SAVE THE FLEA MARKET: UPDATE 1

WASHINGTON, DC (July 24, 2012)—Thousands of supporters who expressed themselves during a campaign to save The Flea Market at Eastern Market from both city legislation and redevelopment were thanked today by Michael Berman, President of Diverse Markets Management (DMM), the D.C. company that manages the market.

"More than 6,000 people signed either an online petition posted at the change.org site or a similar paper version circulated by exhibitors since the campaign began two months ago," Berman said. "And, though final decisions are still pending, the outpouring of support has certainly been significant. Particularly, the many heart-felt comments from our customers about the importance of our market in their lives lifted our spirits."

A few hundred of the 1,300 persons that signed the online petition also took the time to comment why they did so. The petition and comment thread is still active and can be found here.  

The campaign was prompted by both reactions to new Eastern Market legislation introduced by Ward 6 City Council Member Tommy Wells in Mid May and originally scheduled for public hearing by the Council's Committee on the Whole Thursday, June 7; and by "an extremely important" Zoning Commission hearing, which was previously scheduled for Thursday, June 14, on the redevelopment of the Hine Junior High School site, 7th and C Streets, SE, where the Flea Market has operated for 20 years.

The legislative hearing was later postponed until July 2 and further action is still to be scheduled after Council returns from recess in mid September. Berman said the original legislation was favorably amended by Wells before the rescheduled hearing and "I ended up a somewhat tepid supporter." The Zoning Commission hearing was later extended through two more sessions in order to allow testimony from a broad spectrum of nearby community, along with DMM, concerned about the development. Testimony concluded on July 11 and the commission will likely issue a zoning order at its September 11 meeting.

Berman said DMM had been particularly-focused on the Zoning Commission, which will rule on the developers' "planned unit development" (PUD). "We hired legal representation, an architectural consultant, a polling firm and economic development specialists to help us research, compile data and prepare testimony for this hearing.

"And even we were surprised by the impressive documentation of the positive impact of The Flea Market at Eastern Market presented to the Zoning Commission by our consultants. We feel the findings in themselves will be important for economic and social planners. So, during the next few weeks, this newsletter will summarize the highlights," Berman promised.