Tag Archives: Flea Market

Eastern Market Struggles With Its Identity

Proposal to Open 7th Street to Traffic Has Created Tension Between Merchants and Vendors

Proposal to Open 7th Street to Traffic Has Created Tension Between Merchants and Vendors

Mayor Fenty Closed 7th Street by Fiat After the Restored Market Opened in 2009

Mayor Fenty Closed 7th Street by Fiat After the Restored Market Opened in 2009

Inside Eastern Market, Sunday Afternoon, 3:30pm

Inside Eastern Market, Sunday Afternoon, 3:30pm

Few Drivers Heed the 1 Hour Time Limit For Parking in the 20 Spaces Behind the Market

Few Drivers Heed the 1 Hour Time Limit For Parking in the 20 Spaces Behind the Market

Eastern Market Struggles With Its Identity

Tension Between Inside Merchants/Outside Vendors on Market’s Direction

by Larry Janezich

The changing character of Capitol Hill is perhaps nowhere more evident than at Eastern Market.  Last Tuesday, the Eastern Market Community Advisory Committee (EMCAC) heard a proposal by inside Market food merchants Bill and Tom Glasgow and Mike Bowers to re-open 7th Street outside the Market to traffic on Saturdays, allowing customer parking and improving access to their businesses.  The proposal was the result of a meeting of inside merchants to provide input to a business plan being formulated by EMCAC to give future direction and cohesion to Eastern Market as it attempts to come to terms with changing demographics, new development, competition, and tourism.

Bill Glasgow of Union Meats is the inside merchants’ representative to EMCAC; Tom Glasgow runs Market Lunch; and Mike Bowers runs the cheese and dairy shop.  The​ir ​proposal to open 7th Street is a contentious​ one​ because it would eliminate the 34 vending positions for Eastern Market’s arts and crafts vendors who currently set up on 7th Street on weekends.  The proposal is opposed by the 7th street vendors and their newly elected representative to EMCAC, Erika Rubel.  Local artist and 7th Street vendor Joe Snyder says that “accessibility will continue to be a problem in an increasingly dense city and the Market will have to deal with it in a creative way” – but this should not include the reopening of 7th Street.

According to EMCAC chair​ Donna Scheeder, “EMCAC is in the long process of gathering input which will also include community meetings and other opportunities for the community to provide a wide range of input for what should be the priorities for Eastern Market. This is preliminary to the drafting of a business plan which is what EMCAC will react to. We are a ways off from that.”

Still, the proposal and its opponents reflect a tension between older, established businesses and newer up-starts.  Few if any of other retailers have enjoyed more market-protection than Eastern Market merchants, who are grandfathered in and pay low to moderate rent; on the other hand, few have done more to establish the neighborhood as a commercial destination.​  Their counterparts on the outside of the market depend on foot-traffic and square footage, whereas inside the Hall merchants would prefer to see parking available to customers looking to take perishables and other goods home.

​​Before the Eastern Market fire and the subsequent closing of 7th street by mayoral fiat under Adrian Fenty, the North Hall accommodated up to 40 arts and crafts vendors on weekends.  With the reopening of the Market, vendors were moved to 7th Street and the North Hall became a gathering space accessible to the community, not only on the weekends, but during the week, especially by children’s caregivers and their charges.

Bill Glasgow said the 13 inside merchants are getting “strangled” because customers can’t get access – they have to park blocks away and walk to the market to buy food.  He believes that the Market’s becoming a tourist destination has hurt the business of the food merchants inside.  According to Glasgow, “Saturdays are starting to look like Sundays – all tourism.  At what point do you want to strangle us out of business?”

The Market has about 20 spaces for customer parking in the alley behind the market with a one hour time limit, but according to Glasgow, the parking is “not controlled at all,” adding, “We’ve been complaining for five years.  It is absolutely essential to have parking.  How can you have a food market without access?”  Looking ahead to the proposed​ Hine development, he notes that although public parking will be provided, 7th Street between C and Pennsylvania Avenue will be closed on weekends to accommodate the flea markets.

The proposed ​Hine development may present new ​and more acute ​challenges for the Marke​t​.  Stanton Development has mentioned Rodman’s – the family-owned chain of discount grocery/drug stores, with a selection of international foods, wine and beer – as a possible tenant for the new Hine development.

