The Eastern Market Community Advisory Committee (EMCAC) met in person in the North Hall (225 Seventh St. SE) Oct. 26 for the first time since the beginning days of the pandemic, even as arrangements were made for the community to continue to attend virtually.
Newly elected Chair Chuck Burger indicated that EMCAC would meet in hybrid sessions at least temporarily. Anyone who is interested in attending meetings from the comfort of their homes should reach out to Burger at firstname.lastname@example.org
EMCAC is the legally constituted advisory board for the Eastern Market. It meets the last Wednesday of each month at 7 p.m. in the North Hall.
The first order of business was the required annual election of officers. Burger, previously the Vice Chair, was elected to the position of Chair. Additional officers elected include Susan Oursler, representing the Capitol Hill Restoration Society (CHRS), as Vice Chair for the first time; Monte Edwards and Tom Kuchenberg were re-elected Secretary and Treasurer respectively. Both have served on EMCAC for more than twenty years. Oursler conducted the brief election with ballots. The numbers were not shared, only the winners.
Newly sworn in Mayoral representative Jackie Krieger was welcomed to EMCAC, and expressed excitement to be joining the board.
Market Manager’s Report
Market Manger Barry Margeson presented the monthly report. Revenues for the year were predictably down yet a dramatic improvement over the previous fiscal year, at $754, 000.
The unadjusted budget for FY 22was $795,000 yielding an initial operational loss of $41,000. Asked how revenues look for this year Margeson responded they are “significantly ahead” of last year.
Eastern Market revenues are principally a three legged stool with fixed rents from the historical South Hall; seasonal revenue from the outside arts and craft vendors on weekends; and over the past decade and where there is always the most potential for growth, booked private events from the North Hall.
According to Margeson North Hall revenue, a strong indicator of the overall Market bounce back, has one hundred thousand dollars in events booked, a sign that the economic effects of COVID are now waning.
The Eastern Market’s charter requires that the Department of General Services (DGS) , which manages the market, also make the North Hall available at a reduced price for community events.
The recurring and unresolved issue of the lack of leases between DGS and the South Hall merchants was raised, another sign that the “all-hands on deck” period of survival might be ending for the Market. During the two -plus years of the pandemic, when all parties were simply trying to make sure that the Eastern Market survived, there was no substantial discussion of leases other than an appraisal that the DGS commissioned in order to assess market rental rates. EMCAC felt such increases would impose unaffordable rates on the South Hall merchants.
The merchants have been without long term leases for over two decades.
Both Burger and long time community representative Tom Kuchenberg signaled that they are ready to revive this recently dormant issue with Kuchenberg suggesting that a third party mediator be hired to reach settlement.
Leases offer businesses a sense of certainty that month-to-month arrangements do not and offer business the ability to go to a bank and borrow money or to have something to sell along with good will associated in a business.
Burger referenced a recent meeting with DGS, when he recounted that he “personally made it quite clear [that] I have no idea how we can have a budget unless we have businesses and vendors with leases.”
Burger said he intended to present something for the EMCAC Operations Committee to look at and to discuss in moving the issue forward. “We have been sitting by for twenty years,” Burger reminded the meeting, noting that in twenty years there had been up to nine management teams working on the issue. “It is like groundhog day,” he said, referencing the Bill Murray film in which the protagonist relives the same day repeatedly. “We are probably the only market that has this type of situation. We need to grow up and act responsibly. “Learn more about EMCAC by visiting easternmarket-dc.org/emcac.
Peter Waldron is a long time Hill resident and former Chair of ANC6B. He has been reporting on the Eastern Market fourteen years. Waldron can be reached at email@example.com.