Saturday Flea Market Surrenders License to Operate on 300 Block of 7th Street
by Larry Janezich
Thursday afternoon, Barry Margeson, Eastern Market Manager, announced that the Department of General Services (DGS) license allowing the Saturday flea market to occupy the 300 block of 7th Street on Saturdays had expired on December 1, 2018 and “is terminated.” The message stated, “On February 7, 2019, DGS will advertise a Request for Proposals (RFP) for management of the 300 block of 7th Street on Saturdays.”
The Saturday and Sunday flea markets on the 300 block of 7th Street and on C Street between 7th and 8th are operated by Carol Wright, and Mike Berman, respectively. Their licenses to operate on 7th Street expired on December 1 and the operators had the option of a signing up for a six month extension. Berman signed, Wright did not.
During December, Wright continued to operate on the (now privately owned by Hine developer Eastbanc) C Street under a three year contract with the developer. Reportedly, Wright told EastBanc she would not operate on C Street during January and February (the two slowest business months) but would return in March.
DGS’s action means Wright’s Saturday flea market could return to C Street in March, but not to 7th Street.
CHC reached out to Wright for reaction; her reply was, “No comment at this time.”
Sunday flea market operator Mike Berman – whose market will continue on 7th and on C Streets on Sundays, said he was offended that DGS did not give him the right of first refusal to help them maintain a closed street on Saturday: “Instead of asking us to secure it, they put it out to bid. It does harm to have the street unoccupied – no one wants the street open to traffic –an empty street means fewer shoppers for Eastern Market as well as retail.”
No details regarding the RFP are available, so what it might contain regarding the term of a license, the fee requirement, and what criteria must be met, are unknown. It seems unlikely a selection of a new vendor could happen before June. It’s possible the RFP could open the street for proposals other than flea markets. If DGS found none of the responses to the RFP qualified, that might be just fine with the brick and mortar retail on 7th Street as well as the new retail coming in to the ground floor of the Hine project and the Eastern Market South Hall merchants.
The city has allocated funding for a strategic plan study regarding the future of Eastern Market and the surrounding retail spaces, including 7th and C Streets, which is still in its early stages.
CHC asked Eastern Market Advisory Committee Chair Donna Scheeder for her reaction to DGS’s plan to issue an RFP for the 300 block of 7th Street. Scheeder said that she was speaking for herself, since EMCAC had not considered the DGS announcement:
“I was surprised that we went overnight from options under discussion at DGS to a decision today.
EMCAC has taken a position that we support the block being occupied by flea market activity until the strategic business plan addresses this.
This action is in keeping with this position. However, EMCAC is also charged to review the RFPs that deal with market activities in the Eastern Market Special Use District so I have written to Barry Margeson to demand that we review the RFP before it is promulgated.”
The current Saturday and Sunday flea market managers have been operating the flea markets for about 15 years – first on the Hine schoolyard and then – with the beginning of the construction of Hine – on 7th Street. While the community seems overwhelmingly in favor of keeping the street closed, some in the business community believe it’s problematic to continue the flea market on 7th Street in its present form.