New Fenton Street Market strives to paint neighborhood with art
Vendors to reflect diversity and creativity of Fenton Village
Over a cup of coffee at Highland Coffee on Fenton Street in Silver Spring earlier this summer, resident Hannah McCann started daydreaming.
Idly staring at the intersection of Fenton and Silver Spring Avenue across the street, she didn't see the parking lot that was there. Instead, McCann saw her own vision of what the Fenton Village neighborhood should look like:
"Something a little funkier than you'd see in downtown Silver Spring," McCann said. "There are a lot of interesting people in our neighborhood, and I hold out hope that Fenton Village might eventually reflect that eclectic character."
Maybe it was the caffeine, but the 36-year-old stay-at-home mom abruptly walked over to the lot, called a phone number listed on a sign nearby and asked if the property owner could accommodate her vision: a vibrant market with artists from Silver Spring selling unique wares to their neighbors and visitors from across the region.
To her surprise, the answer was "Yes.''
So on Sept. 12 and Oct. 3, McCann's "Fenton Street Market" will host 50 artists and vendors for an event residents say could help a neighborhood facing redevelopment emerge from the shadow of Ellsworth Drive to the north.
"For all of our education and money in Montgomery County, we are seriously lacking in imagination," said Karen Roper, chairwoman of the East Silver Spring Civic Association, noting places like Bethesda and the Rockville Town Center as examples. "By making Fenton Village different, it will be more popular than any of those places."
Roper lauded the market as an event for Fenton Village made possible by one of its own. McCann paid for rental of the property and the vendor licenses out of her own pocket.
The 50 booths – with prices of $15 for a small and $25 for a large – have already sold out. It will help defray the operating costs, but "I won't be making any money," McCann said.
McCann is running the market at the same time as the FreshFarm Silver Spring Farmers Market, held 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays on Ellsworth Drive. The impetus for the market is not to profit or compete with the farmers market, but to raise the profile of Fenton Village, she said.
"Hopefully people will buy produce and walk four blocks south to the Fenton Street Market and see the different businesses along the way," McCann said.
At the new market, those people will find a wide variety of local knickknacks, from jewelry to dog treats, from recycled bicycles to homemade soaps.
"It's a nice way to get the neighborhood together to see what East Silver Spring has to offer," said Erin Delmonte, 33, an East Silver Spring resident who runs Urbana Teas out of her home and was the first vendor to sign on for the market. "There are so many different interesting people and ideas going on in the community."
If the market is a success, McCann hopes to continue it on a weekly basis next year. The market is at the site of a hotel to be developed by Ulysses Glee of Fenton Group LCC, but construction isn't expected to start until late 2010 at the earliest.
Both Roper and McCann lauded Glee for cooperating with residents, who have growing concerns about large-scale development in a neighborhood known for its low-density, service-oriented shops and locally-owned restaurants.
Other proposed projects for Fenton Village include The Adele residential building on Fenton Street, an unnamed 52-unit residential development at 814 Thayer Ave., the Moda Vista mixed-use project at Fenton and Silver Spring Avenue, and Bonifant Plaza, a 72-unit residential project.
The biggest project is Robert Hillerson's mixed-use Studio Plaza, planned to include 577 residential units, 61,000 square feet of retail and 175,000 square feet of office space. The project will occupy an entire city block between Thayer and Silver Spring avenues.
Roper said a "restaurant crawl" and other grassroots promotions for Fenton Village are in the works, but residents worry that Studio Plaza – which she has previously called a "gated community" – will eliminate the last sliver of individuality in a community that has always prided itself on being unique.
"The diversity we have here is real diversity," Roper said. "As opposed to the homogenous, planned diversity it's being replaced with."
The Fenton Street Market will be held from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sept. 12 and Oct. 3 at the corner of Fenton Street and Silver Spring Avenue in Silver Spring. For more information, e-mail Hannah McCann at Hannah@fentonstreetmarket.com, or visit www.fentonstreetmarket.com.