At the November 18th meeting of the Eastern Market Community Advisory Committee (EMCAC) met virtually on November 18th at 7 p.m., Market Manager Barry Margeson reported significant revenue losses in FY20 for the third quarter. Total revenue for FY20 was $555,689, the most significant drop in revenue since the Department of General Services (DGS) took over active management of the Market after a devastating fire in 2007, and well below 2019 revenues of $916,704.
Third quarter revenue was only $30,678. There was a partial bounce back of $107,376 in the fourth quarter. By way of comparison, revenue in the first two quarters, including the fall/winter seasons, was $230,764 and $180,870. Operating costs were not made available.
Chair Donna Scheeder, responding to the revenue collapse, said: “These are sobering numbers.”
These losses do not include those of the outdoor arts and crafts vendors and South Hall merchants which, however measured, are likely substantial. The Market’s losses would be unsustainable were the District government not absorbing these operating costs at the moment.
Eastern Market legislation does not require that the Market show a profit.
Strategic Plan Implementation
Scheeder asked Margeson to respond to a letter EMCAC had drafted to the Department of General Services, the Market’s landlord and management, citing concerns with the recently released Eastern Market Strategic Business Plan authored by Hill-based firm Architrave.
Prior to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, Architrave received a $300,000 grant, was tasked with developing a strategic business plan that would help to give shape to the Eastern Market’s future in the new and more challenging current business climate while at the same time finding a way to balance the “Market experience.”
The grant was administered by the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development (DMPED) and was funded by the City Council with the strong support from Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen (D).
Chief among EMCACs concerns are the lack of specificity for how this plan will be implemented. A surprising note raised in the EMCAC letter is that the “report is incomplete in that there is no economic analysis of the recommendations.” Typically, a financial plan and projections are among the key elements of a strategic plan.
Architrave cites twelve recommendations and fifty two actionable strategies in its report.
Margeson said that DGS was planning a meeting with EMCAC to address their concerns, adding, “there are several great questions you asked and we would like to get a better idea and learn more. “
You can read the plan here: www.easternmarketplan.org
Security Issues Grow
Margeson reported that the Protective Service Department (PSD) is no longer on full time weekend duty at the Market and although the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) might occasionally stop by, there is not any funding for Market security. This leaves the Market not just vulnerable to terrorism but to the multiple issues where security would and might be needed.
EMCAC member Susan Oursler said that this minimal security was insufficient. “I am concerned about terrorist attacks or a fire,” she said. “Having a few cops walk through at random times on the weekend is not enough.”
Oursler called for an action plan. “I just think the city ought to devote some more resources to this when there are potentially thousands at the Market. I don’t think that is enough.”
Margeson reported that Jose Canales, owner of Canales Deli, plans on signing a lease soon. If he does, it would end a nearly two-decade period at the Market where none of the South Hall merchants had secured a lasting lease.
Christmas Tree Sales
Christmas tree sales were approved for vendors at the weekend Market as well as during the week. Beginning Nov. 27, two vendors will be located daily under the Farmer’s shed with a third location to the west of Seventh on C Street on weekends only.
Hours for Thanksgiving week are extended for Tuesday and Wednesday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. The Market is closed on Thanksgiving.
Efforts to create parking for Market customers have collapsed with the merchants never fully embracing validated parking and Margeson stating there is no longer any funding for a validated parking plan.
EMCAC had cancelled a number of scheduled monthly meetings in the spring when the coronavirus outbreak took hold but resumed meeting virtually in July. Meetings are held on the third Wednesday of each month.
The next scheduled meeting of EMCAC is January 13, 2021 at 7 p.m.
Peter J. Waldron is a long time Hill resident and a former Chair of ANC6B and has been reporting on the Eastern Market for thirteen years. Waldron can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.