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New food market in Northeast will serve up the flavors and culture of Latin America

An architect’s rendering of La Cosecha. (Courtesy of Gensler)

This story has been updated.

There’s a lot of symbolism to be found in a new Latin American food hall and market that will open in Washington this summer. It’s a 20,000-square-foot space dedicated to the vibrancy of Latinx culture, in the heart of the nation’s capital, in the midst of this unwelcoming political climate. While the president wants to build a wall, the developer Edens is building a plaza.

“I don’t see this as a political statement, but I do see this as a clear statement of our embracement of this really fantastic culture and community,” said Edens CEO Jodie McLean. “I really want this to be a very sophisticated representation of this really rich heritage, cultures and experiences. And I would say I think that’s being lost in the conversation right now about these countries.”

Forget food trucks. Now ‘food halls’ are having a moment, and they’re changing the landscape.

The market will be called La Cosecha, which means “the harvest” in Spanish, and when it opens in June at 1270 Fourth St. NE, steps from Union Market, its offerings will be bountiful: 14 food and retail vendors, indoor and outdoor seating, and space for performances and exhibitions. The vendors — each representing a different country, from Argentina to Bolivia to Mexico — will occupy a space that mimics a plaza, evocative of Latin American architecture. Edens is partnering with embassies and cultural organizations to ensure that the programming is authentic and representative. And events will include such activities as mezcal tastings, language classes and viewings of this summer’s Women’s World Cup.

It’s diverse in that you’re dealing with about 20 different countries, McLean said. “But what they share in common . . . is the heart of every community. It is the unbelievable, sheer love for family, music and food that really culturally binds them together.”

Similar to Union Market, which Edens also owns, a sit-down restaurant will anchor the space. Colombian chef Juan Manuel Barrientos will take the largest spot with the second U.S. location of ElCielo, his approximately 70-seat fine-dining restaurant. The Miami outpost of ElCielo offers an extravagant and creative $125 16-course tasting menu that has included such dishes as Andean Pacific crudo, yuca bread with passionfruit-and-cacao dipping sauce, and “carrot air soup.” (Not all of the 16 courses are edible, wrote the Miami New Times, whose reporter described a hand-washing course that required her to ball her fist up as “Rose Spa” liquid was poured into it. At another point in the meal, servers brought her an empty plate, which she later realized was covered with “a thin film of invisible coconut gelatin” to scrape off and eat.) The D.C. location will offer a tasting menu as well as an a la carte menu.

Another vendor will be Peruvian Brothers, a beloved local food truck that will have its first stationary spot. In addition to their pan con chicharrón and other sandwiches, the brothers, Giuseppe and Mario Lanzone, will have space to begin serving rotisserie chicken and a new array of sides.

Usually, “you only see french fries and beans. We’re going to have things like quinoa salad. Things that are on the healthier side, rather than the greasier side,” Giuseppe said.

Others include Ali Pacha, an upscale vegan restaurant from Bolivia; Amparo Fondita, a modern Mexican restaurant helmed by Christian Irabién, formerly of Jose Andres’s Oyamel; a wine bar and grocery from the owners of Shaw’s Grand Cata; and another location for Baltimore’s White Envelope Arepa Bar

And as at Union Market, there will be retail: Carolina Furukrona, a former development director for the Smithsonian Archives of American Art, will open the first retail store for Nova Bossa, her brand of imported Latin American fashion and housewares. Furukrona is Brazilian but says that the handbags, watches, textiles, art and perfumes, among other objects that her store will carry, are from all over the continent. Instead of the vibrant, colorful wares that people might associate with Latin America, her aesthetic is muted and earthy, with a particular eye for indigenous patterns.

“It’s showing a different part of Latin America, and I think that’s what the market is doing, too,” she said.

Furukrona says she looks for goods that “support local artisans and communities and that respect the dignity of the culture the people that are making them,” she said. “Is it paying fair wages? Is it appropriating culture, or is it doing it the right way?”

Future tenants will include a mezcaleria, coffee shop and bookstore, and there will be apartments above the market. There’s also a space that Edens is calling the Culinary Immersion Studio — for cooking classes, language instruction, workshops and other pop-ups. Edens plans to lead other community-minded endeavors: It has partnered with the Carlos Rosario School, which serves adult immigrants, to create a culinary internship program. Both Edens and the individual vendors will staff positions with Rosario students. Edens will also establish the La Cosecha Foundation, a charity that McLean says will benefit a rotating selection of causes in Latin America.

An initial beneficiary might be “programs that are doing crop conversion for sustainable agricultural initiatives,” said McLean, but Edens is also considering women’s entrepreneurship and educational training programs. All vendors at La Cosecha will donate a portion of their profits to the foundation.

La Cosecha has been in the works for more than four years, McLean said. When it was announced in 2016, with a splashy groundbreaking with D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser, the market was to be directed by chef Jose Garces, who planned to fill it with food stalls and his own restaurant concepts. But Garces’s restaurant empire had a reversal of fortunes: The former “Iron Chef,” who once ran more than two dozen restaurants, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in May after several vendors and landlords sued him for unpaid bills and rent. He closed several restaurants and sold his restaurant company, but he remains chief culinary officer of the company that purchased his empire.

McLean says the concept change was unrelated to Garces’s money troubles. “We came to a mutual agreement that this would be a much more powerful place if we had representation from multiple countries,” she said.

The new market will be in a neighborhood quickly becoming saturated with dining options. But, if you’ve seen Union Market on a Sunday, you know that there’s plenty of demand for the kind of graze-around fast-casual eating that people like to make an entire day of when market-hopping. Despite their proximity, McLean says the two will be “completely different” experiences.

The vendors know it’s different. For them, La Cosecha is wrapped up in their identities — a chance to showcase the culture of their heritage to Washingtonians, and give the members of their communities a taste of home.

“This is a monumental thing for Latin people,” Giuseppe Lanzone said. It’s “a place for our families to go and eat good food, hear good music and feel a little closer to home.”

For Furukrona, it’s cultural diplomacy.

“The sophistication of Latin America, the design that’s coming in, the talent and the creativity . . . it’s not really in the media all the time,” she said. “It’s about time that we had something like this that celebrated our culture. I think a celebration of food and fashion and design and community is not controversial. It’s not partisan. But it’s timely.”