Eastern Market Advisory Committee Plans Restructure

Change is coming to Eastern Market.

Eastern Market Advisory Committee Plans Restructure to Focus on Future Health of Market

by Larry Janezich

Posted December 5, 2022

Last Wednesday night, the Eastern Market Community Advisory Committee (EMCAC), began consideration of a series of restructuring moves prompted by long standing concerns over the future of the Market.  The concerns have been heightened by a growing recognition of Eastern Market’s vulnerability in terms of support from the city owing to erosion of the tax base because of continuing stress in the commercial real estate market.

EMCAC is a community-based advisory body and has no real power re governance of the Market.  The Market is managed by the Department of General Services (DGS), which is not really in the business of running a business, and though DGS’s management has been adequate for the day to day management of operations, the agency itself appears to have little interest in utilizing city resources to invest in the long term financial well-being of the Market.  EMCAC appears ready to step in to fill the vacuum and seems to have the support of Ward 6 CM Charles Allen.

The restructuring proposals came out of a brain-storming retreat on November 9, where EMCAC members and Eastern Market Manager Barry Margeson came up with a list of politically and financially feasible actions meant to further the goal of promoting financial stability of the market. 

Several of the proposals were brought up for consideration at last Wednesday’s meeting.  These proposals are part of a larger plan which will be pursued depending on early success of the initial actions. 

The first action EMCAC agreed to was to consider the expansion of EMCAC membership and to reorganize EMCAC’s committee structure.  Currently the Eastern Market statute limits EMCAC voting membership to 11 members.  There is one seat vacant.  The statute allows bringing on new members by a 75% vote of EMCAC but once the 11 seats are filled, new non-voting member organizations can also be added by 75% vote.  According to EMCAC Chair Chuck Burger, this action item will include taking a look at tweaking the law to allow more voting members.  Under the statute, potentially eligible new organizations must be broad-based and long standing in the community.  The committee authorized Burger to seek out potential organizations and submit a list of possible candidates for discussion. 

In conjunction with expanding EMCAC, the committee considered a proposal to re-organize and expand EMCAC’s committee structure.  The need for at least one new committee in particular was cited – an Outreach Standing Committee to manage digital and social media outreach as well as oversee outreach to solicit new EMCAC volunteers.  Burger said he would make recommendations regarding a new committee structure including the establishment of a new committee and detail the responsibilities of each committee by January. 

EMCAC also agreed to a third action, to explore establishing EMCAC as a 501C3.  According to Burger, nothing currently bars EMCAC from going out and raising money, but funds raised go into a city-controlled Enterprise Fund.  Burger said, “If we raise money [for operational costs], we want to control it.”  He said this would require a minor tweak of the legislation, and the committee authorized EMCAC Treasurer Tom Kuchenburg to investigate the possibility of setting up EMCAC as a 501c3 non-profit organization.

Further initiatives are expected to be forthcoming, building on the success of the initial proposals.  In addition to the major initiatives above, the Committee also agreed to several other proposals which were generated in the retreat.  Among these: 

  • Obtaining a “seat at the table” to discuss the update of the Natatorium. The city is expected to begin discussions next spring with the issuance of a Request for Proposals for concepts regarding what can be done on the renovation of the city-owned building.   EMCAC wants to insure they have a voice for input, influence and information in the planning process.
  • Creating an Emergency Response Subcommittee to discuss security and safety and examining both the need and the cost benefits ratio.
  • Creating a plaque to honor long time EMCAC Chair Donna Scheeder.
  • Investigating the advantages and disadvantages of pursuing leases for the inside South Hall Vendors vs keeping the status quo of no leases.

EMCAC will not meet in December, and will next meet on Wednesday, January 25th.


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11 responses to “Eastern Market Advisory Committee Plans Restructure

  1. Josh

    Sorry, but the answer to Eastern Market’s pathetic state is unlikely to be found in some huge Advisory committee stacked with folks who don’t know anything about retail. Simply need some market-savvy developer who knows what people really want. Union market is a roaring success. What’s keeping Eastern Market from doing the same??

    • Craig D'Ooge

      $8 artisan-made squash soup isn’t the answer

    • Voracious

      Yes, it seems to me that the market offerings need to change, even if it means losing some longtime vendors. With the Trader Joe’s and other new grocery options they should be focused on specialty items you can’t get other places.

      • Golem

        The merchants are already offering options unavailable in the supermarkets. They just fail to market what they offer. The meats at both venders include cuts unavailable in supermarkets. Many of the poultry products are also unique to the Market. When Jose Canale was there he put me on to his turkey andouille sausage that is far and away better than any I found elsewhere. Bill at Union Meat put me on to try-tip and a couple of other cuts that are affordable and not available elsewhere. The cheeses and pates are better than elsewhere. But there’s a lack of retail salesmanship among the all of the vendors and unless they get their act together as learn to sell the unique product lines they have, the market will become a tacky venue for t-shirts and postcards.

    • David

      Agreed. Retailers who understand the Capitol Hill community and have shown success in the area should be on the committee.
      Regarding leases, it’s unfathomable that the South Hall vendors don’t have them / don’t want them. Banks and other credit lenders will not provide loans without multi-year leases, so vendors have very little hope of improving their displays, selections, and services without leases. It would be near impossible to attract new, high quality vendors without multi-year leases.

  2. Golem

    It’s strange, at least to me, that the North Hall has not been marketed as a venue for meetings, receptions, and other events. It’s a good space and with a little work could be an elegant and attractive one and more affordable than many of the hotel venues. I agree with the “Josh” comment above that the current management has been a gross failure in finding modern ways of maintaining the market and inventive retailing.

    Merchants as well are at fault in not promoting their fare. Something as simple as recipes and preparation instructions for meat poultry, cheese, and vegetables would attract more business since many prospective customers simply don’t know what to do with the variety of goods offered.

    The entire management of the Market has been and continues to be desultory and seems bound to the 19th and early 20th centuries when there was little competition from now plentiful supermarkets.

  3. Daniel+Buck

    “vulnerability in terms of support from the city owing to erosion of the tax base because of continuing stress in the commercial real estate market.” Could someone explain what this means? The city’s tax base is eroding? Really?

    Earlier this year, the Hill Rag wrote that the market was in the black. For starter’s how about a simple explanation about the market’s financial situation.

  4. Bobbi

    Thank you as always, Larry.
    This situation needs professional consultation.
    One such strategic study was undertaken and subsequently undermined by the city.
    Another was privately funded and reported in the Hill Rag in 2018  

    • Josh

      Never heard of this report till Bobbi flagged it but, looking at its awful recommendation to reopen seventh Street SE to traffic and parking on weekends, I would expect the rest of the report to be rubbish.

  5. Hillyek

    This has been a drama for the nearly twenty years I have lived on the Hill and probably much much longer. There is a very tough tension between the market’s standing on its own feet financially and painful change. Our tax dollars seem to be what is putting off the necessary reckoning and restructuring.