Mar­ket poised for an over­haul

Pri­vate firm’s man­age­ment, $6.5 mil­lion ren­o­va­tion to up­date Cross Street venue

Baltimore Sun - - FRONT PAGE - By Natalie Sher­man

Cross Street Mar­ket will fi­nally get a makeover un­der a deal reached be­tween the city and a real es­tate firm ac­tive in South Bal­ti­more that is de­signed to re­vive the tired Fed­eral Hill in­sti­tu­tion with new ten­ants and a $6.5 mil­lion ren­o­va­tion.

The long-awaited agree­ment be­tween Caves Val­ley Part­ners and the Bal­ti­more Pub­lic Mar­kets Corp. comes nearly two years af­ter the non­profit, which runs the city’s six pub­lic mar­kets, for­mally sought bids for man­ag­ing Cross Street.

Neigh­bors have called for years for im­prove­ments to the dated mar­ket, where foot traf­fic has dwin­dled and va­can­cies have in­creased.

“It has fallen down tremen­dously from where it used to be,” said Martha Thomp­son, 61, a long­time pa­tron who vis­ited the mar­ket Mon­day with her hus­band and a friend for lunch. “Ren­o­va­tion might help bring it back.”

Caves Val­ley plans to start the over­haul of the 31,000-square-foot mar­ket this spring, ad­ding more nat­u­ral light to the build­ing, re­con­fig­ur­ing the in­te­rior lay­out and shak­ing up the ten­ant mix, said Arsh Mir­mi­ran, a part­ner in the Tow­son-based com­pany, which is lead­ing the Sta­dium Square rede­vel­op­ment in nearby Sharp-Lead­en­hall.

The goal is to pro­duce a wel­com­ing space with a main eat­ing area, and about two dozen “su­per-stalls” with eater­ies, fresh food prod­ucts and food-re­lated ac­ces­sories along the lines of San Fran­cisco’s Ferry Ter­mi­nal, he said. Hours will be ex­tended and some room will be left for sea­sonal pop-ups.

The city, through the pub­lic mar­kets cor­po­ra­tion, is con­tribut­ing $2 mil­lion to the ren­o­va­tion, said Kaliope Parthe­mos, Mayor Stephanie Rawl­ings-Blake’s chief of staff, who de­scribed the agree­ment as a “win-win” that will ad­dress cap­i­tal re­pair needs and help the mar­ket meet neigh­bor­hood tastes, while act­ing as a catalyst for fur­ther neigh­bor­hood im­prove­ment.

“The fo­cus should be on con­tin­u­ing to cre­ate an en­vi­ron­ment that is open to the pub­lic, that pro­vides di­verse food op­tions and still serves as an an­chor for the com­mu­nity,” she said.

Mer­chants, who met with of­fi­cials about the plan Mon­day, said they are ea­ger to see in­vest­ment but ap­pre­hen­sive about what the plans mean for them.

Sig­nif­i­cant por­tions of the mar­ket will close dur­ing the ren­o­va­tions, which are likely to last eight to 12 months and will bring in­creased rents, Mir­mi­ran said.

Sev­eral mer­chants said they ex­pect to have in­di­vid­ual con­ver­sa­tions with the new man­age­ment team to see if they will stay. The leases, many of them month-to-month, will re­main in place un­til con­struc­tion starts, around April.

“Some­thing had to be done,” said John Ni­chols, whose fam­ily has run Steve’s Lunch in Cross Street Mar­ket since 1964 and who hopes to stay. “I just hope it works out.”

The city will work with mer­chants on re­lo­ca­tions, Parthe­mos said.

The agree­ment with Caves Val­ley for Cross Street Mar­ket is likely to be the first of sev­eral pri­vate-sec­tor part­ner­ships for the Bal­ti­more’s pub­lic mar­kets, as of­fi­cials look to bring the decades-old fa­cil­i­ties into the 21st cen­tury and make them en­gines of eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment. Sta­dium Square, the firm owns 1111 Light

The pub­lic mar­kets cor­po­ra­tion is gearStreet and is in­volved in Horse­shoe Casino. ing up to lead a ma­jor ren­o­va­tion of It also was one of the firms that pushed Lex­ing­ton Mar­ket, af­ter mak­ing in­vest­the city to open the mar­ket up to pri­vate ments in the North­east and Av­enue mar­man­age­ment. (The other, Scott Plank’s War kets. Horse LLC, ini­tially part­nered with Caves

It also is con­sid­er­ing op­tions for Hollins Val­ley but has since with­drawn from the Mar­ket in West Bal­ti­more and Broad­way plans and has been linked to Hollins Mar­ket in Fells Point, which could in­clude Mar­ket, around which Plank has been pri­vate own­er­ship, said Kirby Fowler, who buy­ing prop­erty.) chairs the pub­lic mar­kets board and heads “We’ve in­vested a bunch of money and the Down­town Part­ner­ship. time in South Bal­ti­more, and over the last

