N.Y. grocery step closer to market lease

City panel advises council to take Dean & DeLuca bid


September 14, 2004|By Jamie Stiehm | Jamie Stiehm,SUN STAFF

Dean & DeLuca, a New York gourmet grocery company, came closer to winning the lease for Market House in Annapolis yesterday, as the city council listened to reasons why a city panel recommended it as the best applicant for taking over the shopworn space by City Dock.

But one Annapolis alderman, Joshua Cohen, immediately announced his opposition to having Dean & DeLuca take over the historic city site, for fear of the quaint market losing its small-business, small-town character.

No decision or vote was taken after Brian Snyder, the city's procurement officer, presented the findings of the panel set up to review bids. But last night's presentation was seen as a significant step after months of contentious debate over the future of the city-owned marketplace.

The city's goal is to renovate the structure's shell and find a well-established food merchant to hold the master lease and upgrade the look and feel of the retail facility. City officials describe the current system, with the city acting as landlord for several lunch stalls on concrete floors, as unworkable over time.

"There may be resistance, because a lot of people will be sad to see the change," Snyder said. He said Dean & DeLuca's proposal to become the sole tenant for an upscale food market, paying the city at least $100,000 in annual rent, closely matched the city's requirements. The nearest Dean & DeLuca shop is in the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington.

With their leases set to expire at the end of the year, the seven merchants at Market House will have to move, giving the city the chance to give the 1858 structure its first major overhaul since the 1970s.

Market House, the third market structure on the site in two centuries, was hit hard by floods from Tropical Storm Isabel last year. The cast-iron and wood building badly needs buttressing, city officials said.

Roof rebuilding, stormproofing and new air-conditioning and electrical systems will cost the city about $900,000, officials said, and will take until next summer to complete. Meanwhile, Dean & DeLuca designers would work on the interior, with the aim to reopen Market House next summer.

The only other bid was made by Site Realty Group, which operates Eastern Market, a food, ethnic crafts, jewelry and clothing market in Washington, near Capitol Hill.

The six-member city panel that recommended Dean & DeLuca said the SoHo-based food merchant gave a more specific plan on how it would operate, including catering and delivery. Snyder said Dean & DeLuca would be the sole tenant under its proposal.

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