City Takes Over Management of Eastern Market’s 7th Street Saturday Flea Market
By Larry Janezinh
Last Wednesday, Eastern Market Community Advisory Committee and Eastern Market vendors received an email from Eastern Market Manager Barry Margeson announcing that the Department of General Services “will begin managing the 300 block of 7th Street on Saturdays in the same way that we manage the 200 block and the plazas around the market. We are putting out a call for vendors tomorrow and the first days of vending will be on the weekend of March 16th and 17th.”
As reported here https://bit.ly/2MzPPjK on CHC, DGS terminated the license of Saturday flea market operator Carol Wright in January after Wright had failed to sign a new contract, and announced it would put out a Request for Proposals for a new Saturday flea market manager for the 300 block of 7th Street. That RFP was issued February 7.
On February 27, Margeson told the Eastern Market Community Advisory Committee (EMCAC) that there had been responses to the RFP, (though apparently only one met RFP criteria) and an answer would be given to that applicant on Monday, March 4.
According to Sunday Flea Market Operator Mike Berman, the one response to receive consideration for DGS was his, and he had laid out a detailed plan for organizing, staffing, and recruiting vendors for the market. He said the answer he received from Margeson on March 4 was a rejection. Berman told CHC that the terms of the RFP were prohibitive, and that he had attached an addendum to his proposal – as requested if an applicant took exception to the RFP criteria. His main concerns, he said, were the $3300 a month rent (up from $2000), the six month limitation on the license, and the restriction that sales be limited to “locally made arts and crafts, antiques and imported handcrafts from other countries”. Berman said he had expected DGS to respond to his addendum with an opportunity to enter into negotiations. Instead, DGS announced its intent to manage the Saturday flea market itself.
For the record, the portion of the weekend flea markets on the newly opened C Street between 7th and 8th Street, are being operated independently from DGS, under a separate contract with the Hine developer. Saturday flea market manager Carol Wright continues to operate that market though Berman says that for him, operating the flea market on C Street doesn’t work without the 300 block of 7th Street.
Readers of CHC may recall the previous attempt by Eastern Market to take over the weekend flea markets. In August of 2015, DGS abruptly announced that DGS would take over management of the weekend flea markets on the 300 block of 7th Street. Weeks later, that plan was cancelled after the community rallied in support of the weekend flea market operators, and – reportedly – intervention of the office of the Mayor. See here: https://bit.ly/2VJl672 and here: https://bit.ly/2SRRUJd
Berman is concerned about the future of his Sunday market operation on 7th Street. His license runs until June, but has no provision for renewal. He says he’d like to stay on 7th Street, but “if they take it away from me, I’ll have to pull out of the space on C Street.”
(To view the RFP and Berman’s response, click on “Library” at the top of the CHC home page.)
Gerald Sroufe, the new ANC Commissioner representative on EMCAC, said that he had no comment about the merits of the new management plan, but that he was surprised at the decision making process. “I understand EMCAC’s role to be advisory only, but I am concerned that there was no public discussion of the possibility of a management change of this nature at any EMCAC meeting since the process intended to find a new manager for the 300 block was initiated a month ago – including the most recent meeting on February 27.”
CHC reached out to DGS for comment and received the following reply from DGS Public Affairs Specialist, Donna Harris: “DGS is committed to maintaining safe, clean vendor spaces at and around Eastern Market. Recently, the contractor who managed 30 spaces on the block on 300 7th Street, S.E. surrounding Eastern Market on Saturdays gave notice to DGS that they would no longer manage the spaces. DGS released a Request for Proposals for bidders to apply to manage the spaces on Saturday. DGS received only one response and it did not meet the RFP requirements. Herein, DGS is now managing these 30 spaces on Saturday.”