The city of Annapolis has concluded its lease negotiations for Market House and hopes to reopen the historic market this summer with new tenants after extensive renovations.
Baltimore-based development company Gone to Market LLC reached an agreement with the city Jan. 14. The city council, however, must approve the tentative agreement for the 30-year master lease on Market House by the end of the month to ensure the planned reopening date of July 1.
To that end, Annapolis Mayor Joshua J. Cohen has scheduled a flurry of activity regarding the site in the next week. Monday, the City Council holds a public hearing on the lease and pending legislation on Market House. The council's Economic Matters Committee is slated to review business and marketing plans during a meeting Wednesday. And Jan. 31, the council is scheduled to hold a special meeting to vote on the lease and related legislation.
"This lease allows the city to achieve the three priorities we had from day one: the right vision, the right operator and the right protections," Cohen said in a statement announcing the conclusion of lease negotiations.
"In terms of the vision, this lease ensures that the Market House will fulfill its promise as an authentic Annapolis experience, filled with regional vendors offering a variety of quality, locally sourced foods priced to appeal to a variety of customers. In terms of the operator, this lease provides for the Market House to be run by a solid, local team with proven and relevant experience managing similar unique public markets. And in terms of the protections, this lease not only establishes strong performance standards to ensure that it is operated in accordance with our vision; it also enables the city to terminate the lease if it's in the public's interest."
Members of the council, however, have been vocal about wanting adequate time to review the lease agreement before voting. When Cohen unveiled the first draft of the lease at the council's Dec. 20 meeting, several members were adamant that they would work at their own pace.
With a lease agreement and a new timetable in place, Cohen hopes to reopen the market by July 1. This is the second time the city pushed back the scheduled reopening. City officials had originally hoped the market would reopen April 1, but then changed the date to May 1.
Currently, the market has just three tenants: Atwater's, Vaccaro's and BankAnnapolis. Once the council approves the lease, the tenants will vacate in order to complete renovations, which the city hopes to have completed by the end of June. The new market will feature an oyster bar and a French bakery and will be augmented by a farmers' market on the weekends.
Despite needing council approval, the city and Gone to Market have continued to coordinate the planning, design and construction of the 5,000-square-foot space at City Dock.
"These negotiations have taken longer than anyone expected to complete," said Cohen." While they have been always frank and sometimes contentious, we have emerged from this process stronger partners than before. In the end, we persevered because both sides remained passionate about turning the Market House around."
Key provisions of the tentative lease agreement include:
•Gone to Market will pay all operating costs of Market House
•Gone to Market's annual rent to the city will be 50 percent of the net profits per year during the original term and any extension term.
•Vendors will emphasize local and regional fare, and national chains or franchises are prohibited.
•The city may terminate the lease, if in the public interest, after five years.
•The city will renovate the exterior of the building and provide adequate utilities; Gone to Market will renovate the interior.
•No more than 5 percent of goods for sale shall include any "tourist merchandise," such as T-shirts, caps, sweat shirts and other merchandise bearing names and symbols such as Annapolis or Chesapeake Bay.
Cohen is eager to transform the beleaguered market. A 2003 flood cost the city more than $1 million in damage to the 18th-century structure. In 2009, the city paid $2.5 million to Rockville-based Site Realty to settle a lawsuit and regain control of Market House, once called "the cafeteria of Annapolis." Legal troubles between the tenants and Site Realty also led to a series of high-profile departures, leaving several empty stalls
"Through this lease with Gone to Market, the Market House stands the best chance of succeeding and renewing its promise as the heart and soul of downtown," Cohen said. "It is important to demonstrate to the business community how committed we are to its success. A strong, vibrant Market House will give the city the strong economic shot in the arm that it needs."
The current master lease (http://bit.ly/e5IdkL) and the previous draft presented to the City Council on Dec. 20 (http://bit.ly/gQsmJZ) can be reviewed on the city's website.