Eastern Market is currently being managed by DC’s Department of General Services.  Market Manager Barry Margeson did not respond to a request for comment.  Margeson continues to solicit new outside vendors, but Glasgow sees advertising for new vendors as indicative of rapid vendor turnover because “they’re not making any money – there are too many.”  The Market’s policy he says, is “strangling the outside vendors and us.”

Some market-​goers think that parking may not be the inside merchant’s entire problem.  ​T​he more traditional Eastern Market may be suffering in comparison with the recently opened Union Market in Northeast.   In addition, the increased quality of some of the products under the farmer’s line on Saturday heads off many potential customers before they get inside​, especially when inside goods do not excel in quality or offer competitive price points​.  Likewise, the Market’s “Fresh Tuesdays” has brought locally produced higher quality produce and cheese to the farmer’s line outside the Market on Tuesday afternoons.  ANC Commissioner Brian Pate is interested in seeing the farmer’s line opened one night a week for Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) providers.  CSA patrons pay upfront for shares of a local farmer’s harvest which are delivered to the customer.  Pate would like to see the farmer’s line opened up for these deliveries – which would to some degree increase the pressure on the inside vegetable merchants.

Since the demise of the Councilmember Tommy Well’s legislation providing for a new governing structure for Eastern Market, and with it, EMCAC’s proposal to consolidate under Eastern Market the control of the three separate outside vending operations (the Eastern Market vendors, Carol Wright’s Saturday and Michael Berman’s Sunday flea markets on the Hine parking lot) an element of mistrust has existed between Eastern Market’s outside vendors and EMCAC.  The Eastern market vendors see any consolidation as coming at their expense.  Vendor Joe Snyder characterizes the proposed consolidation as an “impractical merger of the three markets,” and raises the concern of the potential displacement of longtime Eastern Market outside vendors.

This is a critical time for the future of the Market.  It would seem that a good first step toward a partial remedy would be to enforce limited time parking in the alley behind Eastern Market. EMCAC and ANC6B – in their advisory capacities – may not be the vehicles for problem solving.  Given the lame duck status of Ward 6 Councilmember Wells and Mayor Gray, it is uncertain how much leadership they will or can provide – but in any event, the issues seem to require the attention of the executive branch rather than the city council.




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It Takes All Types

Sunday Flea market Vendor Jerry Marshall, Monkstown, Maryland sells his collection of antique printing type and wood blocks;

Sunday Eastern Market Flea Market Vendor Jerry Marshall of Monkstown, Maryland, sells his collection of antique printing type and wood blocks.

What's your type?



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EMCAC and ANC6B Cross Swords Over Control of Flea Markets – Former Councilmember Sharon Ambrose Backs EMCAC

EMCAC and ANC6B Cross Swords Over Control of Flea Markets – Former Councilmember Sharon Ambrose Backs EMCAC

by Larry Janezich

Last night at the September ANC6B meeting, the lines were drawn in a dispute between Eastern Market Community Advisory Committee (EMCAC) and ANC6B over control of vending on the 300 block of 7th Street.

The ongoing issue of adequate space to maintain the size of the flea market, as well as the control over that space, poses issues of real consequence.  Tens of thousands of dollars in annual vendor fees collected by the current market managers who enjoy cut-rate access to public space to host the weekend markets are on the line.  The weekend market managers have considerable community support from those who do not want to see the markets diminished and those who question the city taking over what has heretofore been a private enterprise.  Many of these supporters of the current weekend flea market are constituents of the two ANC6B Commissioners – Ivan Frishberg and Brian Pate – who have taken the lead in negotiating the community benefits and amenities package with the developer of the Hine project.  Perhaps also at play is a desire to assert the authority of ANC6B in a vacuum left by the lack of city leadership.

Last week, the ANC P&Z Committee defeated a resolution sponsored by Pate that would have requested that the 300 block of 7th be closed on weekends by mayoral order during the construction of the Hine project to accommodate the weekend markets which would be under the control of the two current market managers, with revenues accruing from the resulting contract going to Eastern Market.  Though this had the support of the market managers, the resolution was defeated on 3-5 vote.

