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Peering into the Fairgrounds.

A couple days ago, JDLand reported that Diverse Markets Management, the folks who’d been brought in to run the retail component of the shipping container bullpen known as the Fairgrounds across from Nationals Park, pulled out five days after the experiment began. Why the quick turnaround?

The company’s director, Michael Berman, brought in several clothing and jewelry vendors from the flea market he manages at Eastern Market, but says their sales were terrible—-the shipping containers form a kind of courtyard, and people go inside for the beer, not to browse. Once they’re there, the loud music doesn’t exactly create a great shopping environment.

“It’s still the bullpen. The mix of the retail and vending with that was just oil and water. It’s the wrong crowd, and there was just no curiosity, no interest in it,” he says. “I really believe in the neighborhood, and this would have been the first real retail. I really wanted to create a little design district for folks that live there…And everybody I brought in was just saying, ‘I can’t work in that scenario.'”

How could it be changed to really work? Berman says that the Fairgrounds would have to open up, become more “porous,” perhaps cut the shipping containers lengthwise rather than have them open on the small ends. “I think the right location, not associated with beer, could really be an intimate environment in marketing and vending,” he says. Like Dekalb Market in Brooklyn. “That kind of thing could take root and blossom, in the right environment, with the right partners.”

Georgetown Events, which operates the whole shebang,seems to think the concept can still work in its current configuration. “Unfortunately, DMM was not the right fit,” said president Bo Blair in a statement. “We are fully committed to moving forward quickly with a host of other vendors, artists, real estate brokers, and entrepreneurs who see the incredible potential to create something unique and interesting on the site. We did not go out and spend over $350,000 and waste an incredible amount of time and effort to have the containers sit empty. We will fill them soon.”

Photo by Lydia DePillis