Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Parking, parking, parking: Eastern Market DC

As I've said before, I'd like to dub somehow a video from The Brady Bunch tv show, where one sister character, Jan, complained that everything in the house was about "Marcia, Marcia, Marcia" to say "Parking, parking, parking." Parking has the same level of resonance in local politics and transportation planning.


I got so angry a couple months ago at the monthly Eastern Market Community Advisory Committee on which I sit about "parking, parking, parking" that I haven't been motivated enough to attend the last couple meetings in the face of sickness/rain, etc.

7th Street SE at Eastern Market The inside food vendors continually complain about (1) the weekend closure of 7th Street SE in front of the market, because of the "loss of parking" and (2) how people park longer than they should in the unmetered parking spots behind the market.

WRT the former, I keep suggesting valet parking setups, coordinated parking information systems (there are parking lot and structure options in the area but most people don't know about them, and delivery services--wrt delivery, every time I bring it up one of the vendors belittles my comments and I am pretty f*ing sick of it to the point where I am really tired.

Main aisle, Eastern Market, DCI've been making the same points more or less, since 2007, as well as that there should be an Eastern Market district master plan, a Capitol Hill Destination Development and Management Plan, and the creation of a Transportation Management District to deal with the mobility issues, which concern transit, biking, delivery, public space management, etc.

It gets pretty tiresome to say the right and same things over and over and over.

It turns out that the inside vendors are again asking for the street to be reopened on the weekends because they say this is why their business has declined. Capitol Hill Corner has a post about it, "Eastern Market struggles with its identity" and the comments are pretty pointed, and generally don't support the vendor position.

Like most of the commenters in the CHC blog post, I too have argued that part of the issue with a drop off in sales has to do with a myriad of factors--increased competition (more than 6 new or renovated supermarkets have opened in Eastern Market's retail trade area over the past few years, with at least two new stores in the Capitol Riverfront and a Whole Foods going to H Street NE, plus a revitalizing Union Market food district that is heavily programmed), a failure to be innovative in marketing (while prices of produce are way too high, meat and seafood prices compare to counter prices at local supermarkets), a need to manage the destination better, a failure to address mobility questions intelligently and systematically, and a change in demographics with younger residents less likely to be able to cook and needing some education on how to do so.

(That's why there needs to be a market study and plan...)

I also make the point that the vendors are seriously wrong in believing that the parking spots on 7th Street were a significant benefit to weekend business because they weren't metered on the weekends.  All of the spaces next to the market shed were used by vendors, as probably were most of the other spots on the east side of the street (I don't remember the exact number but on the east side of the street there are fewer than 12 parking spots).  In any case, they didn't turn over.

Still, they could step up and support valet parking and delivery while instead they continue to oppose such "innovative" responses.

WRT the latter issue, I keep saying, "meter the spots." The vendors respond about how other supermarkets don't have meters etc. But just as how national and international policy makers are ignoring macroeconomics as it relates to post-recessionary policies ("Why economics failed," New York Times), they are ignoring economics.  Or as Paul Krugman writes:
"But policymakers just keep finding reasons not to do the right thing."
People will overconsume what they don't have to pay for.  In fact, parking meters were created not to make money, but to spur turnover of parking spots in commercial districts, to support commercial activity.

If the inside vendors want people to be able to drive and shop, they have to discourage long term parking.  The only way to do so is to meter the spots.  They argue instead to pay someone to monitor the spots, but that is an unnecessary labor cost.

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4 Comments:

At 12:27 PM, Anonymous rg said...

I think most of the vendors live in the suburbs and therefore, like most Americans, drive everywhere for everything. The car is so ingrained into their daily lives that they cannot wrap their brains around that fact that most people arrive at Eastern Market on foot, by bike and by transit. It is almost comical to blame the loss of 12 parking spots two days per week for a decline in business. I guess blaming parking for the loss of business is easier than introspection,improving your marketing plan, etc. ...

I don't own a car, but even if I did, I certainly would not drive to Eastern Market on the weekend, regardless of whether 7th Street was open or closed to cars. I would go so far as to say that anyone who drives to Eastern Market and expects it to be easy and painless is...

Well, I'm probably better off not sharing my description of that person...

 
At 12:34 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

Absolutely. I bring that up all the time. Granted they work 5-6 days/week and don't have the luxury of going out and seeing comparable markets elsewhere or their competition.

If they did, it might open their eyes. Or maybe not.

Even though I like the North Hall space, I think it should be converted to food uses, to broaden the variety of what's available.

Sadly, since there wasn't a plan in place, the post-fire renovation of the market wasn't used to create new spaces in the basement and potentially in North Hall. I suggested including new functions like a meal assembly operation comparable to Let's Dish, focused food delivery including nonperishables as a way to compete with online grocery delivery, and an exhibition kitchen and commercial food preparation space (long before the creation of Union Kitchen) that could also teach people.

More recently, I've suggested the creation of a "pop up" restaurant space to support the development of new businesses and to add verve.

I haven't yet communicated a recent finding, that Pike Place Market in Seattle has three what we might call "expeditionary" markets downtown on different days of the week, to bring the market to different audiences, and to extend their marketing and outreach.

Eastern Market isn't well positioned to appeal to office workers from a time standpoint, and that's an issue.

 
At 1:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

the EM vendors are not the only ones on CH obsessed with parking. Most of the old people and those who live near EM seem to be big time car owners and they advocate for more parking every time I am turning around.. they need to get alife or move away. These are not city people they are suburban oriented.

 
At 9:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've always thought Eastern Market was extremely overrated. I think a shake up is in order.

 

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