The Eastern Market Community Advisory Committee (EMCAC) met on January 23rd in the North Hall.
The election of the community representative was postponed due to lack of sufficient notice. The community representative is a voting member of EMCAC and must be a legal resident of DC. Anyone can be nominated. However, only EMCAC members are eligible to vote in the election.
This position has been held by Tom Kuchenberg since the Eastern Market legislation’s inception in 1999. Kuchenberg also serves as Chair of the Market Operations Committee. He is standing for re-election.
Market Manager’s Report
Revenue at the Market for the months of November and December was $74,718 and $90,288 respectively with North Hall revenues down at $22,625 and $33,107.
Market Manager Barry Margeson indicated that he would be scheduling a lease meeting of the South Hall merchants with the newly appointed Department of General Services (DGS) Director Keith Anderson as soon as Anderson was up to speed. As has been reported repeatedly, the South Hall merchants have been without leases for more than a decade.
A lengthy discussion ensued over the pending replacement of the HVAC system whose funding is now part of the DGS budget process scheduled at the City Council for an April 3 hearing. According to previous EMCAC reporting it is the general consensus that the initial HVAC installation was faulty and was never adequately corrected.
EMCAC Chair Donna Scheeder commented on the prior installation as well as other unfinished renovation issues from a decade ago: “There were things we recommended that did not get done. The question is: once the work is done who accepts it? Who inspects the work? This is important.“
Reporting on concerns that the 2018 vendor market had softened as far as participation Margeson reported that despite the fact that 2018 was the “rainiest year in DC history ( 29 Saturdays and 18 Sundays of rain) and vendor rates had not increased, revenue from vendors was $3215 more in 2018 than 2017.“
Pending is the resolution of the disputed 50 parking spaces promised by 700 Penn, the developer of the Hine project, to the Market as a condition of community support. In addition there was no update on the temporary validated parking plan with the Colonial Parking lot adjacent to the Market and available on weekends.
Lower 7th St Vending
In response to a question about the lack of vendor presence on lower 7th Street in the previous winter weeks, Margeson disclosed that Carol Wright, the leaseholder of the privately run flea market on Saturday’s lower 7th St Market, “decided not to renew“ her contract with DGS. Wright’s lease expired in December. [Wright maintains that she was in the process of negotiating her new lease and had no intention of giving up the lease.]
The privately run weekend flea markets are located in the lower 7th St space and on the newly created C St plaza which is part of the 700 Penn project. On February 7 Barry announced by email that “DGS is issuing an RFP to license approx. 13,328 sf of street space on the 300 block of 7th St for an Outdoor Market on Saturdays. “
In a specially called February 19th meeting, EMCAC accepted suggestions for incorporation into possible testimony at the upcoming DC Council oversight hearing chaired by Councilmember Robert White on how DGS is managing the Market. The hearing will be held on February 28th.
There were many suggestions as well as criticism on how DGS could improve its management of the Market. Mike Bowers, owner of Bowers Fancy Dairy Products, representing the thinking of the South Hall merchants, once again called for the opening of 7th Street, especially when weather displaces the outside vendors. He reiterated that the food market is “in grave risk of failure” citing that business is off 15-20% since the street closures, now nearly a decade old.
Bowers referred to the Tenant’s Council which exists as part of the Market legislation of 1999 as “illegally run “ with dominance asserted by the arts vendors.
Scheeder in her prepared remarks pointed to increased income but the lack of “timely reporting of expenses” as a problem even as she emphasized that “the development of a strategic business plan for the Eastern Market Special Use Area and leases for the merchants” were what concerned her most.