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New Urban Vernacular
Walk around the Florida Avenue Market on any weekend, and you will see a hive of activity: t-shirt vendors selling off remnants 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 the Market space (with some noble exceptions from the preservation crowd, including Richard Laymon at “Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space”1). Developers have promoted an 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. promoting gentrification; and perhaps most importantly, the search for the answer to who gets to determine the character of an area. A Brief History of Florida Avenue Market Prior to the rise of Florida Avenue Market as a wholesale destination, the demand for wholesale and fresh meats and produce for business and household alike was met by DC’s Central Market, located at what is now the site of the National Archives. Following the passage of the Public Buildings Act in 1926 mandating the development of the Federal Triangle Area, the commissioners of the District of Columbia sought to relocate the market to a single, conveniently located area. The commissioners settled on a parcel in Southwest Washington, DC, accessible by both rail and water. Maryland farmers bristled at this new location, banded together to form the Union Terminal Market Association, 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, 6th Street NE on the east and Penn Street NE
http://urbanplacesandspaces.blogspot.com/ and also http://capitalcitymarket.blogspot.com/ I am extremely grateful to 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 politics and gentrification.
on the north, a prime location based on its access to the rail yards to the west and the commuter lines running out of Union Station. The remaining non-Association merchants rushed to join the Association and participate in the new market, effectively killing the Southwest market plan. As part of the negotiations surrounding their membership, they extracted 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 Market was opened in 1931. The Market continued to grow beyond its initial construction, and soon 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, and subsequent city legislation restricted the farmers market to the sale of fruits and vegetables despite the dire warnings of Market merchants. By 1964, the farmers market was largely moribund, and sold off, and by 1967 replaced with a new building. Despite the downfall of the farmers market, the wholesale aspect of Union Market continued to succeed, 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 centers would deprive the wholesalers of important business. Individual merchants began an exodus to the suburbs, and in the 1980s the government of the District of Columbia began to buy several acres in the hopes of spurring revitalization. As more long-standing merchants 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 and Africans who specialize in catering to the new immigrant-owned restaurants and groceries 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 populate the eastern edge of the District3 (food desert as defined by the USDA “a census tract must have 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; to qualify as a “low-access community,” at least 500 people and/or at least 33 percent of the census tract's population must reside more than one mile from a supermarket or large grocery store”4). The northern 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 the market has fallen to a joint venture of J Street Development and Edens & Avant. This venture has currently acquired approximately 140,000 square feet of space within the Market, mostly centered on 6th Street NE, and has designs for a project that “involves a land assemblage for potential mixed use development, including retail, commercial, residential and industrial uses.”5 Composition of Florida Avenue Market
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 http://www.ers.usda.gov/data/fooddesert/fooddesert.html 4 http://www.ers.usda.gov/data/fooddesert/about.html#Defined 5 J Street Companies Capital City NE Development Project: http://www.jstreetcompanies.com/capitalcitymarket
The Florida Avenue Small Market Plan6, 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 last official count, the Market contained approximately 120 distinct lots, owned by approximately 68 different entities. The largest of these current owners, including Gallaudet University, Edens & Avant/J Street and Sang Oh & Company, in total, own approximately 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-divided among multiple tenants. The buildings and lots in the market are primarily wholesale and retail (including a diverse array of ethnic food markets, including Italian, African and Asian venders), with the remainder divided up amongst parking, storage, office, and restaurant space. The physical structures themselves seem to arise from three distinct eras. The first era of construction, overseen by the architect E.L. Bullock, provided a more classical view, with 2 story warehouse spaces clearly defined by a loading dock bookended by columns. 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 joint effort of the government of the District of Columbia and a collection of merchants to construct a 200,000 square foot building, which would allow merchants to expand their operations in lieu of relocating (see image 3). Area Demographics The Florida Avenue Market is bounded by several neighborhoods, a few of which are 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 residential neighborhoods comprised of single-family and row house homes. Trinidad and Ivy City belong to neighborhood cluster 23 (along with Arboretum and Carver Langston), and in 2010 the cluster had approximately 14, 500 residents,7 of whom 87% are African American, and with an average family income of $45,000. NoMA and Near Northeast are part of neighborhood cluster 25 (along with Union Station, Stanton Park and Kingman Park), with a 2010 population of approximately 30,000 residents,8 of whom 43% are African American, and with an average family income of $126,000. Of all the bordering neighborhoods, NoMA has experienced the most explosive growth and development, largely following the development of the New York Avenue Red-Line Metro stop. NoMA is “the fastest growing neighborhood in DC, with 16 new shops and restaurants in just the last three years…(and) more than 1,200 residences opened in 2010, and over 1,500 new apartments are currently under construction.”9
Florida Avenue Small Market Plan available through the DC Office of Planning: http://planning.dc.gov/DC/Planning/In+Your+Neighborhood/Wards/Ward+6/Small+Area+Plans+&+Studie s/Florida+Avenue+Market+Small+Area+Plan 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 NoMA BID Resident Snapshot: http://www.nomabid.org/the-neighborhood/residents/
