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November 24, 2006
February 26, 2017
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Diverse Markets Management, the company which was overseeing the "market" portion of the new Fairgrounds shipping container market and events space on Half Street, alerted its vendors and other exhibitors via e-mail that "[a]fter much deliberation, DMM has concluded it must drop out of this project, effective immediately."
In the e-mail, DMM executive director Michael Berman said he was sorry that the plans didn't work out, having had "high hopes for the venue," but: "Taking a hard look at the site, I believe it cannot support retail, vending, artists or farmers as we had imagined that it might. I think the space is well designed to serve alcohol products and that the stage, sound, and food trucks compliment that use, but the vending and retail aspect does not fit in at all, without a complete redesign, which is not envisioned."
In what is probably related news, the Fairgrounds web site now says that it will be open "daily" (i.e., operating on non-game days in addition to game days) beginning May 4. The food, drink, and entertainment portions of Fairgrounds's operations were not being handled by DMM and presumably will be continuing. I've reached out to Fairgrounds developer Bo Blair to find out whether another vendor will be brought in to try to revive the market aspect of Fairgrounds' plans, and will update with any information I get.
UPDATE: Describing the Fairgrounds team as "disappointed" that DMM pulled out after only five days of business, Bo Blair had this to say via e-mail:
"From the beginning of the Fairgrounds concept, we all were very aware that the retail aspect was going to be a difficult task. Unfortunately, DMM was not the right fit. We are fully committed to moving forward quickly with a host of other vendors, artists, real estate brokers, and entrepeneurs 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. The other aspects of Fairgrounds, such as the food trucks, The Bullpen, games, and live music have been very well received. We have many events planned for the summer and will be open daily starting May 4th. We look forward to new ideas and concepts to fill the container stores as soon as possible and are excited for the great season ahead."
Comments (15)
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PJY03 says: (4/18/12 3:00 PM)
I'm not totally surprised by this, having just visited on Monday night. Regardless of their best-laid plans, the Bullpen is still the Bullpen. The crowds that go to the site are going to drink, they aren't going to shop. Let's face it -- its kind of fratty, and you're not going to sell hand made jewelry to that crowd.

I was an initial proponent, and still don't think a container market is a bad idea. You just can't be both The Bullpen and craft market at the same time.

lester says: (4/18/12 3:24 PM)
*Shock.* It's not the least bit surprising that a seasonal "fairgrounds" a 20 minute walk, 10 minute bike ride, and 3 minute car ride from Eastern Market, one of the largest, most established daily (except Monday) venues in the area (with a weekend flea market, year around) would fail.

Bruce says: (4/18/12 4:24 PM)
They apparently didnt think that they could overcome the site's reputation as a drinking establishment. Oh well.

Robert says: (4/19/12 8:47 AM)
I didn't support the idea originally but thought I'd give it a try. It does make a great impression at first glance, but once inside it’s just the bull pin. The vendors there were selling $300 paintings of the DC flag; you could still see the pencil marks in the painting where they traced the stars. If that was their idea of retail then maybe DMM wasn't a good fit. Those vendors seemed to be part of that annoying Sober/non-drug-using hippy movement, who will by anything (bad clothes, bad paintings, etc.) at any cost to come off as counter culture. There is potential for retail but it has to complement its primary function as a drinking venue. Maybe a coozy outlet, hand spun shot glass stand, neon colored sun glasses container, and a custom bean bag table for corn hole...

Bob says: (4/19/12 9:16 AM)
How odd and disappointing. You’d think retailers would flock to a location that looks like a dumping ground for discarded CSX equipment. I mean, what could be more inviting than rusting and dented shipping containers piled one on top of the other?

Maelstrom says: (4/19/12 9:50 AM)
You know, I thought the site was 'rusting and dented shipping containers' at first, then they welded on window ends and did some fairly inventive stuff with wood palets. I agree with Robert that they should just sell stuff that goes with the theme of the bullpen.

58Model says: (4/20/12 11:11 AM)
Welcome to Near Southeast. Have a drink.

Westnorth says: (4/20/12 2:35 PM)
I was curious to see what vendors would appear, and a bit disappointed to see so few there. However, they're charging the equivalent of $200/sq.ft., with a full month commitment -- for a space which only reliably gets crowds at game time, and then only because there's a bar.

The other shipping-container markets appeared as more-permanent alternatives to already successful craft fairs; events like Brooklyn Flea established a market before DeKalb, and Shoreditch is around the corner from the thronged Brick Lane Market. Their concept could probably work as an adjunct to Eastern Market, but this location's just not on most residents' radars yet.

TheJCG says: (4/20/12 11:57 PM)
And we get lester and Bob with snarky comments that add nothing and are just more trolling from angry people with nothing going for themselves.

The choices of retail did seem really odd. Things don't have to be gameday/drinking oriented, but they do have to be quality for good prices. This is an idea that is going to have to build up and gain a reputation, the retail vendors need to know that.

MJM says: (4/21/12 1:06 AM)
TheJCG - what do yo want people to add to a failed concept? This thing was billed as the next great "If they build it they will come project" - I'd like to think the folks did their business/marketing plan and came to the conclusion that it would draw people as a retail spot. I would have liked to open something there but really outside of game day what is gonna drive traffic over there on the end of the neighborhood w/o an event?

Maybe Akridge can sell the land to someone who will actually develop a pretty prime piece of real estate and make it more than a booze destination?

$200/sq ft - is that right? The avg DC rent is in the $48/sq ft range...

JD says: (4/21/12 10:02 AM)
For a bit more detail, and ruminations on retail in a place that's mostly sports fans, read Housing Complex: link

lester says: (4/23/12 7:28 AM)
@TheJCG, If I were trolling, how on earth is a comment about trolling any more productive to the conversation? And honestly, leveling a personal attack at two individuals after accusing them of trolling? Brings me back to grade school.

I'm not an angry person at all, and I've got a lot going for me. Thanks for your concern regarding my well being.

For the record, I was attempting to add some market analysis, and was questioning why on earth Georgetown Events thoughts this concept would work here. Several others have made similar comments, and understood where I was coming from.

Have a nice day.

JD says: (4/23/12 10:29 AM)
Okay, seriously, leave the comments thread policing to me. Just talk about the topic(s) at hand....

Westnorth says: (4/23/12 4:01 PM)
The $200 figure comes from DCRE's listing, which is visible at their DCMud blog; it's not entirely comparable to the $50/foot you'll find nearby since (a) it's not for an entire year and (b) it's not triple net [appears to include utilities].

One 8x20 container is $3000 per month, or $5000 for two months. That, plus staff and inventory costs, is a lot of money for a small retailer to put at risk.

Robert says: (4/25/12 9:44 AM)
The link below is a great example of container retail done right! If Akridge, a very prominent developer, wants this to be a more respectable venue to be patronized by more than your baseball pre-gamers, I believe it will require more than they a currently willing to invest. You can't take an epic idea, execute it with mediocre precision and expect great results.


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