Subsequently, EMCAC Chair Donna Scheeder wrote to Deputy Mayor Hoskin’s office, DPMED, citing DC law and asserting EMCAC control over vending on the block, saying the law makes clear that retailing on any public space associated with Eastern Market – including 7th Street – “should not be permitted without written consent of the Department of General Services (DGS) and the review of EMCAC.”  The letter went on to state, “While I am sure that ANC6B will want to weigh in, according to the DC Code they are not the primary advisory body for this issue.”  And, “As you may be aware, EMCAC supports vending on this block of 7th street on the condition that it be under the jurisdiction of DGS management and the Eastern Market manager. We do not approve of allowing 2 private management companies to control the space, especially during the construction on the Hine site.”

Councilmember Tommy Wells has also gone on record that vending on 7th Street should be under the control of DGS.

At last night’s ANC meeting Pate introduced a new resolution staying neutral on who would manage the weekend market.  He said he would postpone consideration until the October ANC6B meeting to allow time for the “brick and mortar” merchants on the 300 block of 7th Street to formulate a collective position.

Former Ward 6 Councilmember Sharon Ambrose rose from the audience to say that the ANC did not have a role in closing of the street.  “There is no request for a street closure – no zoning issues – there is simply nothing here on which you have a role to play.”  Donna Scheeder agreed, saying there is a process in DC code for considering closure of the 300 block and the process should be followed.  She noted that the reason ANC has a seat on EMCAC (occupied by Pate) is to help determine how taxpayer assets can best be managed to preserve Eastern Market, implying that Pate’s first duty was to Eastern Market.  She stated, “I would be remiss in my responsibilities as Chair if I say anything other than the DC Code sets out that EMCAC has primary jurisdiction over retail on the 300 block of 7th Street.”

Commissioners Frishberg, Pate and Garrison disagreed that the ANC has no role.  Frishberg cited the lack of city leadership saying, “If we wait, something will happen and it will be beyond us.  We could have just restated our position on closing the block.  That would have left questions on table.  Where the money goes.  How construction would be coordinated.  We were proactive and chose to get out ahead.  The risk of not doing something is that something will happen some night – the Mayor’s pen….”  Pate added that, “As long as I’m involved, we will have a role in the closure of 7th Street.”  Garrison sharply disagreed with Ambrose, saying, “We’re on solid ground to take action if we choose to do so.”

The decision to postpone any ANC6B action until the October meeting comes at a time when EMCAC is scheduled to meet on September 26th at 7:00 p.m. in the North Hall; EMCAC Chair Donna Scheeder suggested Tuesday night that it is likely EMCAC will take up this issue when it convenes.


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Management of Flea Markets Presents Hurdle for Eastern Market Legislation

Management of Flea Markets Presents Hurdle for Eastern Market Legislation – ANC6B Support on Hine Contingent on Legislation’s Success

by Larry Janezich

Last Monday, July 2, at the City Council’s Committee on Government Operations hearing on Councilmember Tommy Well’s Eastern Market legislation, an array of stake holding organizations lined up to oppose two key provisions of the bill.  The first issue was language requiring the proposed Eastern Market Trust to give the current weekend flea market operators the first opportunity to contract “under substantially similar terms” to provide the weekend flea markets.  The second was language providing for self-perpetuation of the proposed Trust to oversee Market operations.

Opponents of the “substantially similar language” provision included the Task Force set up by Wells to make recommendations for a new Market-governing structure, and the Capitol Hill Restoration Society.  The Eastern Market Tenants’ Council opposed the self-perpetuating provision and Eastern Market Community Advisory Council Chair Donna Scheeder pointedly stated that that provision had not been their recommendation.  The Tenants’ Council’s position is that they should have six of the total number of seats on the new Trust. 

Committee Chair Muriel Bowser (Ward 4), expressed concern about both provisions.  A representative of Mayor Gray said that while the Mayor supported the objectives of the bill, he opposed the legislation as currently written due to “public policy concerns about the purported establishment in the legislation of a non-District entity to lease and operate a valuable government asset.”

ANC6B has no formal position on the “substantially similar” language, though Commission representative Brian Pate said he had concerns about the provision since he lacked the contracts to review and was hesitant to tie the future Trust to terms of the contracts.  Commissioner Ivan Frishberg, testifying as an individual, stated he thought concerns about the “substantially similar” language were ‘over-stated” and thought a middle ground could be found on which to move forward.