Today, NoMA is roughly “50% built out or under construction with 16 million square feet, 2 hotels, 2,700 residential units and 200,000 square feet of retail”10 including the developments centered on 1st Street NE that consist of several office and apartment buildings, as well as a Harris Teeter and other neighborhood amenities (this area will only continue to overhaul, with the recent announcement of the decision to sell the parcel of land currently housing the Greyhound Station, at 1st Street NE and L Street NE). Similarly, Near Northeast along the southern border of the Market is experiencing a demographic shift, as the continued development of the H Street NE Corridor (alternately the Atlas District) continues to creep north. External Influences The Florida Avenue Market is defined as much by its history and current composition as it is by surrounding geography. The Market’s northern boundary, New York Avenue NE, is colloquially referred to as DC’s “Northern Gateway,” and provides a crucial commuting artery from Maryland into the District, ensuring large amounts of vehicular traffic. The current state of commercial development along this boundary stretch of New York Avenue NE provides an array of fast food options, but very little in the way of grocery and/or whole food options. Immediately to the east of the Market sits Gallaudet University, a school of nearly 2,000 students providing services to the deaf community (and a property owner within the Market itself). Gallaudet’s role as property owner, boundary and population draw (especially one seeking to further connect the campus to the city; see Gallaudet University’s “6th Street Corridor Development Concepts” document) makes it a prime player in shaping the future of the Market. Florida Avenue NE, the southern border of the Market, as in the case of New York Avenue NE to the north, is a vital commuting corridor, providing access to Benning Road NE and across the Anacostia River. To the south, the continued “rebirth” of the H Street NE Corridor ushers in a younger, “hipster” dynamic, stereotypically urban “pioneers” seeking the diversity the city has to offer and the demographic to whom various Market plans have been aimed at. The rise of NoMA, with “a total development potential of roughly 32 million square feet of mixed-use and transit-oriented development... that translates to about 100 high density buildings,”11 spurs the population explosion along the Market’s western border, both through the introduction of approximately 2,700 residential units and 2 hotels. Transportation The Market is accessible to vehicular traffic, with 4th Street NE traversing the length of the Market (southbound) from New York Avenue NE to Florida Avenue NE and with 5th Street NE running north from Florida Avenue NE to Penn Street NE and providing access to the Brentwood Parkway. 6th Street NE forms the border between the Market’s eastern edge and Gallaudet University, and links to the east/west axes of Morse Street NE, Neal Place NE and Penn Street NE. The Market boasts proximity to alternative transportation options, with WMATA’s 90, 92, 93 and X3 bus lines running
NoMA BID Development Snapshot: http://www.nomabid.org/developmentleasing/ NoMa BID Development Inventory: http://www.nomabid.org/developmentleasing/
along Florida Avenue; the D1, D3, D4 and D812 running east-west along L Street NE (approximately 0.3 miles south of the Market); the New York Avenue Red-line Metro stop located approximately 0.6 miles west of the Market; Greyhound, Bolt and Mega bus terminals all within less than a mile radius of the Market; and both Amtrak and MARC trains (and an additional Red Line Metro stop) at Union Station approximately 0.8 miles away. Also, the Market is close to the Metropolitan Branch Trail, which offers a vital bicycle link. Gallaudet University13 Despite NoMA’s rise to prominence over the last several years (fueled mostly by the opening of the New York Avenue Metro stop in 2004), the external influence that has the potential to wield the most significant impact on the future of the Market and the surrounding community is Gallaudet University. Gallaudet is keenly aware of its role in the community, and recently has taken great efforts to include local stakeholders in the evaluation of its 10 Year Plan (it is interesting to draw a comparison between the relative lack of controversy regarding Gallaudet’s 10 Year Plan despite the potential threat of gentrification it poses [especially as some of these neighborhoods deal with current demographic shift] with the hostility surrounding Georgetown’s 10 Year Plan). Gallaudet recognizes that as a private owner of property within the Market it is in turn a steward of public character and the there is a responsibility to the larger community inherent in owning property within this space. At the same time, the needs of the University coincide (in some regards) with the needs of the surrounding communities. In order to remain competitive, physical revitalization can play a key role in making Gallaudet attractive to the next generation of students, both in terms of direct amenities offered and through the successful integration of the University into the neighborhood (as the campus has been historically isolated from the larger community). Successfully integrating with and opening up to the surrounding communities can help overcome the obstruction of economic development that Gallaudet represents between NoMA, the Market and the H Street NE Corridor. Not only is Gallaudet looking to integrate with the neighboring communities, but as the population begins to shift more is being asked of the University, and the Market is an ideal space to begin to give back. Developing the edge of campus abutting the Market (and the space owned within the Market) is something that can be done for the greatest benefit of the campus and the community. This development is not without risk to Gallaudet. As a distinct linguistic community, it is imperative that deaf-design pervade the Market, allowing full use for the student body and continuing the process of bridging the gown/town divide. Another risk posed is the struggle between assimilation and identity. Finally, Gallaudet faces the responsibility to improve the area, but to do so in a way that does not disperse or destroy the urban fabric. Current Events Two current events stand out as having direct implications on the future of the
See WMATA Metrobus Route Map for Washington, DC: http://www.wmata.com/pdfs/bus/DC.pdf I am indebted to Mr. Hansel Bauman, Director of Campus Design and Planning, Gallaudet University, for his generosity of time and insight in our discussions regarding Gallaudet University, its relationship to the Market and the surrounding neighborhoods and a host of other topics.
