Monday, April 30, 2007
The historic Capitol Hill market and gathering place Eastern Market was severely damaged by fire early this morning. Nobody was injured, but all of the vendor space - the butcher, seafood, bread, snack shops - are all destroyed. At this point, the fire department and police are investigating the blaze as possible arson.
Here are links to coverage from the Post and Mark Fisher commentary. Here's a quick story and pictures from DCist.
While Mayor Adrian Fenty is vowing to repair the damage quickly, and Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton is requesting Federal dollars to help, the immediate question for the community is what will happen to the vendors and surrounding businesses who make a large portion of income from the foot traffic generated by the market? Where will they be placed? How quickly can they (or are they even willing) to rebuild? Mayor Fenty says he'll get them new spaces, which is admirable...and also eerily similar to what the City of Annapolis told the vendors of the historic Market House when that building was flooded by Hurricane Isabel in 2003. Much like Eastern Market, the City-owned Market House was mostly full of locally-owned tenants - a couple of sandwich shops, seafood, bakery, produce, pizza, cheeses - a favorite of locals and tourists alike, and the building practically dripped with history. It was the worst-kept secret that the Annapolis City Council and Mayor Ellen Moyer had offered up the Market House to high-end grocery store Dean and Deluca before the hurricane, and the subsequent flood damage merely heightened the rumors and animosity between the tenants and the Council. The existing tenants were still wringing out their flooded inventories when they were booted out by the City, many closing family businesses that had existed for decades.
After a long, drawn-out leasing battle with the Annapolis City Council and Mayor, Dean and Deluca pulled out. While no official explanation came from Dean and Deluca, it became a black eye for the City to have such historic, highly valuable real estate essentially vacant during the prime tourist season and annual boat shows.
It doesn't take an advanced degree in Urban Planning or Macroeconomic Theory to know that Eastern Market is sitting in a similar prime real estate area. Metro access, established neighborhood, nearby parking, mere steps to the Capitol - every chain in America itching to enter the D.C. market would want that. It will be Fenty and the City Council's job to heed the lessons learned from the bitter romance and divorce in Annapolis, that the well-heeled suitor is not always the best choice for marriage.