ANC6B has endorsed the legislation and has made its support of the Memorandum of Agreement regarding community benefits and amenities for the Hine development contingent on approval of the legislation which offers a solution to the widely-opposed halving of the weekend flea markets occasioned by the construction of the Hine project. 

The opposition to the “substantially similar” language is based on the bill’s stated objective of making the Market self-sustainable in ten years.  Eastern Market operations ordinarily need to be subsidized by the city.  Granting a too-favorable contract to weekend flea market managers instead of allowing the future Market Trust to benefit from the revenue which would accrue from bringing the flea markets under its jurisdiction diverts income from a city resource to the private sector.  Some critics claim the two weekend flea market managers gross more annually than the market itself.  Flea market managers dispute this.

Regarding the “substantially similar” language, Chair Bowser said on one hand, there might be some flexibility in city policy regarding first refusal – usually reserved for housing issues – when it comes to other public goods.  On the other hand, she said outside vendor managers may not be in the interests of the Market.  Regarding the self-perpetuating issue, she said the issue of accountability requires the City Council to make sure the Trust is directly accountable to the taxpayer – and “one way to do that is to have members of the Trust appointed by elected officials and approved by the Council.” 

Wells is hoping for the first of two Council votes on the bill before July 15, and has said he will continue to clarify the bill with input from the community.  Mayor Gray’s representative said the Mayor would like to have further conversations with Wells about the governance of the Market.

More information may become available when ANC6B meets Tuesday night.  On the agenda:   Discussion and possible action regarding recent events related to proposed Eastern Market legislation.  The meeting is at 7:00pm in Hill Center.


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Update on Fate of Weekend Flea Markets at Hine

Update on Fate of Weekend Flea Markets at Hine – Eastern Market Committee Seeks Party Status at Zoning Hearing To Support Flea Markets

by Larry Janezich

The fate of the weekend flea markets has been one of the issues which galvanized the Eastern Market community with respect to the Hine Development.  Here is a summary of where things stand on the eve of the Zoning Commission’s hearing on Stanton-Eastbanc’s application to change the zoning for the site.  The hearing, scheduled for Thursday, June 14, at 6:30pm, will be one of the last – if not the last – opportunities for public input on the project.

It appears that the zoning hearing will proceed with the fate of the flea markets unresolved.  Generally speaking, the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development and the Department of Housing and Economic Development are fine with a 68 tent weekend flea market.

Community members who oppose reducing the size of the flea market have brought political pressure to bear on their ANC representatives and Councilmember Tommy Wells to remedy the situation, and Wells’ response has been to amend his proposed legislation providing a new governing structure for Eastern Market to give the new body (the “Trust”) authority to site the flea markets on 7th Street between North Carolina Avenue and Pennsylvania Avenue on weekends.   This end would be accomplished by incorporating 7th Street between North Carolina and Pennsylvania Avenue in the “Eastern Market Special Use District,” which would be under the control of the Trust.  The legislation was fast-tracked and headed for a hearing last Thursday, when the resignation of City Council Chair Kwame Brown resulted in a hearing postponement.

Other developments last week shed light on, or raised new concerns about the fate of the flea markets.

Donna Scheeder, Eastern Market Community Advisory Committee (EMCAC) Chair, filed papers with the Zoning Commission asking for party status for EMCAC to oppose the Hine Development’s public space benefits at the Commission’s June 14 hearing.  Public space benefits refer to the developers’ limited plan to accommodate the flea markets.  Party status before the Zoning Commission gives entities granted it, more standing before the Commission, more time to present their case, and the right to cross examine witnesses and others with party status.  Scheeder is Councilmember Tommy Well’s appointee to the Committee and the Committee voted earlier this year to seek party status in the upcoming hearing.  There was some question whether EMCAC’s filing for party status was timely, and it may depend on a waiver by the Zoning Commission to be in order.

EMCAC, which has statutory responsibility for advising city agencies on the preservation and operations of Eastern Market, was one of the organizations which endorsed Stanton-Eastbanc’s bid for the development before the city chose a developer.  That support was contingent on the developers providing space for the flea market and as well as adequate parking for Eastern Market shoppers.  EMCAC’s support for the development began to waiver when the developers began to scale back the amount of space for the flea market, then appeared to firm up once Wells’ legislative solution was proffered.