Florida Avenue Market: the ethics scandal of Ward 5 Councilmember Harry Thomas, Jr. and the DC Farmers’ Market. On October 20, 2011, the DC Farmers’ Market (1309 5th Street NE) was largely gutted by fire, displacing vendors and rendering the building unusable.14 In no way minimizing the impact that the fire, and the resulting displacement, has on individual vendors, there is, in fact, an opportunity presented by fire, as the building was architecturally uninteresting, and is now primed for updating and renovation. Councilmember Thomas’ existing ethics concerns has complicated efforts to rally District government support for revitalization in particular,15 and renewed questions of the government’s role in private development (already an issue with the Florida Avenue Market following passage of the New Town plan). All these external forces play an important role in shaping the Market area, and are important in defining its relationship to the surrounding neighborhoods. The Market is a crucial link between the burgeoning NoMA district, the H Street NE Corridor to the south and the neighborhoods to the north and east, helping to push amenities and opportunity eastward along Florida Avenue NE. History of Florida Avenue Market Planning The planning for Florida Avenue Market has undergone several incarnations, and the most recent venture can, in a sense, be seen as the culmination of four previous efforts to plan the Market’s future. The first effort, undertaken in 2006 by the DC Office of Planning, “The Northeast Gateway Revitalization Strategy” identified the Florida Avenue Market as one of four redevelopment opportunity areas. The Strategy recognized the Market as both an under-utilized resource and a regional attraction, and saw the potential for employment and entrepreneurial opportunities.16 This effort led almost directly into the New Town development plan, a private effort spearheaded by Sang Oh & Company. Mr. Sang Oh Choi, the owner of approximately 2 acres of Market land, with the support of then Ward 5 Councilmember (and now At-Large Councilmember) Vincent Orange, proposed a plan “which would convert the industrial area into a 24-acre complex of condominiums, restaurants, a hotel and a much smaller warehouse sector.”17 After a widely critiqued and seemingly closed process, the Council of the District of Columbia enacted “The New Town at Capital City Market Revitalization Development and Public/Private Partnership Emergency Act of 2006”18 (i.e. New Town Legislation). This legislation created a public/private partnership with New Town Development, declared the Market blighted, and sighting the belief that the Market was an economic and social
See: O’Connell, Jonathan. “Capital City Market recovers from a bad week.” The Washington Post, 11/21/2011 http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/capital-business/post/recovering-from-a-bad-week-at-capital-citymarket/2011/11/21/gIQAlk0miN_blog.html 15 Editorial Board Opinion. “More mischief from Harry Thomas.” The Washington Post, November 20, 2011. http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/more-mischief-from-harrythomas/2011/11/18/gIQAWIb5fN_story.html 16 “The Northeast Gateway Revitalization Strategy” can be found on the DC Office of Planning website: http://planning.dc.gov/DC/Planning/In+Your+Neighborhood/Wards/Ward+5/Small+Area+Plans+&+Studie s/The+Northeast+Gateway+Revitalization+Strategy+and+Implementation+Plan+The+Northeast+Gateway 17 Silverman, Elissa. “New Town Market Proposal Approved,” The Washington Post, December 20, 2006 http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/12/19/AR2006121901403.html 18 http://www.dccouncil.washington.dc.us/images/00001/20060721113809.pdf
liability for the District as a whole, authorized a planned community of housing (including workforce housing), retail and other facilities as envisioned under a comprehensive revitalization plan. New Town represented a classic approach to urban renewal: the combination of modern architecture and accommodation of the automobile, adopting principles used to guide suburban development. Despite approval, the New Town plan received ample criticism, and the District proceeded with the next planning stage. In 2007, the “North of Massachusetts Avenue (NoMA) Vision Plan and Development Strategy” was released.19 Like the Gateway document cited above, this Strategy identified the Florida Avenue Market as a development destination, but began to focus in on a food theme, and also looked at the development of the Market in a more comprehensive fashion, evaluating the potential for housing and retail opportunities against those already proposed for the surrounding wards. At the same time, and as part of its larger campus plan review, Gallaudet University issued its “Gallaudet University 6th Street Corridor Development Concepts: Gallaudet & Capital City Market Plan.”20 This plan recognized that the development of properties owned by Gallaudet within the Market could provide the opportunity to foster, grow and build the relationship between the university and the surrounding neighborhoods, for the mutual benefit of all involved parties. Finally, in 2009, the DC Office of Planning released the “Florida Avenue Market Study Small Area Plan.”21 This plan sought to balance the needs of the surrounding