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Congress lifts restrictions on Southwest Waterfront fish market

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Locals and tourists have been going to the historic Maine Avenue Fish Market in the District for generations.

At the Maine Avenue Fish Market. Photo: bigbirdz/Flickr

It's a place to get a unique slice of D.C. life that hasn't really changed in years.

But thanks to a recent move by Congress, big changes are coming.

It's starting here at the fish market with Congress lifting a 100-year-old restriction on just what the shop owners can and can not sell.

The Maine Avenue Fish Market is one of the oldest continuously operating fish markets in the country, dating back to 1805. In the early 1900s Congress passed a law limiting vendors to only selling seafood.

This week Congress lifted that restriction.

"I think it's gonna be great for the community," says Pete Hill, a District resident. "People that live in the area that can't get things can come here and get seafood, vegetables and fruit."

While most of the people ABC7 spoke with are looking forward to the changes, they do have some serious concerns about how it will impact their community and this historic landmark

"They have such high quality seafood here that I don't know if they add more produce and art if that would change the quality," says John Siegmund, an Alexandria resident.

And merchants have concerns, too.

"We need parking terribly here, if we had parking it wouldn't be no problem for anything to come here," says Billy White of Captain White's Seafood.

And the one vendor who just started selling produce says his biggest concern is the heat.

"It's not like I can ice it down like fish. What's left over this afternoon will be on my dinner table," says Dale Dunston of Miller Farms.

But longtime customers here at the fish market say as long as the fish are here, they'll keep coming back

"If it brings more people down here and helps this area to rise up, it's fine with me, I just don't want them to take away from this area," says Darlene Duffett of Alexandria.

This latest move by Congress allowing the change for vendors is part of a multi-billion dollar revitalization of the entire Southwest Waterfront, which will break ground late next year.

The entire area will be transformed, but everyone involved, from the developers to community activists, are committed to keep the part of the fish market just as it is.

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