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Eastern Market Strategic Plan Stalled

Change often comes slowly when government is involved. The Eastern Market Strategic Plan and the Market’s future are threatening to become victims of the crippling side-effects of the pandemic, as the study appears stalled in the District government.   

A strategic plan is an organization’s process of defining its strategy or direction and making decisions on how to allocate resources to pursue this strategy.

The Eastern Market plan was commissioned in 2019 by the City Council at a cost of $300,000. Authors Archive Group PCS presented 12 recommendations supported by 52 strategies.

At the Eastern Market Community Advisory Community (EMCAC) meeting held virtually on July 28th, long-time member Tom Kuchenberg expressed frustration and wondered whence the plan had disappeared.

Kuchenberg and asked Market Manager Barry Margeson whether anybody in District government was working on an implementation timeline and whether there is any likelihood there would be forward movement. Or, Kuchenberg asked, “will it be filed in the library of other strategic plans?”

The plan was delivered Nov. 20, 2020 to EMCAC and the Department of General Services (DGS), the agency that employs Margeson. There has been little to no visible movement from the agency as the decision-makers work their way through the required process of implementation.

Margeson said the plan was in discussion and reassured EMCAC that these were ongoing. “I will say this,” Margeson told the meeting, “I don’t think this will be filed. The folks in these discussion are interested in making progress but I cannot give you any more update than that.”

The next step is for DGS to allocate funding for plan implementation and to prioritize recommendations. A transition committee must then be appointed to guide the process.   

Market Manager’s Report

Margeson reported that Market revenues are “doin’ okay” and stated that  projected revenue for the remaining fiscal year are unchanged. Margeson had previously expressed a hope that there might be yet another significant revenue jump but conceded current revenue is plateauing at $500k to $550k with a shortfall currently projected at around $134,303.

North Hall revenues, source of most of the Market’s decade-long growth, have been dramatically affected by the inability to book large groups and gatherings as the District has again tightened COVID-related restrictions. The North Hall is on pace to its grimmest revenue year as the fiscal year winds to a close in September.

EMCAC member Susan Oursler reported on a “pricing” meeting held on July 20th. North Hall management did a deep dive to consider rental rates in an effort to remain competitive as they evaluate where they sit in the present market. Even as Oursler reported on how impressive the North Hall’s presentation was, she reminded EMCAC members that it was difficult to find a similar site to use for comparison as Eastern Market is singular in its uniqueness.

The pre-pandemic North Hall  did a brisk and lucrative private events business. What is little known in the community is that the North Hall has, as part of its enabling legislation, an obligation to have widespread community use. It is not just a token gesture, but a allows for a substantive calendar of community events that are affordable.

The New Market Hours are:

  • Farmers’ Line: weekend 8 a.m. till 3 p.m.
  • Arts & Crafts: weekend 9 a.m. till 4 p.m.
  • South Hall weekly: Tues thru Sat 8 a.m. till 6 p.m.
  • South Hall Sunday: 8 am. till 5 p.m.

Eastern Market is closed Mondays. Masks continue to be required at the Market.

Peter J Waldron is a long time Hill resident and former Chair of ANC 6B, and has been reporting on the Eastern Market for thirteen years. Waldron can be reached at  peter218@ prodigy.net.

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