May 22, 2012: Save The Flea Market at Eastern Market

A campaign to save The Flea Market at Eastern Market from both city legislation and redevelopment was kicked off Saturday by Michael Berman, President of Diverse Markets Management (DMM), the D.C. company that manages the market. 

The campaign began Saturday with an online petition posted at the site and continued on Sunday at the popular Capitol Hill venue with dozens of market exhibitors asking customers to sign a similar paper version.

While the online campaign targeted Ward 6 City Council Member Tommy Wells and the D.C. Zoning Commission, the paper version included the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Economic Development. "And we're going to make sure that both Wells' City Council colleagues and the Mayor get copies," Berman promised.

The campaign was prompted by both reactions to new Eastern Market legislation introduced by Wells last week and simultaneously 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.

Berman said DMM has been particularly-focused on the Zoning Commission hearing, which will rule on the developers' "planned unit development" (PUD). "We've 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 we've now decided to publicly ask our exhibitors and our customers directly for help in getting out our message," he continued, "which is that the market has become an essential element of not only the neighborhood but also the City and region as well."

Berman outlined in detail both the history behind and the need for the campaign call in an email letter to exhibitors:

Hine Development

As you have heard for some time, the school and schoolyard where we operate is slated to be redeveloped. The city is turning the land over to a development team of Stanton Development Co. and Eastbanc. Eastbanc is a developer of residential and commercial projects mostly in the Georgetown and West End area of DC. Stanton works almost exclusively on Capitol Hill, notably most of 7th Street, including the Pennsylvania Avenue corner right across from Hine School. You may recall that a few years ago the community went through a process of proposing what they wanted to see in the development. Retaining the weekend flea markets was a major point. The original development scheme proposed a new C Street to continue between 7th and 8th and a plaza attached to it that would accommodate a market area. While this is still in the plans, it has shrunk considerably, to the point that I no longer believe a market could be viable, especially one that would maintain a focus on furniture, antiques, collectibles and other larger booth spaces. The community is also mobilizing against the project, as being out of scale with the surrounding neighborhood: too tall, too dense, too little public space (including space for the markets), too few community benefits. We have been actively involved in every step of the process and have met with the development team, the local community neighborhood groups, the Council Member and city agencies. As part of the process, the project goes before a Zoning Board for a hearing to determine whether this project will be approved as is, or needs revisions. We are preparing for that hearing in several ways, but will also need your help.

Eastern Market Legislation

Concurrently, Council Member Tommy Wells has introduced new legislation to govern Eastern Market for the future. Among the many elements of this bill is creation of a new Eastern Market Trust that will oversee the market and also have oversight and control of additional public and private land, called the Eastern Market Historic Special Use District. The district includes the Hine Schoolyard; 7th Street from North Carolina to Pennsylvania Ave. and potentially the new C Street Plaza of the new development. We are not certain at this time whether the Trust would sublease space to the flea markets, or under what conditions any of this space can be used for or by flea market exhibitors. While we have had verbal and written promises by the Council Member that the intent is to ensure independent operations of the flea markets continue, the submitted legislation is not clear on that. A hearing on the bill is upcoming; we need your advocacy there as well.

How You Can Help

We need everyone's support. At worst, it could mean the end of the markets; a severe blow to all of us who make our livelihoods here, but also a significant social, cultural and economic blow to the viability of Eastern Market, Capitol Hill and the City.

However, I am confident that if the community and the city understand that threat, changes will be made to accommodate us. I am hopeful positive changes are already in the works. In order to make change happen, we need you to:

  • Testify, write letters of support. We need your story. To testify at the development Zoning Hearing, contact me. To sign up to testify about the legislation go HERE
  • Distribute fliers, buttons, signs, petitions, online activity. Sign our online petition
  • Get educated:

Important Dates

  • Thursday June 7
    • Public Hearing on B19-513 Eastern Market Preservation & Development Amendment Act
    • 10 am. Room 500 of the John A. Wilson Building, 1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW.
    • The purpose of the public hearing is to discuss and provide the public with an opportunity to comment on the proposed legislation.
    • Sign up to testify 
  • Thursday June 14
    • Zoning Commission Case No. 11-24 - Stanton-Eastbanc LLC - Consolidated PUD and Related Map Amendment
    • 6:30 pm. Hearing Room 441 4th Street, N.W., Suite 220-South Washington, D.C. 20001
    • The Applicant is requesting approval of a consolidated planned unit development ("PUD") and related map amendment for the property located on the north side of Pennsylvania Avenue, S.E., between 7th and 8th Streets, which is more particularly described as Lot 801 in Square 901.

Thank you for all your support. More information and activity updates will be coming soon. We appreciate your help and any questions, ideas or information.