“There’s been progress around the mardecade, one of the big de­sires of res­i­dents … kets, and to some ex­tent the mar­kets have as well as mer­chants in the mar­ket is to see not kept pace with that progress,” he said. the mar­ket re­vi­tal­ized,” Mir­mi­ran said. “We “In those par­tic­u­lar neigh­bor­hoods, it’s thought it would be im­por­tant … to take it on.”im­por­tant­forthep­ub­lic­mar­ketscor­po­ra­tion to see if the pri­vate sec­tor could do a Un­der the agree­ment, Caves Val­ley, bet­ter job.” through its CSM Ven­tures af­fil­i­ate, will

With Caves Val­ley, the city has opted to make an an­nual lease pay­ment of $120,000 work with a com­pany that has a sig­nif­i­cant to the pub­lic mar­kets cor­po­ra­tion. The firm stake in the neigh­bor­hood. In ad­di­tion to will split prof­its with the mar­kets cor­pora- Ren­o­va­tions to the 31,000-square-foot Cross Street Mar­ket will in­clude ad­ding more nat­u­ral light to the build­ing and al­ter­ing the lay­out. “Some­thing had to be done,” said John Ni­chols, whose fam­ily runs Steve’s Lunch in the mar­ket. “I just hope it works out.” This ren­der­ing shows the plan for the ren­o­vated Cross Street Mar­ket. The cur­rent struc­ture was built in the 1950s. Fed­eral Hill has had a pub­lic mar­ket since 1846. tion 50-50, af­ter pay­ing its bank loan and an 8 per­cent re­turn on Caves Val­ley’s ini­tial eq­uity in­vest­ment.

The deal, which goes to the city’s Board of Es­ti­mates for ap­proval Wed­nes­day, would take ef­fect Jan. 1. If ap­proved, the lease would run for 15 years, with the po­ten­tial for re­newal in five-year pe­ri­ods for up to 50 years.

Fowler and oth­ers said the deal re­flects sub­stan­tial “give and take” as a plan to fi­nance the ren­o­va­tion was de­vel­oped.

Up­grades to the mar­ket must oc­cur within two years, Parthe­mos said.

The ren­o­va­tion plans have been scaled back since Caves Val­ley made its first pro­posal, with a greater pub­lic con­tri­bu­tion and a green­house and roof deck re­moved. The city also is get­ting a smaller fee than the $275,000 min­i­mum pay­ment first pro­posed.

“In the end, our goal as a pub­lic mar­kets board was to cre­ate a bet­ter mar­ket for the neigh­bor­hood,” Fowler said. “If it meant that the city had to con­trib­ute more cap­i­tal dol­lars, then that’s what it took.”

Fed­eral Hill has housed a pub­lic mar­ket since 1846. The cur­rent build­ing, with its red tile floor and ex­posed ceil­ing, dates to the 1950s.

Martha Thomp­son’s hus­band, Ray, 61, re­mem­bers fre­quent­ing the mar­ket’s food stalls as a ju­nior high-schooler, when the eater­ies brought a crush of mid­day busi­ness to the area.

But the neigh­bor­hood has changed, los­ing its rough edges and gain­ing younger house­holds with­out fam­i­lies.

The va­cancy rate at Cross Street Mar­ket started climb­ing a few years ago, said Robert Thomas, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the pub­lic mar­kets cor­po­ra­tion. To­day, there are just 18 ac­tive ten­ants in Cross Street Mar­ket, leav­ing half the space empty.

Mer­chants said they know the mar­ket needs help com­pet­ing with the new restau­rants and su­per­mar­kets in the area.

“We’re not the only guy in town any­more,” said Peter Pit­tas, the owner of The Sweet Shoppe, who has sold choco­lates at the mar­ket since 1988 and hopes to stay. “The whole area is more com­pet­i­tive.”

Caves Val­ley is work­ing with BCT Ar­chi­tects on the de­sign and with MacKen­zie Com­mer­cial Real Es­tate Ser­vices on leas­ing.

Cus­tomers, even reg­u­lars who have stuck with the mar­ket, said they think it would ben­e­fit from greater va­ri­ety and a bet­ter build­ing.

“I don’t care what man­age­ment it is,” said Ken­neth Rorie Sr., as he pre­pared to eat a sand­wich Mon­day af­ter­noon. “I think the whole mar­ket needs a face-lift.”

KEN­NETH K. LAM/BAL­TI­MORE SUN

CAVES VAL­LEY PART­NERS

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