stakeholders, while ensuring the Market would be accessible to both current and future users. Small Area Plan The Small Area Plan seeks to emulate successful mixed-use markets from other cities (for example the Strip District in Pittsburgh, PA, or the Pike Place Market in Seattle, WA). The Plan emphasizes the need to retain the essential character of the industrial space while still facilitating the development necessary to allow the Market to thrive into the future. The development would incorporate the character of the surrounding areas, effectively bridging any gap between the Market and its external stakeholders and communities. Aside from general cosmetic work to upgrade the appearance of the Farmers Market, the development would include “restaurants and a culinary institute to draw more daytime foot traffic to boost the businesses that are part of the area.”22 In order to allow this additional foot traffic, a lot of the development would be pedestrian-oriented.
“The NoMa Vision Plan and Development Strategy” can be found on the DC Office of Planning website: http://planning.dc.gov/DC/Planning/In+Your+Neighborhood/Wards/Ward+6/Small+Area+Plans+&+Studie s/NoMA+Vision+Plan+and+Development+Strategy 20 “Gallaudet University 6th Street Corridor Development Concepts: Gallaudet & Capital City Market Plan” can be found on Gallaudet University’s website: http://my.gallaudet.edu/bbcswebdav/institution/DailyDigest/employees/PR/Capital%20City%20Mkt%20Pr esentation.pdf 21 “The Florida Avenue Market Small Area Plan” can be found on the DC Office of Planning website: http://planning.dc.gov/DC/Planning/In+Your+Neighborhood/Wards/Ward+5/Small+Area+Plans+&+Studie s/Florida+Avenue+Market+Small+Area+Plan+Main+Page 22 Schwartzman, Paul. “City Study Urges Revitalization in Northeast Areas,” The Washington Post, March 3, 2005: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A1499-2005Mar2.html
In all, the Small Area Plan relies upon simplicity and flexibility. The Plan allows for creativity, diversity of use and benefit and for the adaptability to change according to future Market demands. The Plan in its entirety is mixed-use, but it does segregate (to some extent) according to purpose, proposing the wholesale elements be relocated to the northern end of the Market to allow easy access to New York Avenue NE, and the clustering of restaurant and retail among the remaining walkable streets. The Plan would seek to preserve as much of the architecture and history of the Market as viable, but zoning changes (currently, the Market is zoned for low-bulk commercial and light industry, and new residential development is not allowed within the Market’s zoning restrictions) would allow for some higher buildings to be incorporated into the Market. Similar to the segregation-according-to-use approach, the Plan recommends a segregation-according-to-density approach, where the highest-density buildings are located in closer proximity to New York Avenue NE and the moderate-to-medium density buildings are located in closer proximity to Florida Avenue NE and 6th Street NE. The Plan also focuses on increased connectivity, particularly to the New York Avenue Red-Line Metro stop, as well as to the Metropolitan Branch Trail, both of which would encourage pedestrian use. The Plan recommends the fostering of a sense of place, primarily achieved through safe, enjoyable and usable open/public space (the Plan elaborates on both these issues, offering a street-by-street detail on how to achieve connectivity and improve open space). In order to accommodate a diversity of uses, and to foster stakeholder buy-in, the Plan suggests a series of steps aimed at ensuring public participation. For example, in order to best include Gallaudet University, the Plan suggests that deaf design principles be implemented in any final development plan. The only effort to narrow down the scope from that which is broadly outlined in the Small Area Plan has been the initial efforts undertaken by the J Street Development/Edens & Avant joint venture. According to J Street, “to date, the Venture has acquired approximately 140,000 square feet of property strategically located throughout the larger site limits”23 with the understanding of the need to work in conjunction with local stakeholders, and in negotiations with District government.24 Florida Avenue Market/Capital City Market/Union Market: What’s in a Name? Throughout different phases of planning and use, the Market has been called by different names. Currently, developers Edens & Avant propose returning to the original, Union Market, which they see as a way to “to build on the culinary heritage associated with the original Union Market, while also modernizing it as the area reestablishes itself as a new foodie destination.”25 However, changing the name of a space is fraught with implications and consequences. When new names are proposed for a place, two reasons are often cited behind the need for this change: to create a sense of place or to facilitate
J Street Companies: http://www.jstreetcompanies.com/capitalcitymarket To see Edens & Avant’s previous development work: http://www.edensandavant.com/development.asp 25 DePillis, Lydia. “Capital City/Florida Avenue No More: Developers Go With Throwback ‘Union Market.’” Housing Complex Blog, Washington City Paper. August 18, 2011. http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/blogs/housingcomplex/2011/08/18/capital-cityflorida-avenue-nomore-developers-go-with-throwback-union-market/
