Monday, September 14, 2009

market fills the gaps on fenton street

Fenton Street Market Banner
Last Saturday, the first Fenton Street Market was held on a parking lot at Fenton and Silver Spring Avenue. Dozens of hawkers offered everything from handmade toys to bikes and kettle corn, all to the sounds of someone's vintage record collection. The market was the brainchild of Hannah McCann, who lives around the corner from the parking lot. A writer for Architect magazine, she sought to create "something a little funkier than you'd see in downtown Silver Spring," as she told the Gazette last month.

Vendors came from across Montgomery and Prince George's counties, but McCann estimates that forty percent of the booths in last Saturday's market were rented by residents of the 20910 zip code, covering Downtown Silver Spring and surrounding neighborhoods. "There are so many people here who do art," McCann told me at the market. "It's bringing our community together to show what we do."

The parking lot will eventually be home to Silver Spring Park, a mixed-use building that was first approved as the Moda Vista two years ago. McCann says that she's heard complaints that the market will pre-empt the project's completion. But if the property is developed, Fenton Street Market could move somewhere else. "Some people say it's anti-development, but this could be anywhere," she says. "There are a lot of vacant lots in Silver Spring."

A roving flea market could be an unlikely tool for revitalizing the Fenton Street corridor, which has lagged behind the rest of Downtown Silver Spring. It reminds me of the Del Ray neighborhood in Alexandria, where a group of artists fixed up and held temporary showings in vacant buildings along Mount Vernon Avenue, the main strip. When they were rented out, the artists moved onto another space, revitalizing the street one store at a time.

There are as many parking lots as buildings along Fenton Street, each one forming a hole in the streetwall and giving potential visitors fewer reasons to get out of their cars. I can imagine the Fenton Street Market becoming a placeholder for empty lots as they wait to be developed, with each move drawing more and more interest to the corridor. But in the meantime, it'll provide a place for residents to meet and do business. It has "no footprint," McCann. "It's sustainable." And with very little overhead, "it's a beautiful business model," she adds.

The next (and last, for now) Fenton Street Market will be held on Saturday, October 3 from 9am to 2pm. Check out this photoset from last weekend's market.

1 comment:

Bowie Mike said...

Ha. Love the Kettle Korn sign!