Developer wants to add farmers' market to Annapolis Market House

Lehr Jackson details plans for additional vendors

  • A rendering of how the redesign of the Market House may look. The rendering shows stalls for a bakery, seafood and flowers, plus a farmers' market outside.
A rendering of how the redesign of the Market House may look.… (Gone to Market, LLC )
November 13, 2010|By Nicole Fuller, The Baltimore Sun

The Annapolis Market House might not be confined to its four walls.

Plans to revitalize the historic market call for a farmers' market just outside its doors, in addition to a new layout inside that will include vendors such as a French bakery and an oyster bar. New, bigger doors and an emphasis on highlighting merchandise in the windows will give the relatively small market an expansive feeling.

"We want to open it up and go back to the heyday of the market and really reimagine it," said Baltimore-based developer Lehr Jackson, who presented his vision last week to the Economic Matter Committee of the Annapolis city council.

The meeting was open to the public, and Jackson repeated his presentation to residents inside the Market House afterward, as part of a process that Mayor Joshua J. Cohen has designed to engage the community in restoring the market, which has fallen on hard times in recent years. It now has just three tenants.

Jackson's plans, which include closing the market during the winter for renovations, with a tentative reopening date of April 1, call for about a dozen major vendors inside the 5,000-square-foot market, along with local farmers and other vendors holding a market with fresh fruit and vegetables up to three times a week on the space near the Kunta Kinte-Alex Haley Memorial, which would also be outfitted with more seating.

The centerpiece of the market would feature current tenant Atwater's, a Baltimore-based eatery, and a stand where visitors can buy fresh-cut flowers and at least one vendor selling beer and wine. Jackson has said it's essential for a vendor at the market, most likely the operator of the seafood stall, to have a beer and wine license, something the council has to approve.

Jackson's group, Gone to Market LLC. has entered into exclusive contract negotiations with the city to return the circa-1858 market to its past glory. The council has to approve any lease agreement between the group and the city.

During both presentations, Jackson, who has redeveloped markets all around the country, including Eastern Market in Washington and Boston's Faneuil Hall, appeared to have impressed many attendees.

But Ann Yonkers, co-director of Freshfarm Markets, which now runs a farmers' market downtown on Sundays, expressed concern about how her market would be affected by Jackson's plan. "It makes me uneasy," she said. "The market is struggling right now."

Jackson said he "would be crazy" not to include Yonkers' market in his plans. Jackson said, "Building consensus is a hard, difficult process," but "I like getting input."

Under a previous administration, the city paid $2.5 million in 2009 to settle a lawsuit with a company that had been managing Market House. Under that management agreement, several tenants left because of problems with the building's air conditioning during the summer months. Cohen has made revitalizing the market a priority.

Douglas E. Smith, the city's special assistant for development, who is overseeing the Market House process, said new air conditioning would cost the city about $450,000. While the city is still negotiating with Jackson, both sides have agreed that the city would likely pay to reconfigure the market and to upgrade the air conditioning. The city has said it is seeking grants to help fund the project.

Alderman Kenneth A. Kirby, who represents Ward 6 on the council, praised Jackson's plans and said he was confident that Jackson would ultimately be successful because he has "stayed the course."

"This is the closest we've been," said Kirby. "He's navigating a minefield. Change is hard to come by in this town. These citizens down here in this ward are very, very picky."

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