A study committee appointed by the D.C. government has released a long-awaited report on Eastern Market that recommends a $3.8 million facelift for the 116-year-old farmers market.
The centerpiece of the proposal calls for replacing a storage area in the center section of the facility with a stage and a mezzanine level and tripling the number of food vendors. The basement would be used for storage.
The report, issued by an 11-member committee made up of residents and D.C. government officials, marks the second time in five years that the city government has paid for a study of how the deteriorating market -- one of the last of the city's original farmers' markets -- should be renovated.
The two studies have cost the city more than $118,000. Meanwhile, no major improvements have been made, and the Capitol Hill community remains split between those who want to see the market become trendier and those who want it to be repaired but retain its informal atmosphere.
"I'm very supportive of the report's recommendations, I think these proposals are long overdue," said Peter Eveleth, a member of the current study committee and chairman of the 1981 committee.
"It looks pretty on paper, but I'm just wondering how much they're going to boutique it up," said Margo Higgins, a member of the Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) that represents the area just north of the market.
"A lot of people in the neighborhood don't want it to go too Georgetown Parky," Higgins said, referring to the upscale shopping mall in Georgetown.
"If it becomes a tourist attraction that's what we would hate to see most," she said.
Karen Walker, a commissioner for the ANC that represents the Eastern Market area, said, "I certainly think there's going to be some opposition from the community, but it seems like the people who are planning this project have the attitude of, 'Well, that's too bad.'
"I hope [city officials] will take major objections seriously and that this thing is not cast in stone," Walker added. "I love Eastern Market the way it is."
The study now goes to Mayor Marion Barry. The final proposal will be printed in the D.C. Register, the city's official publication, and citizens will have 30 days to submit comments.
Eastern Market, a favorite Saturday morning bazaar where vendors sell such goods as flowers, fresh fish and clothing, is on Seventh Street between North Carolina Avenue and C Street SE, a few blocks east of the Capitol.
The market, with 12 stalls and a restaurant inside and 18 vendors outside, generates an estimated $2.1 million a year in sales, according to the report.
The latest study calls for extensive structural repairs to the red-brick building that has more than 100 city health and safety code violations, according to committee members.
The market also has no public restrooms.
The study calls for a greater variety of food and goods to be sold at the market, including arts and crafts and more restaurants. The committee said fast food restaurants should be banned, however.
"We told the merchants we would meet with each one individually to help them out" with the transition, Eveleth said. "Naturally the merchants had lots of questions in terms of how it would affect them . . . . I think most of them recognize that something needs to be done."
The proposal recommended that an alley between Seventh and Eighth streets and part of the Hine Junior High School playground be converted to 50 new parking spaces to increase parking at the market. The report also recommends creation of a community development corporation to operate the market.