Wednesday, December 06, 2006

WP: Plans Advance for Florida Market

The DC Council gave preliminary approval yesterday to the New Town plan calling for the bulldozing and remaking of the Florida Market (also called the Capital City Market & the Union Market). The plan, which many have criticized as ill conceived and a favor to special interests, refers to the market area as blighted (an earlier version of the plan requested eminent domain power). Many current merchants oppose the plan and fear, despite promises that they will have a right of return, that this many be the end for their businesses in the market area. The thing about the right of return is that many of these are small family owned businesses, and the expense and ordeal of moving to a new location (likely one outside of the District), and then being given the opportunity to pack up and move back a few years later probably means that many of the business owners either could not afford to return, or would not choose to do so at that point. In my opinion, it almost amounts to a defacto eviction. Recently a meeting was held in our ANC regarding the New Town plan. This is actually quite rare, because, although the boosters have held many meetings in ANC 5C, and other areas, they have largely avoided holding meetings in ANC 5B (which actually contains the Florida Market). The meeting, which was held about a month ago, was a "public meeting," yet it was not advertised by flyer, mailing, or on any area listservs (at least I didn't get any flyer or mailing, and no one I know received one). The organizers also did not inform ANC commissioners (including the one in whose SMD the Market resides). The boosters of this project claim to have ANC support, but this is not exactly true. Though some ANC commissioners did testify in favor of the project, they don't all live close to it (Kathy Henderson, a commissioner who is in 5B testified in favor of the project). Wilhelmina Lawson, the commissioner for the Market's SMD testified against the project. People need to be informed about this project, and that means more than just watching a slick presentation by an even slicker lobbyist. It also means actually going to the market, which is always busy, and seeing what really goes on there.


Anonymous said...

There has got to be a happy medium for 'revitalization' of the area. As a close neighbor I want to see the related nuisances die down- but there is a reason I don't live in the suburbs. I don't want the suburbs come to me in the name of beautification. The name New Town itself is practically enough for me to say no to the proposal off the bat to say nothing of what I think of Mr. Choi's aesthetic based on his current building at the market area.

DC has an opportunity to do something great with the area- which will hopefully mean a mix of the market and new retail and residential living. Instead I'm worried they will pull another landgrab which will result in development that will age poorly and leave a lot of people feeling really pissed off.

Anonymous said...

If the Florida Market goes, I will miss it. I first ventured beyond A. Litteri's after reading posts by you and Richard Layman. The Florida Market is one of DC's (unpolished) gems.

Since moving to Montreal from DC this fall, I have been enjoying the Jean Talon market up here. See here for a nice overview.

Jean Talon is a huge market that combines open air farmer stalls, specialty shops, and small deli/restaurants. It's surrounded by modest rowhouse neighborhoods much like Near Northeast. The market was redone in 2004 to add the specialty shops (including one that focuses on local Quebec products) and 360 underground parking spaces. Unless you really plan to load up, you can use the nearby metro station. The prices on produce and meat are better than in the supermarket, as is the selection. Who needs Whole Foods/Trader Joe's?

If "New Town" comes, it should be a priority to retain a large market area, maybe on the model of something like Jean Talon. It would be short-sighted of the city to convert the market to a generic retail/residential project that could be anywhere.