an area’s reinvention. While both a sense of place and resident investment in the shaping of space are important components to a healthy and vibrant community, ultimately the quest to usher in a new identity disingenuously masks gentrification behind a thin veneer of patronizing community improvement. The main drawback of the sense of place argument for a re-branding campaign is found in the assumption that there was, to paraphrase Gertrude Stein, no there there. Efforts to brand/rebrand can instead erase the positive identity of a place. Proponents of a name-change seek to create a cohesive sense of place, or hearken back to a gilded past, but as the brand grows to overwhelm and erase identity, what, in fact, is lost is that very sense of place sought. The commercial underpinnings of the branding campaign not only erase the human element of the existing community and its web of connections, but it also sets the agenda for the scope of the branding and how those inside and those forced out of the branding are seen. The reinvention justification begs the question of for whom is the space being reinvented? For the benefit of the residents, who are concerned with the loss of identity, pride and perhaps place as the Market is remade? Or for the businesses, who bemoan the lack of foot traffic, and see a new name as a quick way to dispel any negative connotation lingering in an old name? Part of the misguided drive behind re-branding comes from a sense of competition between urban business districts and suburban box stores and shopping malls, as though the needs of those communities are the same. Finally, reinvention can be billed as the only recourse for a neighborhood whose name raises the specter of crime and neglect, as the tool to drive development and empower residents (see the “East of the River” vs. “River East” argument playing out in Anacostia). However, instead of addressing the root cause of any problem a space may face the re-branding glosses over the needs of the current residents and paves the way for others to come and possibly take their place. The backlash against a re-branding campaign is another incarnation of the backlash against the gentrification that follows in its wake. A successful neighborhood marketing campaign does not need to include a rebranding effort. Trumpeting the brand itself, what makes it unique, its positive history and its unrealized potential are avenues to promoting a neighborhood’s return and the foundation of a successful marketing campaign. Ultimately, as the battle for the soul of a city’s spaces is waged, what is most important is reinvestment, not reinvention. The (Re)Making of the Florida Avenue Market The future of the Florida Avenue Market rests on a range of key concepts and with a reevaluation of how we come to value and define success in terms of space. Proposals such as New Town rely on a flawed rubric regarding space valuation and the proper use of space, seeing economic indicators as the only yardsticks against which to measure, seemingly divorcing the project from its larger context. In doing so, the New Town proposal demonstrates an inability to evaluate diversity: of services, of places and of people, and sees the Florida Avenue Market only for the potential of a clean-slate and a sanitized view of urban living (complete with bowling alleys!), and crassly markets and commercializes urban identity and cultural vitality, thereby leading to its marginalization and displacement, and the unraveling of the urban texture of a place (or an identity), a
pattern reminiscent of the decline of East Village bohemia.26 Instead of utilizing space as a mechanism to bridge cultural/generational/ethnic/ideological gaps, these “tabula rosa” plans acts as a mechanism to facilitate diversity’s dispersal in a government-facilitated asset sprawl, overwriting history, whitewashing the present and changing the future. This diversity dispersion, mimics Merchant’s “colonial ecological revolution,” where something native to a region (in her case plant or animal species, but in this case diversity and the existing Market constituents and services) is extracted from its original context and exported27 (in her discussion as overseas commodities, but in the Market case, the diversity is exported to the suburbs). We must recognize, before it is too late, that there is a cultural conscience to a built space, and that, in turn, there are cultural consequences in its dissolution. A successful definition of space conveys a clear political/ideological purpose, stating unequivocally that the duty of the government and the role of market forces do not have to be at cross-purposes. The power of the market, steered by the hand of government, can be harnessed to preserve the cultural and architectural integrity of the Market while ensuring that it has a viable future moving forward. A place is not successful when divorced from its larger context, and any plan for the Florida Avenue Market cannot be evaluated without recognizing its relationship to the surrounding communities. Spaces are imbued with “…vitality and the quality of place only when they are animated