Details of how the plan could work were revealed at a CHRS community forum on the Hine Development last Monday.  A representative of Oheme Van Sweden, landscape architect for the Hine project, presented an aerial photo taken July 28, 2010, that showed 204 tents including the flea market and all the additional vendors abutting the Market and in front of Natatorium.   The landscaping firm has prepared a plan providing for 250 tents in the new Special Use District, including 68 on C Street, 19 on the Eastern Market Metro Plaza, 163 on 7th Street between North Carolina and Pennsylvania Avenue and in front of Natatorium.  Their count includes tents that not only include weekend flea market vendors, but also those under Market management.  Serious issues regarding logistics and accommodation for the 7th Street ‘brick and mortar” merchants remain and have yet to be addressed.

Although the focus of Scheeder’s application for party status concerns preserving space for the flea market, another issue arose last week which could jeopardize the Market’s interests.  On Monday, the DDOT Transportation Report became available and recommends a substantial reduction of 100 to 125 parking spaces in the total parking available for the project.  Since parking is expensive to build and slow to return a profit, it would seem that the developers would be only too happy to scale back the parking.  The issue is complicated by the developers’ pledge to provide 50 spaces for flea market vendor parking on weekends (at half-price) but reducing the total parking for the project would make this problematic and likely would come at the expense of parking for patrons of the Market.

ANC6B will meet on next Tuesday to vote on whether to endorse the project based on a number of recently negotiated benefits, amenities, and mitigations.  Moving forward without the flea market issue being resolved may have to be an article of faith, and that may be asking a lot of the Eastern Market community.


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ANC Tries to Take Flea Market Off the Table Before Hine Zoning Hearing – Market Managers Skeptical About Proposed Solution

ANC Tries to Take Flea Market Off the Table Before Hine Zoning Hearing – Market Managers Skeptical About Proposed Solution

by Larry Janezich

ANC6B has scheduled a Special Call meeting on Councilmember Tommy Wells’ Eastern Market legislation for next Tuesday.  The purpose is to consider and sign off on the bill prior to the City Council’s Committee of the Whole hearing on the legislation next Thursday.

The ANC is hoping this will resolve one of the thorniest issues coming before the full ANC6B meeting on June 12 and the Zoning Commission hearing on June 14 as part of Stanton-Eastbanc’s application to change the zoning of the Hine site.  There is widespread unhappiness in the Capitol Hill community over the scaling back of the flea market which will result from construction of the 560,000 square foot Hine development which will occupy almost all of the space currently used by the weekend flea market vendors.

The legislation proposes to address this problem by creating an “Eastern Market Special Use District,” which will include the 700 block of the to-be-reopened C Street, 7th Street between North Carolina Avenue and Pennsylvania Avenue, and the sidewalks and plazas around and adjacent to Eastern Market.  The use of the Special District would be under the control of a newly formed Eastern Market Trust, intended to be the new governing body for Eastern Market.

Last Wednesday night, at a meeting in Hill Center hosted by the Coalition for Smarter Growth, Stanton Partner Ken Golding alluded to a drawing prepared by project architect Amy Weinstein, which lays out a plan for the weekend flea market encompassing 7th Street between North Carolina and Pennsylvania Avenue, the plaza in front of the Natatorium next to Eastern Market, and the Metro Plaza.  Stanton Development has not yet released that drawing, and it is unclear that they will do so, but Golding cited it as providing ample space for the market.

Councilmember Tommy Wells has asserted to flea market vendors, “The legislation does not displace current vendors or reduce Eastern Market in any way – the opposite is true. The flea market [managers] would now have a new right-of-first-refusal to continue in their space and preserve the diverse nature of the market.”

Sunday flea market manager Mike Berman says that “rushing a political solution is not the answer.  What it does is let the developer off the hook.”  In addition, Berman believes, that although the legislation gives him and Saturday flea market manager Carol Wright the right of first refusal, the bill will ask them to rebid on the markets they created, and under terms that remain unknown.  In addition, he said, the bill: 1) fails to guarantee the size of the future weekend markets, 2) fails to define what the flea market will be, 3) fails to define how much space on the plaza the developer will control, and 4) leaves the process for closing 7th Street on weekends uncertain.

