Preliminary results of a city survey show that 75 percent of Annapolis residents sampled over the past several months are not satisfied with the selection of products at the Market House, the historic food court that is scheduled for renovations next year.
The survey comes as city officials debate the Market House's future, including holding discussions with representatives of Dean & DeLuca, a high-end grocery store based in New York City, about opening a location in Annapolis.
Meanwhile, two landlords have approached the city about leasing to the current Market House tenants if they are permanently displaced by a new entity, said Mike Mirion, the city's economic development director.
Mirion conducted the survey as he talked to local residents and business groups by handing out questionnaires. City officials say the 130-person survey could be helpful in planning the future of the nearly 150-year-old Market House.
"It's not an instrument that has scientific value, but it will be useful," said Wil Scott, chairman of the Market House Task Force, a volunteer group studying the Market House and will make a recommendation in January.
The survey also found that three-quarters of those polled were not satisfied with the quality of products offered at the Market House and about 20 percent never shopped there.
"The results didn't surprise me at all," Scott said. "Some people don't find anything that's useful or desirable there so they don't go."
Scott said he received about a dozen e-mails from people who appreciate the quality of goods at the Market House. "I give those equal weight," he said.
Market House tenants are nervous that they will lose business during the renovations, which are scheduled to start in December of next year and take as long as six months. And many are concerned that they will not be allowed to return after the work is done, even though city officials have said current tenants will be given the first opportunity to return.
City officials say they met recently with representatives of Dean & DeLuca and visited one of their stores in Georgetown.
The discussions have upset many Market House tenants, who have weathered flooding from Tropical Storm Isabel, which closed the market for nearly a month.
"Why would our government put strangers in business and put out their own people?" asked Judy Schwartzberg, a co-owner of two businesses in the Market House. She and other merchants are circulating a petition asking that current tenants be allowed to stay.
Mirion said that although he wants to bring Dean & DeLuca to the city, putting the store in the Market House is far from "a done deal."
But Mirion said he would like to have a third party take over the day-to-day responsibility of running the Market House.