and modified by the qualities of a particular landscape.”28 The value of the Market is found in its use. The vitality and quality of place for the Market is found in food, and it is essential that food continue to play a role in its future. Edens & Avant has recognized this, and has named a “Director of Culinary Strategy” 29 who has cited successful market projects in cities like San Francisco has the model for the Florida Avenue Market. Similarly, a place can only be successful if it “fits” practically and philosophically within its surrounding neighborhood or region. This “fit” can be more broadly defined as the quality of a place. Richard Florida defines the quality of a place as a combination of three factors: what’s there (the built and natural environment), who’s there, and what’s going on (a measure of the vibrancy of street life).30 The practical “fit” of a place, the “what’s there,” speaks to the physical, environmental and architectural context, while the philosophical “fit” of a place, the “who’s there,” (is it utilized by a diverse range of people? by members of the surrounding community?) is more a measure of the emotional context of a place; how the community at large and individual constituents utilize and relate to a space. Finally, the “what’s going on” is the sum of the previous two, as what is going on is determined by the interactions between an environment and its users.
Jacoby, Russell. The Last Intellectuals: American Culture in the Age of Academe. Basic Books, 1987. Merchant, Carolyn. Ecological Revolutions: Nature, Gender, and Science in New England. University of North Carolina Press, 1989. 28 Kelbaugh, Douglas. Common Place: Toward Neighborhood and Regional Design. University of Washington Press, 1997. 29 Sietsma, Tom. “Richard Brandenburg leaves ThinkFoodGroup.” The Washington Post, 07/21/2011. http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/all-we-can-eat/post/richard-brandenburg-leavesthinkfoodgroup/2011/07/20/gIQA5elWQI_blog.html 30 Florida, Richard. The Rise Of The Creative Class: And How It's Transforming Work, Leisure, Community And Everyday Life. Basic Books, 2002.
Ibid. Ibid. 33 Ray Oldenburg, “Our Vanishing Third Places.” Planning Commissioners Journal, Number 25. Winter 1996-1997.
and as a source for local business development opportunity. The New Urban Vernacular The New Urban Vernacular (NUV) serves as a lens through which to view the cultural viability of any proposed project slated for the Florida Avenue Market space. The NUV movement builds off of the framework proposed by New Urbanism, and includes elements of the environmental justice movement, historical preservation, smart growth and other revitalization efforts. Ultimately, NUV is a place-based and peoplefocused approach to urban planning, looking to preserve positive externalities including a diversity of use and character, for successful revitalization “…must begin, then, by reinstating the balance among the widest range of local uses.”34 NUV practitioners partner with local governments to incentivize the use of existing space and advocate for infill development. NUV endorses several of the propositions set forth by the Congress for the New Urbanism in their charter, including the need for the built environment to be “…diverse in use and population; … designed for the pedestrian and transit as well as the car; …shaped by physically defined and universally accessible public spaces and community institutions; (and) … framed by architecture and landscape design that celebrate local history, climate, ecology, and building practice.”35 As the Market is an existing built space, it already satisfies several of these principles, particularly in regards to its car and transit accessibility. However, as development of the Market moves forward, it needs to incorporate the remaining elements of the Charter: greater pedestrian accessibility framed and facilitated by public space within the community institution of the Market; universal accessibility to allow full use and enjoyment of the Market; and the preservation of the architecture and design (and character) of the Market that celebrates its history and its relationship to the surrounding communities. Vernacular Code With these broad guidelines in place, NUV then seeks to craft a comprehensive code to guide the use of space. In order to formulate a specific and comprehensive code, NUV begins with some aspects of the framework provided by Henry Wright in his “Six Planks for a Housing Platform,” which posits the provision of ample, and properly located community space, the minimization of the impact of cars on the use of space and the planning of land, buildings and space in relation to one another. NUV then supplements this approach with key pieces of the “Principles of Human-scaled Communities,” including the need for a discernable center and the walk-ability of the development. Finally, the NUV approach to development is augmented by some principles found within the Hope VI program, namely the provision of services to the community through partnerships with various agencies and service providers. These elements combine to form a code which governs the appropriate development of space, proscribing more radical deviations and prescribing the necessary elements to preserve the Market’s character.
