Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Cross Street Market: Into the potatoes, out and in again

Kevin Lynch from SouthBmore.com reported yesterday that the private developer selected for the Cross Street Market renovation and management has a change of heart. In February Caves Valley Partners had announced that it would pull out of the agreement with the City. It turns out, March 1 came and went and CVP kept the contract active. The way Partner Arsh Mirmiran told it to Kevin Lynch, there was an overwhelming demand for CV to stay involved.
Cross Street Market (Photo: Lynch)
“I must have received 50 emails, many from complete strangers. Many people said they assumed that since CVP was involved, we would get it done and that they took it for granted. They pledged to be vocally supportive if we reconsider.” (Arsh Mirmiran)
In response to comments and complaints from the community and merchants the developer now floats a set of modified ideas that include keeping the market open during construction and possibly keeping Nicks Fish House in the Market, even though CVP had initially fired the merchant. Kevin Lynch reports that a community based petition titled  Redevelop Cross St Market Now has garnered 600 supporters.

Central to the debate is a market wide liquor license pursued by the developer and being eyed with suspicion by the community. This additional license had become a matter of a State bill that has passed through committees and is slated to be voted on the House floor and allows additional licenses in reflection of the Port Covington development. The Cross Street provisions that included a $50,000 fee and restrictions were taken out of the bill after CVP indicated it would be no longer interested in the market. Apparently CVP received signals from legislators that the bill and the fee could be renegotiated, even though the legislative session will be over in a month and time is running out for bill amendments. Senator Ferguson told the SUN:
"There will have to be a clear demand from the community that they want to see something moving, It's up to the operator and stakeholders to present a new idea that has greater buy-in." (Senator Ferguson)
Arsh Mirmiran, CVP (Photo: BBJ)
Not all want CVP to run the market. There are also many merchants and community members who were glad when the CVP deal appeared to have fallen through. Merchants, because they felt that CVP would push them out, or their livelihood was threatened by a year of construction time during which they had no place to sell. Residents, because they felt that CVP's vision for the market wasn't the same as theirs. A planned Startbucks, anticipated much higher rents, and various other discussion items suggested that CVP had a food market in mind that would be more reminiscent of the Belvedere and the Mount Vernon markets than the traditional public market which sell affordable fresh food and provide local entrepreneurs to start a business. A petition titled “Help secure the future of the existing tenants at the Cross Street Market” has found 731 online supporters plus and a large list of paper signatures, according to SoutBMore.com.

The way the story has unfolded to date, it would be a long way to bridging all the various positions and visions regarding the market and still have a viable product. CVP's willingness to take another look and make accommodations could be a sign that CVP is moving closer to the ideas merchants or community members have, but it could also just be a sign of shenanigans about the liquor bill in Annapolis and its large sticker price. Neither public market director Robert Thomas (sign-off: "strengthening communities with stronger public Markets") nor the merchants are directly involved in the attempts of rescuing the deal. Merchant Anna Epsilantis is quoted in the SUN saying:
"They're doing the same thing they did the first time," she said. "Instead of this backdoor ... stuff, why isn't the community and the merchants, why aren't we all being included in this?"
One thing is for sure, CVP has a big stake in the area with large developments on Light Street and on Cross Street. It neither wants to see a failing market nor can it afford to make merchants and community their enemies.

Klaus Philipsen, FAIA