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Nathanael Hill- Florida Avenue Market

Nathanael Hill- Florida Avenue Market

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Published by nathanaelhill
General context and history of Florida Avenue Market in Washington, DC and introductory discussion of its future
General context and history of Florida Avenue Market in Washington, DC and introductory discussion of its future

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Published by: nathanaelhill on Dec 08, 2011
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07/28/2012

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 Nathanael HillUrban Sprawl and the EnvironmentIndividual ProjectFlorida Avenue Market: A Template for the New Urban Vernacular Walk around the Florida Avenue Market on any weekend, and you will see a hiveof activity: t-shirt vendors selling off r 
emnants from Obama’s inauguration; immigrant
families buying goat meat; hipsters lining up at A Litteri Italian market; cars jostling for 
space with people outside DC Farmer’s Market. However, this reality presents a stark 
contrast with the on-line commentary charting the history and proposed future of theMarket space (with some noble exceptions from the preservation crowd, including
Richard Laymon at “Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space”
1
). Developers have promotedan alternate vision for the Market (see image 1), one that simultaneously denies the
authenticity of the Market and its continued vibrancy. The argument over the Market’s
future seems a microcosm for larger arguments over the future of DC: including the proper role of space in an urban setting; multiple and perhaps differing aims of development and revitalization; getting out in front of gentrification vs. promotinggentrification; and perhaps most importantly, the search for the answer to who gets todetermine the character of an area.A Brief History of Florida Avenue MarketPrior to the rise of Florida Avenue Market as a wholesale destination, the demandfor wholesale and fresh meats and produce for business and household alike was met by
DC’s Central Market, located at what is now the si
te of the National Archives. Followingthe passage of the Public Buildings Act in 1926 mandating the development of theFederal Triangle Area, the commissioners of the District of Columbia sought to relocatethe market to a single, conveniently located area. The commissioners settled on a parcelin Southwest Washington, DC, accessible by both rail and water. Maryland farmers bristled at this new location, banded together to form the Union Terminal MarketAssociation, and lobbied for a location in the Northeast quadrant. Exercising the
Association’s clout, together they purchased the land bounded by the railroad tracks on
the west, Florida Avenue NE on the south, 6
th
Street NE on the east and Penn Street NE
1
Richard Layman, author of “Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space,”
urban/commercial district revitalization and transportation/mobility advocate and consultant, for his time,insight and expertise in our entertaining discussions regarding the Florida Avenue Market, local politicsand gentrification.
 
on the north, a prime location based on its access to the rail yards to the west and thecommuter lines running out of Union Station. The remaining non-Association merchantsrushed to join the Association and participate in the new market, effectively killing theSouthwest market plan. As part of the negotiations surrounding their membership, theyextracted a pledge to develop an open-
air farmer’s market adjacent to the wholesale
operations.Construction began on the newly-named Union Market in 1929, and the Marketwas opened in 1931. The Market continued to grow beyond its initial construction, andsoon boasted a selection of wholesale, meat and produce vendors. However, in 1962, a public health report expressed concern for the open-air vending of meat and poultry, andsubsequent city legislation restricted the farmers market to the sale of fruits andvegetables despite the dire warnings of Market merchants. By 1964, the farmers marketwas largely moribund, and sold off, and by 1967 replaced with a new building. Despitethe downfall of the farmers market, the wholesale aspect of Union Market continued tosucceed, and the 1950s ushered in a new era of infill warehouse development. However,this too would prove to be short-lived, as the rise of grocery store distribution centerswould deprive the wholesalers of important business. Individual merchants began anexodus to the suburbs, and in the 1980s the government of the District of Columbia beganto buy several acres in the hopes of spurring revitalization. As more long-standingmerchants left the Market, the void began to be filled by a variety of ethnic markets.Today, the Florida Avenue Market consists largely of 
Koreans and Chinese andAfricans who specialize in catering to the new immigrant-owned restaurants andgroceries that have moved to the region
2
as well as remaining wholesale vendors. In
addition to the more tailored ethnic grocers, today’s incarnation of Florida Avenue
Market serves as a primary grocery option for residents of the food deserts that populatethe eastern edge of the District
3
 