Duany, Andres and Plater-Zyberk, Elizabeth. Suburban Nation: The Rise of Sprawl and the Decline of the American Dream. North Point Press, 2001. 35 Congress for the New Urbanism. “Charter of the New Urbanism.” http://www.cnu.org/charter 2001.
Historical Preservation Historic preservation serves as a safeguard, protecting the space from physical and emotional demolition. More than preserving the built environment, historic preservation acts as a mechanism to protect the character, history and diversity of an area,36 and provides the starting point for any discussion regarding the Market’s future. Within the Market area, the original warehouse buildings should be preserved as part of any plan, serving as a reminder of the history of the Market, as well as providing some measure of reassurance that neither the history nor the current residents who continue that history will be erased. The act of preservation, the designation of a space as worthy of protection, signals something to the surrounding community: that the District cares about the area, that it is worthy of investment and that it will be a part of the future. “Historic preservation can be the underlying basis of community renewal, human renewal and economic renewal… preservation as a means to create an operating community of concerned and reasonably happy people.”37 In addition, the preservation of the historic structures and character of the Market can propel the development of the Market, distinguishing the Market from surrounding developments and attracting business and tourist alike. Cultural Impact Statement Adopting principles of the environmental justice movement, the Department of Transportation outlined three principles through which to evaluate projects: “1) To avoid, minimize, or mitigate disproportionately high and adverse human health and environmental effects, including social and economic effects, on minority populations and low-income populations. 2) To ensure the full and fair participation by all potentially affected communities in the transportation decision-making process. 3) To prevent the denial of, reduction in, or significant delay in, the receipt of benefits by minority and lowincome populations.”38 In addition to the need to recognize the environmental impact policy implementation can have on minority and low-income communities, NUV understands that there is also a cultural element that needs to be considered during the planning process to avoid a disparate impact on any community. There is a clear connection between built space/the structured environment and individual and community mental “health.” Not only do people identify with (and find identity through) space, but a public space can provide a sense of place and root a community into the larger context of the surrounding city, and the treatment of a particular space within a community can act as a larger signal to the role that community plays in the larger city (what does it say about how a city values a particular community if its valued institutions are removed?). This cultural justice perspective would seek to avoid, minimize or mitigate any adverse impact on the surrounding community in which a project is situated, including damage to the social fabric of a neighborhood, large-scale displacement or economic upheaval.
Email correspondence with Richard Layman Moe, Richard and Wilkie, Carter. Changing Places: Rebuilding Community in the Age of Sprawl. Henry Holt and Company, 1999. 38 U.S. Department of Transportation “An Overview of Transportation and Environmental Justice.” Publication No. FHWA-EP-00-013, 2000.
Additionally, this perspective would ensure that those most impacted from the end results of any action are full participants in the decision-making process that leads to them. Not only would this affirm that every member of an impacted community is s stakeholder in the project’s outcomes, but it would facilitate the transition of the individual from stakeholder to place-maker. The cultural impact statement would assure that the government, and any developer involved in the project, would give proper consideration to the cultural environment and context prior to undertaking any major action that could significantly alter the urban fabric.39 From Policy to Implementation A plan that included these elements would reinforce and reinvigorate the Market as a crucial third place. Any Market development that included robust public participation would work to further unify neighbors, as the community more clearly could feel invested in a place that helped build the future for. The development of the Market would introduce some of the other characteristics for third places set forth by Ray Oldenburg. As a venue for fresh and local produce, and in conjunction with agencies and service providers (and the offering of public health and wellness and access to healthrelated information/programs), the Market would help reduce the cost of living. In addition to increasing access to healthy food (and perhaps providing nutrition expertise or cooking classes)40, the Market could accomplish this on a basic level by allowing support systems to form naturally, as regular customers can be checked in on. In addition, the Market could begin to act as a safe space for the community, furnishing abundant eyes on the street, ensuring strangers safe use and enjoyment of the Market space. Finally, the Market could begin to fill a vital role as an entertainment center, utilizing its physical space as an entertainment venue, screening movies, hosting cooking events, pop-up restaurants41 and allowing local craftsmen to exhibit their work. Support and Opposition Support for the Florida Avenue Market, as envisioned in the broadly defined Small Area Plan, currently comes from a variety of the surrounding stakeholders. Both Gallaudet University and NoMa BID see the development of the Market as a necessary step in the integration of the area as a whole, as a vital conduit between diverse neighboring communities. Public input was utilized during the planning process, but as of right now plans are not concrete (and therefore any threat not immediate), that input has been limited to those most apt to attend community meetings. Opposition to any development of the Florida Avenue Market has seemingly focused on several important issues: the need for (and previous lack of) community input; the implications of redevelopment vs. revitalization (or in other words, ground-up
