Community organizations on Capitol Hill have called for a revitalization of the Eastern Market - with many more stalls, possibly a rathskeller in the basement, a mezzanine filled with boutiques and hopefully throngs of money-spending tourists.
Boston's newly renovated Quincy Market and the popular Annapolis City Market were discussed at a meeting of Advisory Neighborhood Council 6B last week.
By a 7-5 vote, the ANC commissioners recommended that the entire Eastern Market building, located at 7th Street and North Carolina Avenue SE, be reserved for market and restaurant activities. The building's north end currently is used as an art gallery.
The use of the north end was a major item of controversy at a community forum, held Jan. 22, on the future of the century-old market. The commissioners failed to reach a decision on the issue and referred the matter to a joint committee on economic development and the arts. The joint committee's consensus was that the gallery should remain, due mainly to lack of adquate space for it elsewhere in th neighborhood.
At last week's meeting, however, a dissenting member of the joint committee, ANC commissioner Peter Eveleth, moved that the gallery be relocated and that the north end of the building be used for market or restaurant facilities.
Eveleth cited the high utilization of the south end of the market - by the commercial section - compared with the low untilization of the north end by the art gallery. He spoke of the need for more food facilities in the neighborhood and the need for more competitiion among market merchants. He also listed alternative facilities for cultural activities, including schools and churches.
"We can't afford to waste this valuable commercial space," said Eveleth "An expanded market will attract both city dwellers and suburbanites and cause them to spend money in the city. It would provide employment opportunities and opportunities for small businessmen. It would help develop the 7th and 8th Streets commercial area, and might result in lower taxes on residential property."
Under the current lease with the city, space at the Market goes for about $1 per cent square foot. Under a proposed new lease to take effect Sept. 1, Market space would be worth about $5 per square foot. The nonprofit art gallery, which occupies about 4,500 square feet, pays no rent.
Bids for a new 10-year lease are due May 15. The D.C. department of general services, which controls the building, proposes to raise the rent from $10,000 to $50,000 a year. The tenant would be expected to make substantial improvements on the building, which would be credited toward the rent.
The District government itself plans to spend about $500,000 to renovate the Market. This amount includes $300.000 recently made available to The Eastern Market through a federal public works project. Work on a new roof is expected to begin next month. The ANC has asked the District government to spend some of these funds on a feasibility study, which could make the market more attractive to developers.
Dick Wolfe, city planning chairman for the Capitol Hill Restoration Society, said that a "good, sensitive developer who had review the site and been impressed with its potential. He said the developer had recently dropped the idea, largely because of the unavailability of the building's north end.
The Eastern Market is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It is only remaining farmer's market of three called for in L'Enfant's original plan for the city.