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Despite the snide and condescending tone taken by Erik Wemple and Vanessa Bauzá (“Food Fight,” 6/28), District taxpayers are wise to be concerned about their government’s plans for Eastern Market. The city’s inability to remove snow from the streets, to fill potholes, or even to put gas in its police cars certainly calls into question its ability to successfully undertake the restoration of one of its architecturally and historically most important structures.
Architect Kent Cooper disingenuously maintains that there has never been a plan to “Dean & Deluca-ize” Eastern Market. Yet I distinctly remember a community meeting several years ago where Cooper enthusiastically compared the potential of Eastern Market to that of Union Station.
The residents of Capitol Hill do not want another Union Station at Eastern Market. They do want a sensitive and historically accurate restoration of the exterior of the market. They want the interior of the Market brought up to code, with minimal repairs and alterations as required (renovations which would undoubtedly cost millions of dollars less than the city is proposing to spend). For the most part, they want to maintain some semblance of the current diversity of tenants and activities at the market. In short, the residents of Capitol Hill want the market fixed up as necessary, but basically left alone.
Instead, the District government insists on an extravagant, $4.9–million renovation, as evidenced by the proposal which was presented to the public last summer. This proposal includes such expensive frills as air-conditioning, passenger elevators, and large public rest rooms, facilities which the city can never hope to adequately maintain. (See, for example, the current condition of the District Building or, for that matter, just about any public school.)
Admittedly, there are disagreements among Capitol Hill residents regarding the various issues concerning Eastern Market. Yet, in their facile attempt to demean and dismiss the heartfelt community activism of the individuals involved, Wemple and Bauzá inevitably miss the larger picture. In what other DC neighborhood is there a single building which engenders so much passionate community concern and involvement?