Reopening 7th St. SE?

Photo courtesy of
courtesy of ‘Sean Robertson’

After the infamous Eastern Market fire two years ago, Mayor Fenty ordered 7th St. SE closed on weekends to make room for stalls displaced by the disaster.  As most of you know, the market reopened several weeks ago, and WaPo reports that store owners along 7th are requesting that the street be reopened.  They are concerned that parking and traffic difficulties resulting from the closure are limiting their business, most of which comes on weekends.  Stores along market row report a 35% to 75% drop in business since the road closures began.

Their pleas have caught the attention of the City Council, which plans to visit the issue in several months. For now, the government wishes for the street to remain closed to facilitate the revitalization of Eastern Market. 

It seems to me that the 7th St. closure shouldn’t have any effect on Market Row businesses.  There are many, many side streets in the area and ample parking on the blocks surrounding 7th. I’m not entirely sure why the closure of a single block would limit their number of customers.  Besides, Eastern Market is always packed.  According to the WaPo article, the majority of these businesses’ patrons are market goers. If anything, I’ve noticed an increase of people on the weekends.  I’m guessing that there are factors aside from the road closure that are hurting these shops’ revenues.  The economy?  Changing tastes and interests?  An increasingly younger clientele? It could be any number of things.

What are your thoughts on the matter?  Does 7th St. need to stay closed, or should it be reopened?

Kirk is a Maine-born, military brat who moved no fewer than 12 times during his childhood. He came to the DC area in 2004 for his undergrad and decided that it was the place for him. Since graduating, he’s nabbed a job with the Fed and spends most of his free time hunting for cheap thrills in the city. Find out why he loves DC.

9 thoughts on “Reopening 7th St. SE?

  1. Well, I feel like a couple of things need to be said:

    1. As a member of the Market Row Association, I don’t believe that our position was well represented in that article. As of our last meeting a few weeks ago, most of the business owners seemed confident that there was a way that, if managed correctly in both the short and long-term, the street could remain closed in a way that would be healthy for local brick and mortar businesses.

    2. Councilman Wells held a community forum for folks to comment on the matter the first week of July and those in attendance was overwhelming in support of the street remaining closed (including a number of business owners). While there might not have been full representation from all sides, it was clear that a lot of people want it to remain closed to vehicles for a variety of reasons.

    3. Frankly, it has only been a few weeks since Eastern Market reopened and we are still experiencing a lot of street work on 7th St between C and Pennsylvania SE during the week. It really is too early to tell how the reopened Market will impact traffic and how the newly realigned street vendors and overall plan for the area will impact all the businesses along Market Row.

    That’s all for now…

    Hill resident
    welovedc reader
    Owner, Peregrine Espresso

  2. I read both the main article and the previous comment and it is good to hear both sides of the story. Personally, as an Eastern Market lover, I am more likely to go to the surrounding shops and restaurants now that the street is closed. Being able to wander around the area introduces me to businesses I may not have normally seen just driving through. If the street was opened, I would think many people, especially those with kids and pets may not be able to enjoy the market without always being concerned for traffic and parking. Just a thought-and I understand that businesses need to think about the bottom line, but I hope for the sake of a community builder-7th street remains closed!

  3. As a longtime resident of the Hill & E. Market shopper, I had said long before the fire that the street should be closed.

    Having the street open to cars is a safety hazard. The area is crowded on weekends. Pedestrians are everywhere, alone & in groups. Walking between the big trucks and parked cars is dangerous & an accident waiting to happen.

    And, for drivers, why would you even want to drive down 7th St. on a weekend day? Its congested and you can’t make much progress. Its not a viable auto route.

    I agree with Ryan’s point #3… the “new market” is just barely upon us. And I can’t see how introducing cars to the area makes things any better.

  4. I live in that area as well (4 blocks to the east) and completely agree with Capitolization’s assessment. You’d have to be some kind of idiot to want to drive around there on a weekend. Take Metro or park on Penn (or surrounding streets). I personally love the change And think it makes the area much more lively and enjoyable.

    BTW, Ryan, thanks for your comments. I love Peregrien Espresso – WAY better than Murky; frankly the best coffee in the district. Please keep up the great work, but you guys need more locations – the cuurent one’s too popular! ;-)

  5. I completely agree with the above comments. I live just a few blocks away from Eastern Market and love going there on the weekends to walk around and grab a cup of coffee. Re-opening the road back to traffic would make it not only less enjoyable but also dangerous given the amount of people walking around. Additionally, as Ryan mentioned, I think the on-going construction work on the block closer to Penn Ave is probably affecting business, especially during the week, more than anything. We should definitely wait until its all done and people settle back into their routines before making decisions like that.

  6. Appearances are deceiving. There are lots of people buying cups of coffee and walking around the closed street for a seasonal weather-dependent street fair two days a week, but they aren’t patronizing the core businesses that serve the community 7 days a week rain or shine.
    Business has dropped substantially for the bricks and mortar businesses, but especially for the food vendors because few of the tourists and pedestrians do their grocery shopping at the Market. Those who did in years past have been driven away by the crowds, the lack of access to the food stalls, and the change in product mix.

    Seventh Street was open and safe for the 131 years following the construction of Eastern Market. Through most of that, the Market prospered and served as the hub of community life in the Historic District. Closing the street for the convenience of tourists and pedestrians on weekends is damaging the neighborhood-serving commercial district that has grown up around it. The prospect of losing the business base of our community is far too great a price to pay. We should not wait until we lose it to open the street. It will be too late.

  7. Actually, the market has been subsidized since it opened, so I wouldn’t exactly say it has prospered. I love it and think it’s worth subsidizing but let’s not act as though it was all peachy-keen until the big bad Mayor closed 7th street. If sales are down that may be because of the Really Big Recession we’re in.

  8. Margaret — is it possible that much of the recent downturn in business can be attributed to the downturn in the economy, rather than the closure of the street? After all, its easier to get a table at nearly any restaurant around town these days.

    Your argument about 7th St.’s being open & safe for 131 years is specious. After all, automobiles weren’t even mass produced until about 100 years ago. By your logic, we ought not construct new & wider roads because the ones we have served us just fine before there were so many cars on them.

    Finally, re: the argument that brick & mortar stores are taking the brunt of the impact from street closure: the street remains open from C to Pennsulvania. If the problem is just the closed street, then Montmartre, Perrigrine & Marvelous Market would be doing fine, while Tunnicliff’s & Prego would be ghost towns. I don’t see evidence of this.

  9. I agree with Capitolization that the downturn in business has to do with the economy, and also with the unfortunate perception after the fire that the Market wasn’t really a good destination until it reopened. (Despite lots of efforts for publicity advertising it’s openness.) Personally, I love the closed block, and hope it stays. I certainly don’t want to hurt the businesses, but it seems like everyone is hurting, aren’t they? I hope I’m not wrong, but I’d be interested as to how businesses have been feeling since the Market reopened. There has been so much activity down there, it’s hard for me to believe that business is not doing better!

    I also think it would be a great idea to have designated loading-only parking spots specifically for people who need to pick up larger items. Surely we can spare one or two spots on C Street or North Carolina for this purpose? Or in back of the Market?