At the Eastern Market Community Advisory Committee (EMCAC) meeting on May 23, Chair Donna Scheeder announced that the $300,000 for a strategic plan for the Eastern Market had been inserted into the District’s FY2019 budget and that the funds would be withdrawn from the Market’s Enterprise Fund. An additional $25,000 was added as a result of Councilmember Allen’s efforts for a security and bollard related study.
Market Manager’s Report
Barry Margeson, the Market Manager, reported that April revenues were $80,961 with North Hall income at $20,950. According to Margeson “leases were on the agenda at the last meeting with the Director and will continue to be a main focus.”
In a later discussion which included how to generate more business for the Market, Margeson stated he has offered to do joint advertising with the struggling South Hall merchants, but that so far their response has been tepid.
Margeson did a major emailing for Father’s Day which featured all of the South Hall merchants with pictures of both their businesses and product.
Brewing Governance Trouble
A newly formed organization calling itself the Eastern Market Preservation & Development Corporation (EMPDC) which has adopted the same name as an organization already existing and represented on EMCAC is causing some confusion.
Ellen Opper-Weiner, a Hill resident, called a press conference on May 22 to announce the “revitalization” of a new EMPDC. However these two organizations remain separate organizations with the original EMPDC chartered in 1987.
The “new” EMPDC is composed of six members and has launched a web site and is asking for support and donations. The “new” EMPDC released the results of a $8,000 study at the press conference entitled, DC’s Eastern Market: How To Save an Endangered Treasure.
This study, which concludes that the Market is being mismanaged, offers twenty nine recommendations among which are to re-open 7th Street SE to “slow moving” vehicular traffic on weekends and to dramatically curtail the space of the arts and craft vendors.
Vice Chair Chuck Burger, while welcoming the perspective of this study, expressed “concerns there is confusion about who is doing what. This is not a revitalization. This is a new corporation. You have to be careful about representation.”
As for the Market’s health, the City Council just approved a budget with projected revenue at more than one million dollars. At the time of the fire and the Market’s restoration in 2008 the Market’s budget was less than $400K with virtually all revenue growth since that time coming from the North Hall and the expansion of arts and craft vending.
Parking as an issue
Parking is by consensus the biggest issue at the Eastern Market even though there is ample parking within steps of the South Hall. The now completed Stanton Development Hine project known as 700 Penn promised substantial and dedicated parking in order to secure the community’s support for the project, yet has failed to outline its plans for Eastern Market parking.
In addition there are more than 50 surface lot spaces as well as more than 200 empty underground spaces at the Colonial parking lot which abuts 7th & C St. SE, across the street from the South Hall.
Dewit Adeje who manages the Colonial space stated he had been in earlier discussions with Margeson about arrangements for parking but there was no agreement reached other than the currently posted rate of $10 per day, clearly a prohibitive charge for customer use at the Market.
When asked what Colonial might agree to if arrangements were made to secure the 200 empty spaces Adeje immediately lowered his price to $8. Adeje said the previous offer by Market management had been rejected by the property management company.
Virtually all successful public markets now offer a validated parking plans that are either free or substantially reduce the cost of customer parking to one or two dollars.
Currently there is no validated plan at the Market with Margeson suggesting that there is very little if not no interest in developing one on the part of all parties.
At the May meeting Margeson was tasked by EMCAC member Susan Oursler to come up with a detailed report about “What you have done to move this parking program forward. Who did you talk to? What they said. I would like to see the math.“ This report is due at the June meeting.
On line competition: a customer profile
In a survey of one, Cory Galloway, a millennial and Hill resident who describes his family of three as “very busy,” paints a picture much more disturbing to Market competitiveness than lack of parking.
Galloway, who doesn’t own a car, said that he uses both the Market and Trader Joes as a place to “pick up a meal.” However, the Galloways buy the bulk of their groceries and staples on line at Amazon, 60% of which constitutes their weekly budget. Galloway occasionally shops at Harris Teeter and orders two meals per week from Sun Basket and other on line prepared meal delivery services.
As Galloway points out, he can order at 11: 30 at night and the groceries are delivered early the next day. “It is a time saver and not running errands allows us to do other things,” Galloway said.
The Eastern Market struggles with lack of accessible parking and the convenience of online shopping, dual challenges that may well be outpacing the Market’s ability to adapt to a new business model.
Charnice Milton, a Hill Rag reporter who would have turned thirty one in June, was on her way home from an Eastern Market meeting on May 27, 2015 when she was murdered. Her last words, texted to her mother as she sat at a bus stop in Southeast, were: “On my way home.” Used as a shield in a dirt bike shootout, Milton was shot to death at 9:42 PM.
No arrests have been made and MPD did not respond to an inquiry as to the status and any update of Milton’s case. Her parents have a web site, Open Hearts Closed Case on Facebook.