The Special Call meeting on the Eastern Market legislation will be held at St. Coletta of Greater Washington, 1901 Independence Avenue SE, on Tuesday, June 5, 2012, at 600pm.  It will be followed by the ANC Planning and Zoning Committee which will consider the Memorandum of Agreement between the ANC and Stanton – Eastbanc which ANC negotiators Ivan Frishberg and Brian Pate were able to reach with the developer.

Last Thursday, the ANC Hine Subcommittee voted to send the negotiators back to the developer with a list of additional instructions.  Commissioner Norm Metzger is expected to challenge the parliamentary validity of those additional instructions on the basis that they had not been considered or approved by the full ANC.


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Flea Market Managers Disappointed in Draft Eastern Market Legislation – Future of Flea Markets in Doubt

Flea Market Managers Disappointed in Draft Eastern Market Legislation – Future of Flea Markets in Doubt

by Larry Janezich

The two managers of Eastern Market’s weekend flea markets are unhappy with the draft version of legislation to create a new governing authority for Eastern Market circulated by Councilmember Wells.

According to Michael Berman, manager of the Sunday flea market, and Carol Wright, manager of the Saturday flea market, the bill is “sloppily written,” leaving them and their vendors without the protection offered to the vendors who operate inside the Market, on 7th Street and on the sidewalks around Eastern Market and the Natatorium; the draft bill also makes no provision for continuing the weekend flea markets at anything more than half the size of the current markets.

As written now, the legislation would create a new Eastern Market Historic Special Use District encompassing all of the area currently occupied by vendors, including those operating on the Hine playground, as well as other areas such as 7th Street between C Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, SE, and the to-be-reopened C Street between 7th and 8th Streets, SE, which will or could be used for future locations of the flea market once the construction and operation of the Hine Development begins.

All vending operations in the newly defined Special Use District would come under the control of the Trust, an entity that the bill will establish to govern Eastern Market.  The legislation does not prohibit the Trust from contracting out the flea market operations to Berman and Wright, but it offers no guarantee that it will do so.

Regardless, Berman asserts that the developers of the Hine project – Stanton Eastbanc – have raised unrealistic expectations about how many of the current flea market vendors can be accommodated in the only space that is presently allotted for their use:  part of the newly reopened C Street and the “public plaza” which is represented by a widening of C Street where it meets 7th Street, diagonally across from Eastern Market.

The developer claims there is room for 68 10 x 10 foot tents – a little more than half of the current Sunday flea market on a busy day.  In their original proposal, Stanton Eastbanc provided for 90 10 x 10 foot spaces, but the current design yields only the lower figure (68).   Berman says that the plan is not workable because it does not take into account the logistics of setting up tents in such a confined space, provides aisles which are too narrow, does not take into account impedances such as trees and bollards, and notes that there is only one elevator to service the vendors who will have 50 parking spaces set aside in the project for their use on weekends.  Berman estimates that not more than 40 vendors will be able to set up on C Street and the public plaza and predicts a logistical nightmare for setting up these few.

The Eastern Market Legislation holds out the possibility that 7th Street between C Street and Pennsylvania Avenue could be closed to accommodate vendors who will not find space on the newly opened C Street.  Berman estimates that perhaps 50 vendors could set up on this section of 7th Street, but the legislation says nothing about authority to close this part of 7th.  How the “brick and mortar” merchants on the west side of the street between Eastern Market and Pennsylvania Avenue will react to a proposal to close the street is unknown – but their counterparts opposite Eastern Market are known to be unhappy about former Mayor Fenty closing that section of 7th on weekends by fiat.

Councilmember Wells will address community concerns on these and other issues at a public meeting on Tuesday, May 22, from 6:30pm – 8:00pm at Brent Elementary School, 301 North Carolina Avenue, SE.

Important dates in the development’s future are as follows:

June 7, 2012 – DC City Council Committee of the Whole hearing on Eastern Market Bill

June 14, 2012 – Planned Unit Development (PUD) Hearing before DC Zoning Commission

January – October 2012 – Construction Drawings Completed

September 2012 – Submit request for Building Permits

April 2013 – Start Building Construction

Spring 2015 – Completion


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Weekend Flea Market to be Much Reduced by Stanton Eastbanc Hine Development

Weekend Flea Market to be Much Reduced by Stanton Eastbanc Hine Development

by Larry Janezich

No matter what happens, the Eastern Market weekend flea market will be smaller in the future.

