Eastern Market Report – April 2017

Peter J. Waldron


Appraisal & Leases
At the March 22 meeting, Eastern Market Community Advisory Committee (EMCAC) Chair Donna Scheeder presented a report on the recent meeting with the Department of General Services’ (DGS) appraisal hire, The Marcus Asset Group.

The Marcus Asset Group, tasked with setting a fair market rental rate for the South Hall merchants met with EMCAC members on March 7 and briefed them on how they will move forward as the process of offering long term leases comes to an end.

The Eastern Market rental rate lease issue is singular in that there are few if any “comparables” other than other public markets found in major cities across the country.

Scheeder pointed out that Ernie Marcus, a Certified General Appraiser, had been a five year resident of Capitol Hill and thus is presumably aware of the Market’s unique status as the Hill’s town center as well as a historical site.

Scheeder reminded EMCAC that “the number they would come up with for a fair market rent would be a starting point for negotiation and not an end and is something to keep in mind.” Among the concerns is that the appraisal process give consideration to the landmark status of the building.

The appraisal process is scheduled for completion in fifty days and there will be a five to seven day turnaround period for comment. EMCAC is an advisory group created by the 1999 Eastern Market legislation.

Realtor and EMCAC Vice Chair Chuck Burger stated that “the sole purpose of this contract is to determine guidelines as the Market is a very difficult retail operation to analyze especially when considering its ownership and rent structure and the historical nature and its legislative requirements.“

EMCAC member Richard Layman pointed out that the outside arts and craft vendors will not be a part of this rental valuation process. Those rents are set by DGS.

Currently, other terms of a lease are under discussion as the South Hall merchants and their attorneys are meeting about a proposed lease from DGS. The South Hall merchants have been without leases since the late 1990s when the current Eastern Market legislation was passed.

DGS is the landlord for the publicly owned Eastern Market.

Managers Report
Barry Margeson, the Market Manager, reported that gross revenues for the month of February were $55,973.26. North Hall revenues were $23,170. Margeson reported that these are “about what February numbers usually are.”

The North Hall continues to be a potentially untapped revenue source for the Eastern Market but it more than meets its legally required availability as a community space and resource with low or no cost community activities balanced with a minimally healthy schedule of higher end wedding receptions and any number of profitable political or trade association catered events.

There are 63 events scheduled for the months of March and April. Pricing for all North Hall rentals is posted on the website at easternmarket-dc.org.

Market Safety
Discussions continued about the vulnerability of the Eastern Market given its prominent place in the nation’s capitol and the rising climate of terrorism. According to Margeson, the latest safety proposal under consideration is that MPD is “recommending that the farmer’s market use cars to block the roadways.” Margeson added: “ We are considering this option.” Further discussion ensued with a growing consensus among EMCACA members that bollards would be more effective.

Market Fire: Ten Years Later
April 30th marked the tenth anniversary of the destruction of the Eastern Market by fire and the rallying of the Capitol Hill community, led by the Capitol Hill Community Foundation, and its role in the Market’s rising literally from its own ashes.

Under the Fenty Administration the District government committed $22.5 million to the restoration of the Market. Re-opened in 2009, the Market has thrived in the past decade despite the fierce competition due to the opening of a number of public markets as well as the even more fierce competition from the large supermarket chains.

Sharon Ambrose
Former Councilmember Sharon Ambrose passed away on April 1, 2017. A twice elected, no-nonsense member of the Council, Ambrose, more than any single Hill resident, deserves credit for successfully steering the current Eastern Market legislation through the City Council, establishing by law in 1999 the underlying legal framework that has become the basis for the current success of the Eastern Market.