EMCAC Hears Strategic Plan Update

Eastern Market Report: Feb. 28

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Eastern Market. Photo: Andrew Lightman.

The decisions made over the course of the next months are going to affect the Eastern Market for the next decade and beyond.

That is why the first order of business at the February 26th Eastern Market Community Advisory Committee (EMCAC) meeting, an update on the progress of the strategic plan by Architrave’s project manager Scott Betz, was so important.

Architrave was awarded a $300,000 grant by the Office of Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development (DMPED) to develop and recommend a strategic plan to give shape to the Eastern Market’s future.

Although Betz vowed to get through his presentation ‘pretty quick’, one hour later he was still responding to the concerns of EMCAC members on matters of process. The key concern was that outreach efforts to the community include a focus group that included participants who did not shop at the Market, asking why they no longer (or never) did so. This pushback came chiefly from both EMCAC Chair Donna Scheeder and Vice Chair Chuck Burger.

Architrave Co-Founder Robert Weinsten stepped into the discussion and added some clarification, pointing out that community outreach had been extensive and included more than thirteen community organizations. As part of the initial process, Architrave has conducted an extensive survey of the Eastern Market community, he said. Betz reported that there were more than three thousand respondents to the survey, including one thousand who do not live on the Hill. In addition, there were more than five hundred comments. According to Betz, 160 businesses in and around the Market participated in the survey.

Betz indicated that Architrave is in the process of sifting through the data and that the next phase of this ongoing process will involve work with focus groups.

Market Manager’s Report

January revenues were up significantly (55 percent) from FY19 to $75,643. According to Market Manager Barry Margeson, some of the strength from the significantly stronger numbers are that January 2020 contains deferred revenue from previous bookings of the North Hall*.

Leases

The decades-long unresolved lease situation has taken on a new wrinkle as some South Hall merchants have put together an independent appraisal. Meanwhile, others have opened their books, displaying their earnings to the Department of General Services (DGS) in order to buttress what the merchants insist is their lack of ability to pay the doubled and sometimes nearly tripled rents recommended by the appraisal commissioned by DGS in 2017.

Speaking of the new lease plan, Margeson said it “is paid for by DGS, is chosen by the first and second appraisers, and comes up with a rate that is between the rate proposed by the first and second appraisers.”

EMCAC member Bill Glasgow, owner of Union Meats, wrapped up the discussion when he proposed that the merchants’ appraisal and the third appraisal be the basis for an agreement and insisted that the original DGS appraisal conducted by the Marcus Group be dismissed as both the South Hall merchants and EMCAC had rejected its conclusions.

Parking

Margeson reported that the 700 Penn parking program, which provides a $4 discount on parking in the garage for Eastern Market customers, is working only sporadically. South Hall merchant Union Meats went through a total of nine validation stickers in December and January combined. Parking is also available for market customers at the Colonial surface lot near Seventh and C Streets SE at $8 per day. Margeson promised that DGS would provide more signs advertising the programs and try to spread the word.

Architrave representatives noted data they had collected on parking in their study of other public markets in the U.S. Of the five public markets that Architrave has looked at as part of their research, three currently offer validated parking with a fourth having dropped the program because the vendors did not want to share in the costs. The fifth has free parking for customers.

Sing-Along at North Hall  

Margeson announced that retired music teacher and Hill resident Janet Gilmore is organizing a community sing-along for all ages free of charge in the North Hall. The sing-along will be held monthly on Tuesdays beginning April 7.th   Sing-alongs are growing in popularity and are a place where people gather together and sing.  Asked why she is initiating such an effort, Gilmore said, “I have been thinking about it. It feels like something people might want to do.”

For more information contact Gilmore at [email protected].

Testimony at City Council

Scheeder shared a copy for comment of the testimony she and Burger were presenting to the City Council’s Committee on Facilities and Procurement concerning the state of the Market. EMCAC’s testimony included the progress the Market has made in initiating a strategic business plan as well as attempts at wrapping up the lease issue.

A long-time Capitol Hill resident and former Chair of Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 6B, Peter J. Waldron has been writing for the Hill Rag for more than fifteen years. For the past 13, he has written a monthly column on Eastern Market. Reach him at [email protected]