2 offer bids for Market House

Eastern Market vies with Dean & DeLuca

Food merchant to renovate site

Current vendors fail to submit plan to remain


August 18, 2004|By Jamie Stiehm | Jamie Stiehm,SUN STAFF

Two well-established East Coast food merchants -- Eastern Market, based in Washington, and Dean & DeLuca in New York -- submitted the only bids to take over and revamp the battered but historic Market House by City Dock as yesterday's deadline for bids came and went.

Each would bring a distinct new look and style to Annapolis and to the Market House, a plain structure with a shingle roof built in 1858. It was the third city marketplace on the waterfront site where a farmers' market stood more than two centuries ago.

The Eastern Market management company operates a food, clothes and crafts market on Capitol Hill, while Dean & DeLuca, which originated in the SoHo neighborhood of New York, is more upscale.

Both are competing to take over the master lease and revamp the interior of Market House, said Jan Hardesty, the city's public information officer.

The city received fewer bids than some expected after months of contentious talks between city officials and current vendors, who cater to the casual lunchtime crowd. But when the deadline came yesterday, no coalition of the current Market House merchants came forward to keep their stalls under the same roof.

"I'm somewhat surprised," said Brian D. Snyder, the city's procurement officer, who said that 17 organizations or individuals had expressed some interest in bidding.

He said it was best for the city management system to end. "We want to get out of the landlord business. We're not real good at it. This will be one master lease," he said.

With their leases set to expire at the end of the year, the seven leaseholders will have to move out, giving the city a chance to undertake the first major upgrade since the 1970s. Snyder said about $700,000 of city funds will go into buttressing the cast iron and wood building, which was hit hard by Tropical Storm Isabel last year. He said he expected the Market House to be renovated by next summer.

Snyder said the decision-making process would go through the city council and Mayor Ellen O. Moyer next month, but first a committee of seven city officials would vet and review both proposals and recommend one. He declined to specify the rent each bid proposed to pay the city.

Sitting at a table outside Market House yesterday, Annye C. Anderson, a retired English teacher visiting from Amherst, Mass., said she remembered Annapolis in the days of oystermen working where sailboats now dock. "It needs to be overhauled," she said, "but they should keep it quaint ... as long as they keep the name."

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