Competing interests of the city, the developer, and Eastern Market have put the squeeze on the weekend flea markets and the vendors who operate outside the market on weekends.   Stanton Eastbanc’s current development plans do not allow for a full weekend flea market, and the city has no immediate or obvious plans to either compel the developer to make room for the flea market or to create a new home for it that will accommodate its current size.

One of the requirements for all the contractors who bid for the Hine development was that “sufficient space” for the flea market had to be provided.  The original Stanton Eastbanc plan for the development which got the nod from the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development would have provided 90 spaces for vendor’s tents on the newly reopened C Street, and on a square plaza centrally located within the project and set back from the middle of the newly opened C Street.

After the project was awarded to Stanton Eastbanc, the size of the project increased and the space for the flea market was shrunk.  Currently the plan provides for space for 68 vendor tents on C Street.  The plaza – originally touted as vendor space – currently appears to be reserved for public space including water features and café seating (which is proprietary and not public space).

Most people don’t realize that the weekend outdoor market comprises three entities:  the food and non-food vendors outside Eastern Market, on 7th Street and on the natatorium plaza under control of Barry Margeson, Eastern Market manager; the Saturday flea market on the Hine playground, managed by Carol Wright; and the Sunday flea market, managed by Diverse Market Management, owned by Michael Berman.  The popular weekend market attracts up to 30,000 visitors and supports up to 150 vendor tents on a good weekend, according to Berman.

Councilmember Tommy Wells is currently re-writing legislation establishing a Trust which will be the new governing authority for Eastern Market, including the weekend flea markets.  The legislation – which may be revealed within days – will likely provide for consolidating the management of the three outdoor markets under the Trust.  The goal of the Market is to be self-sustaining within ten years, and it is difficult to imagine a scenario that will allow it to be so without consolidating control of the weekend market and using vendor fees toward that end.  Currently, the two flea market managers each pay $24,000 annually to the city to rent the Hine parking lot on weekends, and they in turn charge individual vendors for space on the weekends.

In addition to concern over the number of vendor tents accommodated under current plans, Michael Berman calls Stanton Eastbanc’s proposal for parking 50 vendor trucks in the development’s parking garage problematic, noting that many of his vendors deal with large pieces and that access to C Street for set up with be limited to one small service elevator.

In an apparent attempt to salvage the current weekend flea market’s size and diversity, Councilmember Wells has floated the option of closing 7th Street on weekends to accommodate vendors who cannot fit onto C Street, but Berman notes that at best, there are spaces for 50 vendors.

In addition, the Eastern Market Community Advisory Committee (EMCAC) opposes closing of 7th Street for several reasons, including detrimental impact on the “brick and mortar” merchants on 7th Street, loss of 30 parking spaces on 7th Street, and loss of access to the new development’s loading dock.  EMCAC has also gone on record opposing Stanton-Eastbanc charging vendors for use of the new C Street as well as charging vendors for the 50 spaces reserved for vendor parking in the development on weekends.  (EMMCA is currently supporting subsidized parking for vendors on weekends so as to prevent vendors from seeking parking on residential streets.)

There are other ways to provide space for vendors, including widening the sidewalks on 7th Street and/or C Street, or widening the plaza on C Street.  All of these would involve changing the footprint of the building, which will undoubtedly be resisted by Stanton Eastbanc.  The developer’s private ownership of C Street also imperils the market; as currently written, the ground lease allows the developer to unilaterally close down the flea market if it wishes.  EMCAC is strongly opposed to permitting the developer to have this authority and supports language in the new Eastern Market legislation to prevent it.

The flea market manager’s contracts with the city extend until construction on the new project begins – currently slated for September 2013.  What happens after construction begins and in the interim until the newly reopened C Street is ready to accept vendor operations is uncertain.  Commissioner Brian Pate, ANC6B’s representative to EMCAC, reported to ANC6B Tuesday night, that EMCAC’s current position is that the developer created this problem and should solve it without shifting responsibility to the city to close 7th Street.  He also called upon EMCAC to step up and develop a plan for the flea market during the construction phase.


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