A Temporary Annex for Eastern Market

The Eastern Market fire early April 30 ravaged the historic building's South Hall and displaced 13 vendors.
The Eastern Market fire early April 30 ravaged the historic building's South Hall and displaced 13 vendors. (By Bill O'leary -- The Washington Post)
By Theola Labbé
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, May 11, 2007

A school playground across the street from Eastern Market will serve as the new temporary location for merchants displaced by last month's fire, according to city, school and community leaders working on the transition plan.

The District plans to erect a 245-foot-long structure at the northern edge of the Lemon G. Hine Junior High School grounds, at Seventh Street and Pennsylvania Avenue SE, directly across from the market's charred South Hall, which erupted in flames April 30.

Parents have not been notified of the plan, which was discussed at community meetings this week, but they will be invited to a school meeting Tuesday, said William Wilhoyte, a regional school superintendent. Wilhoyte said the meeting will address security around the market in an effort to reassure parents that strangers and the public will not have access to the school.

"If we're going to have trucks and vendors and shoppers, we've got to create some kind of separation . . . so we're clear on what part is the school and on what part is Eastern Market relocated," Wilhoyte said.

D.C. School Superintendent Clifford B. Janey said that those issues will be worked out and that he supports the move.

"When there is a crisis, you have to do what is good," Janey said.

Sketches prepared by the local chapter of the Institute of Classical Architecture and Classical America indicate that the structure, referred to as a "market shed," will have air conditioning and electrical and plumbing hookups and that it will be divided into stalls for merchants. In keeping with the historic design of the market, the shed would have doorways in the style of Adolph Cluss, the market's architect, according to the nonprofit institute, which did the design work free as a public service.

Monte Edwards, who chairs the capital improvements subcommittee of the Eastern Market Community Advisory Committee, said the estimated cost of the temporary structure is $1.5 million.

D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) will hold a news conference next week to announce the Hine location, spokeswoman Mafara Hobson said. Fenty has pledged excess city revenue to cover the cost of rebuilding Eastern Market.

Students mostly use the playground area during lunch and sometimes at recess, said Hine Principal Willie Jackson. Jackson said that students were devastated by the fire and that they wrote essays about it and collected money to help with the rebuilding.

Even with the temporary structure, students would have most of their playground space.

Nathan A. Saunders, vice president of the Washington Teachers' Union, said teachers at the school will meet today to talk about the project and identify concerns that should be brought to school leaders.

"This is a fast-moving train," Saunders said. "We have to nail down the details."

It's not clear how long the structure will remain on school property. At two community meetings this week, the school location was favored over two other options: using the plaza of the Eastern Market Metro station and closing a portion of Seventh Street SE.

The school location is close enough to the market to continue drawing shoppers to nearby businesses that depend on market crowds, said Donna Scheeder, head of the Eastern Market Community Advisory Committee.

"We're trying to keep a unified business community together," Scheeder said. "We also like the idea that people will be able to see the old market while they're going to the temporary location."

Hine hosts a weekend flea market at the playground under a separate use agreement that dates back at least a decade, said Abdusalam H. Omer, the school system's chief business officer. The flea market vendors will remain and will be part of the negotiations on the Eastern Market transition, Omer said.

Staff writer Clarence Williams contributed to this report.

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