hope that would happen. She told CHC “I don’t have a problem with increased rent for public space when the goal is to make Eastern Market self-sustaining and I think most members of EMCAC would agree. I think the 300 block on 7th Street has been underpriced and I’d like to see some of the increased revenue go into an increased safety and security plan.”
That position seemed to be at odds with EMCAC’s response to DGS’s request for comment on the 300 block of 7th Street. On September 19, EMCAC voted 4 – 3 for language supporting “DGS proceeding to have the value of this public spaces (sic) assessed and no rents, permits or contracts for occupying that space should be done until the assessment is completed. The appraisal of space used for market activities should be looked at as a whole and not in 3 individual pieces.”
The proposed rent increase did not sit well with ANC6B Commissioner Diane Hoskins, unhappy at the lack of community consultation regarding the rent increase. Hoskins said, “This is really disappointing. This completely contradicts the will of the community to maintain the weekend flea market. The September 12 letter from ANC6B to DGS asked that DGS take no actions that would change the current use and operations. A dramatic increase in rent certainly would be a major change”.
EMCAC will consider the 300 block appraisal report at its next meeting at 7:00pm on Wednesday, October 25, in the North Hall of Eastern Market.