- The Washington Times - Friday, May 18, 2007

Mayor Adrian M. Fenty broke ground yesterday on a temporary facility that will house Eastern Market vendors while crews repair the historic building heavily damaged in a three-alarm fire last month.

The tentlike structure to be constructed on the grounds of Hine Junior High School will cost about $1.5 million and will open in July, the mayor said.

“Today we’re breaking ground on a temporary location where vendors, merchants, and shoppers of the historic market can continue on the tradition of one of the District’s most celebrated marketplaces,” Mr. Fenty, a Democrat, told a crowd of about 100 area residents and merchants.

The southern section of the market was gutted in the early-morning fire on April 30. No one was hurt in the blaze, which was likely caused by electrical problems, fire officials said.

The temporary market is located at Seventh and C streets SE, across the street from the original building. The tent will house all 14 vendors from the market and will be equipped with electricity.

The city will spend an additional $1 million to buy equipment such as refrigerators and appliances, which will be used in the temporary building and transferred to the permanent market once it is completed.

D.C. Council member Tommy Wells thanked the mayor for his quick response to the fire and praised the community for banding together in support of rebuilding the market.

“I couldn’t have been prouder of all of our community members as we’ve gone through this,” said Mr. Wells, Ward 6 Democrat. “When challenged in a crisis, everyone came together.”

Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, who is seeking federal funding to help rebuild the market, praised Mr. Fenty’s efforts to accommodate the vendors’ need for refrigeration.

“As much as residents feel the loss of the market, we must remember first and foremost that it is the vendors who have lost everything,” said Mrs. Norton, a Democrat and the District’s nonvoting congressional representative.

The market — where residents and visitors mix while shopping for vegetables, flowers, bread, meat, cheese and art on weekends — was recognized by Mr. Fenty and Mr. Wells as an integral part of the community.

Since the fire, the outdoor section of the market has continued operating. Outdoor vendors will now receive extra space on the school’s tennis courts beside the tent. The mayor also announced that Seventh Street SE will be closed between North Carolina Avenue and C Street on market days.

Mr. Fenty has pledged to spend as much as $30 million to rebuild the market in two years. He said yesterday officials will proceed with renovations planned before the fire.

“In as little as 18 to 24 months, Eastern Market could be back better than ever,” he said.

The D.C. Council allocated $6.5 million in supplemental revenue for fiscal 2008 to help rebuild the market and the Georgetown library branch, which was damaged in a fire on the same day as the Eastern Market blaze.

Residents and merchants who gathered for the groundbreaking said they are pleased with the plan for a temporary facility.

Alan Braley, who owns a business near the market, said business owners were happy with the mayor’s quick response, though he expressed doubt about how soon the main market building would be repaired.

“The main thing is the people getting their businesses back,” Mr. Braley said.

The fire has not hurt business at his shop, the Village, which sells fine art, clothing and hand-made jewelry across the street from the market, he said, though he’s not sure what the future will bring.

Closing Seventh Street will help business for all area merchants, he said.

He echoed the refrain of city officials that the market is the heart of the community and draws visitors from all over the city.

“Eastern Market has always been a destination,” Mr. Braley said. “That’s why there’s been this response.”

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