After three years of operating The Bullpen(s) on one of the empty lots just north of Nationals Park
, landowner Akridge and Bullpen/Georgetown Events
owner Bo Blair are opting to try something new for the 2012 season: "Fairgrounds," a combination food, market and events space that will be open seven days a week from the beginning of baseball season through October 1.
Modeled on Brooklyn's Dekalb Market
and designed by Schlesinger Associate Architects
, Fairgrounds will use salvaged shipping containers as retail spaces for vendors, in a program overseen by Diverse Markets Management
, the people behind the flea market across from Eastern Market and the downtown holiday market. DMM touts a database of more than 2,000 vendors that it says it will tap into to "keep the market busy and diversified."
The Market (seen above and at left, click to enlarge) will be positioned on the Das Bullpen site at Half and M, across from the Navy Yard Metro station entrance. It will include "permanent" food truck versions of two of Blair's restaurants: Bayou
and its New Orleans/Southern-themed food and drinks, and Surfside
with its beach-type offerings. There are also plans still being worked out to have a rotating roster of additional food trucks every non-game day.
This space will open at 11:30 am every day; on game days, the market and food trucks will remain open until two hours after the game ends; otherwise, it will stay open at least through Happy Hour, or later if patrons are still around. There will be a "spectator" deck built on top of the shipping containers as well as a music stage, with plans to continue to have local and regional bands play on game days. And of course there will be 20 HD televisions and plenty of cornhole sets. (Which I totally don't get, but you kids have fun with it.)
Nats fans already quivering in fear can rest easy knowing that the two liquor licenses that were in place for the Bullpens are still active for this new venture, and a permanent bar will be built in addition to the drinks served by the Bayou and Surfside trucks.
To the south of the main food area, there is a larger open area where Fairgrounds can offer bigger events. The site will host another series of Truckeroo
food truck festivals throughout the summer, along with potential music events, arts festivals, farmers' markets, etc. Every Sunday, there will be a "Family Day," with children's concerts, face painting, balloon artists, and the like. The area can also be rented for private events.
The Market's offerings can also be expanded on days when there are ballgames that might be bigger draws than others (*cough*Yankees*cough*).
Shipping containers and pallets will replace the existing long black fences all along Half Street and along M (as you can see in the drawing at top left), with possibly some work done by local artists to liven up the containers even more.
But, in what will probably be even bigger news to people who have been watching this area closely for a long time, Akridge says that they hope
to begin construction this summer on the first phase of their 700,000-square-foot Half Street mixed-use development
. Their intent would be to start with the 280ish-unit residential building on the south end of the block (directly across from the stadium), and the Fairgrounds' design would make it easy to just move the wall of containers further north on the site to still leave an events area available if indeed they do get underway before the end of the baseball season. The project
also includes plans for two office buildings on the north end of the block, along with ground-floor retail along Half, M, N, and a pedestrian walk between the office buildings.
At Monday night's ANC 6D meeting where these plans were presented, the commissioners expressed enthusiasm, and a resolution of support was passed 6-0. Blair and his team are working with DCRA and other city agencies to get necessary approvals and permits in place so that containers can be brought in and the market can get underway by the start of the baseball season. (Whether that means the official home opener on April 12 or the April 3 home exhibition vs. the Red Sox remains to be seen. It will certainly be easy to see when the shipping containers start to arrive.)