Poll shows vendors plan return to Market House

Annapolis merchants fear city will push them out


May 06, 2004|By Jason Song | Jason Song,SUN STAFF

All of the vendors in the city's historic Market House plan to return to the structure after it is renovated this year, Annapolis officials said this week.

The vendors were responding to a poll that city officials sent out several months ago, asking about their plans after the city renovates the structure this winter. Work is expected to continue for at least six months.

But many vendors are also exploring other options. They have retained an attorney, B. Darren Burns, and have filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the city, asking for 26 items including cost estimates, letters and e-mail between elected officials and contractors, and historical documentation.

Many Market House merchants have complained that the city is intent on pushing them out of the structure and that city workers have been uncooperative. Annapolis officials deny both charges.

Burns declined to say if his group plans legal action but said merchants "do not feel they have received all of the information about what the city plans to do."

Judy Schwartzberg, co-owner of two businesses in Market House, said she believes Mayor Ellen O. Moyer wants to remove the merchants. "She will forever be known as a one-term mayor," Schwartzberg said.

Moyer denied that she or other Annapolis officials have anything against the merchants, and said she worried that the merchants and city's relationship was deteriorating. "I don't know how it can be any more uncivilized," she said.

City officials and Market House merchants agree that the nearly 150-year-old building needs to be repaired. But merchants fear that they cannot financially weather a long renovation process.

City officials have said they want all of the merchants to return but also have contacted other groups about taking over the structure. City officials met with representatives with Dean & DeLuca, an upscale grocery store, about moving into Market House.

And Mike Mirion, the city's economic development director, has said he believes a third party should take over Market House. Mirion wrote a memo to council members last month saying that several groups are interested in leasing the structure and one group was willing to pay for the work, which could cost as much as $1 million.

Mirion said this week that he has not had any more meetings with potential Market House clients.

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