City plans to revive the area around Eastern Market on Capitol Hill and the adjoining 8th Street commercial strip will be delayed for the forseeable future, residents were told at a community forum recently.
At the forum, hosted by the D.C. Municipal Planning Office and attended by about a hundred residents, merchants and representatives of civic groups, D.C. gobernment officials said there currently is no money for any proposed projects.
"We want money for these projects put into the budget now," said Peter Eveleth, chairman of Advisory Neighborhood Council 6B. "Fiscal year 1980 isn't soon enough."
"The Streets for People project downtown cost about $6 million," protested Richard Wolf, president of the Capitol Hill Restoration Society. "Ours is just a drop in the bucket."
However, D.C. officials reiterated that there is no money and revealed several problems:
An application by local groups to fund a feasibility study on a total revamping of the century-old Eastern Market is still pending at the Department of Housing and Community Development.
A request for $150,000 -- which would have generated an additional $450,000 in federal funds -- to put brick sidewalks on 7thStreet from the market to Pennsylvania Avenue was cut from the D.C. budget for the 1979 fiscal year.
The D.C.Department of General Services, which has spent about $900,000 in the past two years to put a new roof on the market, to repoint the bricks, replace doors, windows, cornices, downspouts and skylights and make similar repairs, has no money to complete the other planned improvements. These include the installation of public toilets, repair of the outside shed where farmers display their produce and replacement of the electrical system.
There are no funds available at present to provide additional lighting on 8th Street, where shopowners complain that the sodium vapor lights illuminate the street but leave the sidewalks dark. But James Clark, assistant director of the D.C. Department of Transportation, promised to look into the possibility of turning one light in each block toward the sidewalk.
No decision has been made on a proposal to use part of the space under the Southeast Freeway at 8th and I streets for short-term metered parking, which 8th Street merchants say is necessary to attract customers to the shopping area.
The Eastern Market, built in 1870, is the sole survivor of three farmers' markets envisioned in the original L'Enfant plan for the city. After World War II, the market went into a slump, and District officials once planned to close it. Recently, however, the market has enjoyed a renaissance.
Almost a year ago, Capitol Hill community organizations asked the city to solicit bids from developers interested in revitalizing the market, which is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Community leaders spoke of an expanded market with many more stalls, possibly a restaurant in the basement and a mezzanine lined with boutiques. It was expected that a developer would lease the market for 10 years and make substantial improvements, the cost of which would be deducted from rent.
Donald Croll, head of the real estate section of the Department of General Services, said the department would not consider bids at this time because the feasibility study -- which has not yet been funded -- is not complete. The feasibility study is expected to answer the question of what should be done with the north end of the market building. The north end is currently used as a market, but last year ANC 6B asked the District to make it available for an expanded market.
The yet-to-be-funded brick sidewalks are part of an effort by city planners "to create a special character and activity pattern" linking Eastern Market and adjacent shops with the small park surrounding the Eastern Market Metro station, the 8th Street commercial strip, the Marine Barracks and the Navy Yard.
"We've done everything we can ourselves," said Steven Cymrot, a representative of the Barracks Row Association. Barracks Row, across 8th Street from the Marine Barracks, began developing about a year and a half ago, according to Cymrot, when Barbara Held, a Capitol Hill realtor, began buying property in the 700 block of 8th Street.
"At the time, that was as bad a block as any in the city," said Cymrot. "Merchants, most of them Capitol Hill residents, started opening shops. To make the block look better, we put out barrel planters -- and we cleaned the liquor bottles out of them regularly."
Cymrot said businesses on Barracks Row are thriving. Antique stores and import shops line the block. "The ASTA Theater down the street is sold out on Friday and Saturday nights, and two new restaurants are opening," said Cymrat.
In addition to complaints about the lack of funding for improvements, some residents objected to the way the District government was handling the project.
"We want one person in charge of this project in the D.C. government to coordinate the efforts of all the departments," said Eveleth.
Wolf decried the lack of a concerted plan for the area. He said he would ask the Capitol Hill Restoration Society to fund a study that could serve as the basis for such a plan.