Should part of the century-old Eastern Market continue to serve as an art gallery? Or should the entire building be what it was originally - a food market?
That question sparked heated and lengthy exchanges at a community forum held last Saturday by Advisory Neighborhood Council 6B on the future of the Market, which is located at Seventh Street and North Carolina Avenue SE.
After almost three hours of debate, the issue was not resolved. But recommendations on the market's future were approved and forwarded to the District government, and further studies were ordered.
Besides 12 ANC commissioners, about 50 members of the public - including merchants, farmers who sell produce at teh Market and area residents - crowded into the community room of the Capitol East Natatorium, next to the Market.
Peter Eveleth, chairperson of the ANC's Economic Development Committee, presented a 25-page report on the market's future. The committee's report, Eveleth explained, was based partly on questionnaires completed last summer and fall by 646 shoppers at the Market. "This survey," said Eveleth, "revealed taht the Market is a focal point of the community - one of the reasons people live on Capitol Hill."
The committee's report called for restaurant facilities within the Market, for an Eastern Market administrator to be appointed by the District government and for an upgrading of the Market's appearance.
The report also recommended that Seventh Street, directly in front of the Market, be closed to automobile traffic on Saturdays and that a parcel pick- up system be established. It called upon the District government to make repairs on the building - including a new roof - without changing the structure's character. And it recommended that the city's lease with future tenants be tightly drawn and strictly enforced.
The city owns the building and currently leases the south end of it to the Eastern Market Corporation, headed by Charles W. Glasgow. His 10-year lease expired Aug. 31 and has been extended until March 31, 1977.
Glasgow pays the city $10,000 a year for approximately 10,000 square feet of market space. He runs wholesale and retail meat and seafood concerns in part of the space and sublets the rest to other merchants.
The north end, which was added to the original structure in 1908, contains about 4,500 square feet of floor space. It is currently used by the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities as an art gallery, the Market Five Gallery.
Under a curbside arcade outside the Market is a "farmers' line," where produce is sold directly to consumers. Under a 1906 law, rent for each merchant's space is fixed at twenty cents a day.
The committee called for the Market Five Gallery to be relocated to an unspecified place and for small shops to take its place.
Jerry Mackenzie, representing the Social Action Committee of Saint Mark's Episcopal Church on Capitol Hill, protested the relocation of the gallery to what he said he feared would be other inadequate facilities. The gallery is already established at Eastern Market and should not be uprooted, Mackenzie said.
"We've put a lot of time and money into developing this place as a cultural center," said John Harrod, who operates the gallery on an unpaid basis, "and we're just on the point of realizing what we've dreamed of doing." Harrod said that 7,000 people visited thre facility last year for art shows, concerts, and other events.
Sally Crowell, director of the Capitol Hill Arts Workshop, said that her group needed a place to perform and has used the gallery space for dance concerts, children's theater and puppet shows. "There's no comparable space on Capitol Hill," she said.
The committee's report praised the gallery for its accomplishments, despite inadequate funding. But it said the space the gallery occupies is underused. The report also said the area need smore food facilities.
"The building was constructed as a market," said Eveleth, "and we maintain that is the best use for th building." Eveleth said that the Market tenant, Glasgow, has a waiting list of people who want to open stands if space becomes available.
Douglas Wheeler of 629 A St. SE., said that the commissioners should consider the economic value of the facility to teh community. "All the space in the building should be used economically," said Wheeler. "It should be developed as a market."
After a series of motions concerning th gallery died or eere defeated, the commissioners voted to approved the sections of the committee's report that dealt with other matters.
Those sections that concerned the north end were referred to a joint committee on the arts and economic development, which interested persons were invited to join. The point committee was told to come up with new recommendations for the use of the north end of the market and to present them at an ANC meeting on Feb. 19.