Annapolis Market House Gains 3 Vendors

July 16, 2009|By Nicole Fuller | Nicole Fuller,nicole.fuller@baltsun.com

Flowers, sandwiches and local art are coming to Market House.

Three new vendors are scheduled to debut this weekend at the Annapolis market that dates to the 19th century, marking a major victory for the long-troubled city-operated waterfront site, which has struggled with high vacancy rates and lawsuits.

The new tenants - Atwater's, a popular Baltimore-based eatery; Flowers by Donna, an Annapolis-based flower shop, and Maryland Federation of Art, an Annapolis-based nonprofit arts group - have signed short-term leases to operate at Market House until early next year, when the site will undergo a $1 million renovation, according to city officials.

The occupancies come two months after the city paid $2.5 million to Site Realty, parent company of Market House Ventures, to regain control of the ailing site.

Site Realty had sued the city for breach of contract in 2006 stemming from a faulty air conditioning unit that the management company said hurt business during the hot summer months and forced tenants to flee. Site Realty had signed a 20-year lease with the city to manage the circa-1858 structure on the City Dock.

By last September, just two tenants remained: Vaccaro's, a bakery, and BankAnnapolis. In May, the city held a planning session attended by more than 100 community stakeholders to discuss the future of Market House.

This "marks a new chapter in the rich tradition of the downtown area," said Mayor Ellen O. Moyer. "Thanks to community input, this next chapter of the Market House will serve a new generation of patrons well.

Moyer said the new short-term tenants will have the option of remaining at the site, but the city will begin approving permanent tenants by October. The site will reopen with major improvements to the building's layout after renovations in the spring, she said. In addition to the three vendors, Homestead Gardens, a Davidsonville plant retailer, is expected to open later this summer.

Moyer also said plans are in the works for a once-a-week farmers' market and other special events.

"It's a setting that's perfect and very attractive to us," said Net Atwater, owner of the eatery chain, which has a location in Baltimore's Belvedere Square. "I've always loved historic buildings. ... I thought it was a perfect opportunity to get in and revitalize the market. The fact that it's a city market, it's an old building, and it's on the dock, it's just perfect."

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