See: National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 See: Layman, Richard. “Retail planning and the Florida Market.” Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space. 02/20/2009. http://urbanplacesandspaces.blogspot.com/2009/02/retail-planning-and-florida-market.html 41 See: Kelly. “Capital City Market to Get Pop-Up Restaurants?” DC Mud: The Urban Real Estate Digest of Washington, DC. 08/02/2011. http://dcmud.blogspot.com/2011/07/capital-city-market-to-get-popup.html
revitalization vs. top-down renewal); the development of new spaces without the strengthening of existing spaces; and sort of lording over them all, the fear of gentrification and displacement. Opposition centers primarily on the fear of the loss of essential character of the Market. To paraphrase Christopher Lasch, the danger to public spaces comes from “… the erosion of its psychological, cultural and spiritual foundations from within.”42 The fear was more than just the loss of wholesalers, t-shirt vendors and ethnic markets, it was a fear of a loss of a way of life (it is important to note the large role that food plays in our daily lives: not only giving sustenance, but transmitting tradition down through the generations, inspiring ritual observance and fueling cultural and ethnic identity, so perhaps fear of the loss of ethnic markets and the Market’s food theme isn’t such a small fear in and of itself), and fear of a loss of a part of DC itself, of an architectural and cultural heritage. A lot of the opposition directed at the initial New Town plan centered on the lack of community input, and the resulting loss of character that the development portrayed. The New Town plan spelled the end of the Market as it had existed, and “to destroy it is to destroy authenticity, and replace it with some sort of modern suburban-like New Town subdivision, rather than respect and extend the urbanity that makes Washington DC an attractive place to live today.”43 The inclusion of seemingly suburban features into an urban environment (such as box stores) and without public input, was intuited by surrounding communities as the first stages of removal. The New Town plan calling for housing on a scale not seen in the surrounding neighborhoods reinforced the fear the Market was not being revitalized, but being redeveloped. In addition to the general opposition to specific development plans for the Market, there exist structural obstacles to its development (particularly its development in line with the NUV paradigm). These obstacles include local regulations and zoning; the balancing of multiple private owners and the impact multiple ownership has on building a cohesive vision for the Market; general economic conditions and the availability of funds and subsidies to encourage smart growth; overall project costs associated with infill development; and the ever-present need for community involvement and how that involvement may change as the community changes. Conclusion Over the course of the last several years, the future of the Florida Avenue Market, and who that future is meant to serve, has been hotly debated. Despite its continued use, different visions have alternately been promoted an alternate vision for the Market, some of which envisioned a clean break from its past, and some of which sought to embrace this past. The argument over the Market’s future seems a microcosm for larger arguments over the future of DC and of cities in general: 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. promoting gentrification; and perhaps most importantly, the search for the answer to who gets to determine the character of an area. While the exact future of the Market seems unclear as the
Lasch, Christopher. The Idea of Progress: The Purpose of Place and the Meaning of Values. “Testimony on the Florida Market New Towns proposal,” Richard Layman, Friday, October 20, 2006
surrounding communities wait for the next plan to be issued, the argument over for who the plan will be for continues on. The hope with this paper was to try and address some of these questions, and to present a framework for thinking about the future of the Market in a way that would demonstrate how the relationship between a community and space is symbiotic, and that as one goes, so goes the other. The character of an area is formed by the interaction of individuals with the built and natural environment, and this character is constantly reborn, as new individuals discover its particularities and learn to identify with its opportunities. It is important to recognize that the battle over the future of the Market is a battle over the future of the District itself, and an attempt, on a local level, to present a case for how cities in general ought to work and be valued. Cities survive through the preservation of diversity: of people and of places, and as a city loses its vital spaces it loses its character. “City character is blurred until every place becomes more like every other place, all adding up to no place.”44 The value of cities is found in their promotion of diversity, in their ability to make space for a plethora of needs and opportunities. As Jane Jacobs said, “the point of cities is multiplicity of choice.”45 As redevelopment schemes continue to gloss over the rich cultural history of our public spaces, cities lose their vibrancy, their identity and their value.
Jacobs, Jane. The Death and Life of Great American Cities. Modern Books, 1961. Ibid.
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