Leases and New Appraisals
A new development threatens to derail the always tenuous tranquility of the Eastern Market’s vending community. Market Manager Barry Margeson lobbed a small grenade into the monthly meeting of the Eastern Market Community Advisory Committee (EMCAC) which met on June 28 in the North Hall. Vice Chair Chuck Burger presided over this early summer meeting in the absence of Chair Donna Scheeder.
Margeson announced: “We are going to appraise the outdoor vendor space and we are going to appraise the 300 block of 7th St in the case that we rent 7th St as a Market area to a management company and if we do that there will be a request for bids. Which is standard. “
With that Margeson presented his monthly report, touting the overall Market revenue streams as “on a par with last May.” Revenues for May were $84,633 with North Hall revenue topping out at $28,015.
Margeson issued a report on the status of the appraisal process for the South Hall merchant leases, adding: “There are no changes to the terms of the leases.”
Lease discussions are ongoing between the South Hall merchants and the Department of General Services (DGS) , the landlord of the Eastern Market.
The major unresolved issue is what constitutes fair market rent value on this publicly owned property. The process of determining this would accurately assess the space and at the same time preserve its abiding historical status as a fresh food market as well as a venue for arts and craft vendors as required by the Eastern Market legislation of 1999.
The South Hall merchants have been without leases for nearly twenty years.
The Marcus Group, a long time appraisal company in the District, selected through an RFP, has presented its initial draft finding for the members of EMCAC. Members of EMCAC are bound to strict confidentiality as they review these draft recommendations.
Prior to its June 28 meeting EMCAC met twice in executive sessions to review the content of the draft and to vote to approve the 140 page final draft copy.
At the June meeting Margeson said: “We look forward to receiving feedback from EMCAC regarding this draft proposal. This feedback will be incorporated into our comments that DGS provides the Appraiser. We will receive the final appraisal on July 15. “
However, even as the lease arrangements are moving to a conclusion, a new element has been added to the Market dynamic. An announcement of further appraisals is likely to set off a round of concern and consternation as the outdoor vendors had not expected to be included in an appraisal process that may or may not affect their livelihood as farmers or arts and craft vendors.
Further, a vigorous discussion of the future of an opened or closed 7th St., occupied or not occupied by vendors, and how they are managed is likely. Any decision on the future of lower 7th St. which is currently operated by two private management companies and its future use are now front and center.
Acting Chair Burger indicated that he was taken by surprise by Margeson’s announcement. This set off a prolonged discussion among EMCAC members, especially given the narrow window initially provided for an EMCAC response.
“This is news to us” said Burger. “We have been caught off guard. “
Margeson replied: “There is no horse out of any barn…………….yet. We look forward to input by the next meeting if possible. From EMCAC . “
Bill Glasgow, owner of Union Meats, immediately weighed in, if more broadly, concerning any future use of lower 7th St. for use of vending and said that he wanted it on the record that if 7th St. continues to remain closed once the Hine project is completed that this will place the South Hall merchants businesses in serious jeopardy.
“ Business is bad” Glasgow stated emphatically, concluding: “We will be out of business.”
Ellen Opper-Weiner, long time engaged community member and a lawyer, proposed a public meeting to gauge and gather community input on whether and how the lower 7th St. is to be used in the future, principally whether or not it will be re-opened as a public street on weekends once its privately operating current tenants are moved to the Hine project plaza and the new C St.
EMCAC member Tom Kuchenberg raised concerns of the impact these decisions could have on new tenants and residents of the new buildings at Hine.
Margeson assured EMCAC that DGS welcomes their feedback and offered more time if that would help absorb and ease the strong reaction to his announcements.
Hine Project Near Completion
Jonathan Page, the Mayor’s representative on EMCAC and the designated coordinator of the Hine construction project reported that “the office building and garage phase will be completed in early August………with the 8th St. building opening in October. The east west alley of what will be C S.t and its repaving has yet to be permitted. Not sure of this schedule.“
Chuck Brome, the operator of Eastern Market Pottery, presented a Tenant’s Council Report whose four voted recommendations attempt to draw attention to Market safety.
Brome called for the “distribution of a Market safety plan based on previously conducted studies and asked for additional safety measures for those vehicles entering the Market with malicious intent.” EMCAC members are pushing for protective bollards to enhance safety.
Margeson pointed out that DGS had put together a Market Evacuation Plan and training session but the “meeting was sparsely attended. “ Planning for any incident in these worrisome times continues to move at a glacial pace.