Turn off New York Avenue on to the streets of Eckington in Northeast DC, and the world becomes a maze of tightly crisscrossed one-way streets. Along the avenues, an international panoply of wholesalers, importers, and specialty markets jockeys for breathing room. On one byway, a forklift operator moves pallets of Ghanaian yams, while workers unload large cardboard boxes simply marked “Made in China” next door. The warning sounds of delivery trucks backing up mix with a multilingual mishmash of conversations.
Positioned somewhere within the hubbub stands Union Market. Its gleaming new sign—crisp letters in ivory, silhouetted against the blue sky— seems to float serenely above the fray. The market’s block-long warehouse, with its fresh coat of paint and perky orange awnings, stands out against the fading brick façades and well-worn asphalt that typifies this much-neglected quarter of the District. Though Eckington is a single Metro stop away from Union Station on the Red Line, as well as a close shot to both Gallaudet University and the up-and-coming NoMa neighborhood, it remains mostly undiscovered by many Washingtonians.
The lavishly revamped Union Market aims to turn the sleepy subsection into a must-see destination for locals and out-of-towners alike. The multimillion-dollar marketplace is the result of more than six years of work by Edens development group, the firm behind several custom-built shopping destinations and retail-center renovations up and down the East Coast. (The group hatched DC’s highly successful mixed-use center City Vista, at the corner of Fifth Street and New York Avenue.) “Retail has shifted and changed radically over the last decade,” says the firm’s president and chief investment officer, Jodie McLean. “It cannot serve simply a utilitarian purpose; it has to pull a community together.”
With that in mind, the more than 25,000-square-foot, year-round, all-weather market houses an impressive mix of 40 local vendors showcasing the best the city’s burgeoning culinary scene has to offer. In addition to a rotating cast of seasonally appropriate producers, Union Market features permanent storefronts of beloved regional favorites like Peregrine Espresso, Dolcezza gelateria, Lyon Bakery, and Trickling Springs Creamery. In a nod to the marketplace’s original incarnation, the eight-decade-old butchery, Harvey’s Market, anchors the lineup.