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Eastern Market Numbers Headed in Right Direction

The Eastern Market Community Advisory Committee (EMCAC) met virtually on April 28th to discuss a double dose of good news about the Market.

Market Manager Barry Margeson reported that business is on a “significant uptick,” and that budget requests are being met.

Margeson said that revenue for the  first two quarters of the fiscal year was $357,974. North Hall revenue, the underpinning of a successful Market season,  jumped 50 percent in February to $53,045. Private bookings are seeing  a resurgence indicating there is hope that the pandemic might finally be behind us.

North Hall revenues had fallen as low as $600 in November, tantamount to the hall being closed.

Predicting a “straight line projection” of income or the same income each month averaged for the balance of the year, Margeson  has projected total revenue for the year at $715,614 with an accompanying  budget shortfall of $82,712 which will be backstopped as it has been for the last few years by the District Government.

With any significant growth, however, the Market may well end up in the black.

Margeson projected that the rest of the fiscal year should be on the increase. With the outdoor market and Farmer’s Line both coming into their respective peak seasons, there is even more likelihood that business at the Market might one day again flirt with an income of just under a million annually, as it did in the  years previous to the virus taking the economy to its knees.

Customer Traffic

Counts are now measured at three entrances to the Market. The latest numbers for the week ending March 14 are 11,000 customers. The count for the equivalent week last year at  8,000. These counts do not include the outdoor markets or those entering the Market through other entrances.

Capital Improvements

On March 31 longtime EMCAC Chair of Capital Improvements Monte Edwards  l testified before the DC Council about inadequate requests for funding for the Eastern Market’s capital budget for FY24 as well as over the next half decade.

The current budget had a request for an allocation of $675,000. Zero dollars are allocated for FY23 and for FY25 through FY27.

A laundry list of capitol needs includes a freight elevator, replacement of water  pipes and repairs and replacement of the Center Halls stairs. Also itemized is replacement and upgrading of the fire system, critical when we recall that Eastern Market burned down in April 2007. These projects are not inexpensive and are likely to cost somewhere in the range of $2 million dollars or more, Edwards said.

Afterwards, with a strong push from Councilmembers Charles Allen (Ward 6-D) and Robert White (D-At Large), DC Council stepped up to the plate. According to Edwards $510,000 was reallocated, moved from the Committee on Judiciary and Public Safety (which is chaired by Allen). The committee of Facilities and Procurement in turn enhanced the Eastern Market budget by over $2.4 million.

Edwards entered into the record a report from White’s Procurement Committee which moved the funding, which noted: “by law, DGS ( Department of General Services), must consider recommendations from EMCAC when  developing a  proposed budget.”

“EMCAC’s  representative testified that the $675,000 for capital improvements and zero for the other years is far less that what EMCAC identified as necessary in their recommendations earlier this year,” the report continued.

“We  got everything that we asked for,” Edwards said. “The Eastern Market Capital Budget has been restored.”

But Edwards added a caution that the report is only a recommendation to DC Council and so is still subject to review and revision. Edwards therefore successfully moved that EMCAC send a letter to DC Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D) about the importance of the committee recommendation for the operations and capital improvements of the Eastern Market.

Peter J. Waldron is a long time Hill resident and former Chair of Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 6B. He has been reporting on Eastern Market for fourteen years. Waldron can be reached at peter218@prodigy.net


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