Tuesday, April 21, 2009

A Visit to Eastern Market in DC

Wow I'm in the thick of projects. Last night was my first all nighter at work, due to the fact that I spent my weekend in DC. Had to catch up on a rezoning petition! Yes...it's like being back in school. Don't mind at all...I just live for what I do!

One of my projects is a pro bono project to kick start a local village market in Charlotte...the "West End Market" for West Trade Street. A bunch of enterprising Seversville neighborhood ladies want to start one. So I went to Eastern Market in DC to check out this famous example. I had a great chat with the manager of the Saturday market. I spent so much time out there I actually got sunburned enjoying the thick of DC's magnificent blooming Spring. I also went back Sunday to see the Sunday flea market (when it was overcast) and found many of the same vendors, just a different layout. The original covered market building suffered a major fire a few years ago, and is currently being restored while all the vendors have taken shop on the sidewalks outside, even concurrently to a streetscape project in progress (to be completed in July). Many of the stalls therefore spread out interestingly along the sidewalks and adjacent squares, making me wonder about the possibility of this kind of informal retail to organically spread into the neighborhoods. They should allow these temporary market places to remain, methinks.

Speaking with Carol, Saturday's market manager (at left speaking to the two gentlemen on scooters), I discovered many interesting aspects of flea market dynamics which have amazing resonance with intelligent urban design. For example, she goes to great pains to make sure that the market layout maximizes divesity of different offerings and takes advantage of pedestrian flow between destinations. The market, which is located midblock on a school parking lot, takes advantage of the fact that it is in a cut through zone between key neighborhood and commercial destinations. Pedestrian flow crossing the school lot through this midblock "shortcut" is therefore subtly managed to entice customers to meander through the shops. In Saturday's market, vendors are allowed to set up their wares and displays next to their vans (creating interesting pod-like layouts), while for Sunday's market they have to park elsewhere and transport all their wares over. Each layout has their own advantage, but what struck me about Saturday's layout was the resonance of the the pod with intelligent block design. Interestingly, the vendors in between the aisles (without an adjacent van as in the market stall above) do the best. Like Charleston's market, market stalls seem to like to be in the middle of the street, with permanent shops and/or "anchor tenants" and food vendors that attract lines on the sides and corners.

Next on the plate...The Italian Market in Philly? Did I say I love my job? =)

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