Friday, August 12, 2011

Capital City/Florida Market is now being actively marketed ... as Union Market

As mentioned in a previous post, the lead developer of the Market area, a company that owns a number of shopping centers, hired a person who had worked for Jose Andres to execute a promotion strategy. Obviously, Edens & Avant was already on the case.

This flyer was on the case at Litteris, and it promotes an ice cream related street event at the Market. You can see from the flyer that there is both a logo for the Market, and a tagline, "foodie paradise."

This likely means that the market will be "saved" given that E&A (and their partner, J Street Development, which brought E&A into the deal) is better financed than the Sang Choi interests that were favored in master development agreement that was awarded to them by the DC City Council (through Vincent Orange et al.), even though at one time, Apollo Development was involved with them and they are a company owned by Carl Icahn so they should have had lots of dough. I guess they weren't really committed, after all the company isn't involved in other DC projects.

Maybe this means that those of us who fought the City Council legislation and the Sang Oh Choi interests focused on complete redevelopment have won?

(And the name of this blog will have to change too?)

Union Market is being marketed and promoted


Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Another reason for creating a commercial kitchen at Florida Market (or Eastern Market for that matter)

In the "Retail planning and Florida Market" paper, I suggested food-related business development operations beyond straight up restaurants and retail be incorporated into the planning mix for the retail-wholesale food district. From the document:

Depending on the scope of work for the Small Area Plan, other opportunities could be identified as well, spanning retail, entrepreneurship development, and civic use. These include:

• home meal preparation and assembly (franchise programs such as Let’s Dish or Thyme Out);
• commercial kitchen rentable to caterers and food processors (examples include La Cocina in San Francisco and the Artisan Baking Center in New York City);
• demonstration and training kitchen for commercial and public use, i.e., programs by the Office of Aging, Department of Health, Cooperative Extension Service of UDC/USDA, schools (examples include La Boqueria in Barcelona, and two separate facilities at the River Market in Little Rock);
• hospitality-culinary education.

So today's article in the Washington Post food section about an underground market "DC Grey Market: An underground opportunity for vendors"), which is "underground" because vendors sell food items not prepared in a commercial kitchen, is a confirmation of the need to provide low cost commercial kitchen options as a form of entrepreneurship and business development programming on the part of the city--it demonstrates demand, and it's a lot better to provide such facilities rather than discourage people from doing it properly (in supervised, clean facilities).

From the Post article:

Like many of the vendors at the market, not to mention at similar underground markets popping up around the country, none of the three men had acquired business licenses or submitted to food-safety inspections.

Shapiro said the market’s lack of a licensing requirement was a big draw for him. “Everything I have here is totally safe,” he said. “My kitchen is invariably cleaner than most restaurant kitchens.”

That the sales technically are not regulated seems only to heighten the allure. New vendors have enlisted for each of the three DC Grey markets held to date. Attendance has ranged from 355 to 1,100.

Still, someone can say his home kitchen is cleaner than restaurant kitchens and that may be, but it's unlikely a home kitchen is kept to food processing and manufacturing cleanliness standards.

It happens that I liked a Mexican restaurant in Pontiac Michigan called Trini & Carmen's. Back in the late 1970s, in a place like Oakland County there weren't many such options. That being said, in 1977, botulism in home-canned peppers that were used in some of the dishes sickened 59 people. (How else would I have heard of the restaurant, they didn't advertise...) Fortunately, no one died.

There's no way that the city's regulatory authorities won't shut this down, after being prominently pictured on the front page of the Food Section. But the real point, that we need an entrepreneurship support network generally, and for food preparation specifically, will likely get missed. The San Francisco Weekly stepped up with a 6-part article series after the shutdown of the underground market called "Going legit."

While this report, Local Food Systems Assessment for Northern Virginia, from August 2010 is about "food hubs," which are aggregation operations for local farmers seeking to sell food in quantity to restaurants, food service operations (like schools), supermarkets, and other institutional clients, the basic concept is comparable to a commercial kitchen operation.

WRT the job generating possibilities of such operations, this article from the New York Daily News, "Cooking up job training in Long Island City" discusses the Artisan Baking Center in New York City, and "Who stole the cookies from the cookie jar" in the San Francisco Chronicle and these blog entries from Cool Hunting and Munchie Musings discuss La Cocina, how the organization grew out of a need by food vendors for better support facilities, and how the organization has a selling space in the Ferry Building, among other venues.

The Munchie Musing post makes a good point, that helping businesses develop isn't just about the kitchen, it's also about managing the licensing and vending process. From the post:

La Cocina provides this type of support for people who are looking to start some sort of food business. Their building contains a commercial kitchen which is a requirement for making and selling foods. Besides the physical space, they also provide support in the form of assistance with permits, funding, source vendors, etc. With this support, people, mostly women, are able to start legitimate businesses, create jobs, and support themselves, their families and communities.

Other resources include the National Street Food Conference 2011 later this month in San Francisco and the Culinary Incubator website.

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Edens & Avant hires development coordinator, outlines approach to Florida Market

According to the article, "Capital City Market to Get Pop-Up Restaurants?" from DCMUD, and after an announcement that the lead property owner at the Florida Market, hired Richard Bradenburg from Jose Andres' operation ThinkFoodGroup to coordinate the development of food-related businesses at the market as "director of culinary strategy" (see "Richard Brandenburg leaves ThinkFoodGroup" from the Washington Post), it's good to know that development of new food-related business is now the focus there.

Especially as lately I have been concerned as the inexpensive Korean restaurant ("Florida Deli") has been shuttered for the past few weeks--apparently because it has changed hands, as La Villa Distributors closed, even after a recent expansion, and the supermarket-wholesale operation MS3000 appears (I haven't confirmed it) to have changed hands as it is now called David's Farms (or David Farms, depending on which sign you see).

Even if Edens & Avant ends up using the "old" ideas are expressed both in the 2003 "Economic revitalization" plan for Cluster 23, which suggested that the food-related character of the Florida Market be extended, and in the document I prepared outlining a broadened "retail mix" for the Market ("Retail planning and the Florida Market") in 2008, it's good to know that these concepts have staying power.

This is also a good sign considering that in January the Washington Post reported that one of the key property owners suggested the site would be good for a soccer stadium ("D.C. United keeps hunting for a stadium").
Explore Florida Market directory and history signage, side 2

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