(food desert as defined by the USDA “
a census tract musthave either: 1) a poverty rate of 20 percent or higher, OR 2) a median family income at or  below 80 percent of the area's median family income; t
o qualify as a “low
-access
community,” at least 5
00 people and/or at least 33 percent of the census tract's populationmust reside more than one mile from a supermarket or large grocery store
4
). Thenorthern boundary of the Market has extended north from Penn Street NE to New York Avenue NE (see image 2), and the most recent attempts to define/shape the future of themarket has fallen to a joint venture of J Street Development and Edens & Avant. Thisventure has currently acquired approximately 140,000 square feet of space within theMarket, mostly centered on 6
th
 
Street NE, and has designs for a project that
involves aland assemblage for potential mixed use development, including retail, commercial,residential and industrial uses
.”
5
 Composition of Florida Avenue Market
2
Schwartzman, Paul.
“Despite Challenges and Change, Market Is Still 'Another World': Faced With
Ebbing Crowds, Capital City Complex Takes on International Flavor.
The Washington Post. March 10,2005
3
4
5
J Street Companies Capital City NE Development Project:http://www.jstreetcompanies.com/capitalcitymarket 
 
The Florida Avenue Small Market Plan
6
, commissioned by the District of Columbia in 2009, provides the most comprehensive accounting of the composition of the Florida Avenue Market area. Allowing for general economic-related turnover, at lastofficial count, the Market contained approximately 120 distinct lots, owned byapproximately 68 different entities. The largest of these current owners, includingGallaudet University, Edens & Avant/J Street and Sang Oh & Company, in total, ownapproximately 10% of the parcels, with the remaining parcels owned by individuals.Many of the buildings on the premises are leased, and many of them are sub-dividedamong multiple tenants. The buildings and lots in the market are primarily wholesale andretail (including a diverse array of ethnic food markets, including Italian, African andAsian venders), with the remainder divided up amongst parking, storage, office, andrestaurant space.The physical structures themselves seem to arise from three distinct eras. Thefirst era of construction, overseen by the architect E.L. Bullock, provided a more classicalview, with 2 story warehouse spaces clearly defined by a loading dock bookended bycolumns. The second era of construction largely mimicked the first, but was not guided by the hand of a single architect. The third era of construction was highlighted by a jointeffort of the government of the District of Columbia and a collection of merchants toconstruct a 200,000 square foot building, which would allow merchants to expand their operations in lieu of relocating (see image 3).Area DemographicsThe Florida Avenue Market is bounded by several neighborhoods, a few of whichare undergoing demographic shifts. The Market is bordered by NoMA to the west, Near  Northeast to the south, Trinidad to the east and Ivy City to the north (see image 4).Traditionally, Near Northeast, Trinidad and Ivy City have been middle-class residentialneighborhoods comprised of single-family and row house homes. Trinidad and Ivy City belong to neighborhood cluster 23 (along with Arboretum and Carver Langston), and in2010 the cluster had approximately 14, 500 residents,
7
of whom 87% are AfricanAmerican, and with an average family income of $45,000. NoMA and Near Northeastare part of neighborhood cluster 25 (along with Union Station, Stanton Park andKingman Park), with a 2010 population of approximately 30,000 residents,
8
of whom43% are African American, and with an average family income of $126,000.Of all the bordering neighborhoods, NoMA has experienced the most explosivegrowth and development, largely following the development of the New York AvenueRed-
Line Metro stop. NoMA is
the fastest growing neighborhood in DC, with 16 newshops and restaurants in just the last three years
…(and) m
ore than 1,200 residencesopened in 2010, and over 1,500 new apartments are currently under construction
.”
9
 
6
7
NeighborhoodInfo DC, DC Neighborhood Cluster Profile, Cluster 23:http://www.neighborhoodinfodc.org/nclusters/nbr_prof_clus23.html 
8
NeighborhoodInfo DC, DC Neighborhood Cluster Profile, Cluster 25:http://www.neighborhoodinfodc.org/nclusters/nbr_prof_clus25.html 
9

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dhanousek_708057060 added this note
Dear Mr. Hill: Very well written report. I have one small correction for you. It was not DC's Central Market at the site of the current National Archives; it was Washington's Center Market. (Chicago had a Central Market.) Donna Hanousek

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