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Hill Talk: Eastern Market Rebounds After Fire

Business is booming at Eastern Market. Nearly six months after the market reopened in its original structure, Eastern Market advisers say business is better than it was before an April 2007 fire gutted the building and forced the market to relocate to a temporary structure.

“I see more people in there at night than I’ve ever seen before during the 5 to 7 p.m. time,— says Donna Scheeder, chairwoman of the Eastern Market Community Advisory Committee, though she was unable to provide an exact number. “The building has just received great reviews aesthetically.—

Interim Market Manager Barry Margeson of the D.C. Department of Real Estate Services estimates that about 9,000 people frequent the market each weekend. Merchants moved back into the market in June and have been enjoying the upgrades to the building ever since. For example, the newly renovated space is air-conditioned and includes separate male and female bathrooms instead of one unisex bathroom. Also renovated is a large event space in the North Hall that has been used for dance classes and other community events.

One snafu since the market has reopened is some controversy over the height of the counters. The counters appear to be much taller than they were in the previous structure, and shorter customers have complained that they have trouble seeing over them.

We’re “hoping to have [that] resolved very quickly because the community and the merchants need to be able to see each other to conduct business,— Scheeder says. Margeson says the counters will be lowered in January. The counters sit on 6-inch legs, which will likely be cut down by several inches.

The EMCAC and the vendors are working with the city government to secure long-term leases for the vendors as well as to find a permanent market manager.

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