New grocer coming to Charles Street

Gourmet grocer to fill Fresh & Greens space.

A gourmet grocer is planning to open in the Charles Street space that has been empty since Fresh & Greens closed at the end of 2013, development officials said Thursday.

Streets Market & Cafe would fill the spot of a downtown grocer that officials have said is critical to helping turn the area into a 24-7 community.

Representatives of Streets Market & Cafe could not be reached immediately for comment. The business opened its first store last year in Washington and now has two locations. It markets itself as a specialty market, with a cafe menu and selection of organic and everyday goods.

David Hillman, CEO of Southern Management Corp., which owns the 222 N. Charles St. property, as well as several apartment buildings in the area, confirmed that a deal is in the works. The tenant was discussed at Thursday's meeting of the Baltimore Development Corp.

"We're pretty close," Hillman said. "We have so many apartments in the neighborhood that the lack of a grocery store is a real detriment to our apartment business as well as to other people that own and manage apartments downtown."

Downtown Partnership President Kirby Fowler said Streets Market & Cafe approached the city roughly a year ago about opening a location in Baltimore, but negotiations with the parent company of Fresh & Greens about taking over the lease stalled.

The roughly 11,000-square-foot space has been closed since the end of 2013, when Natural Markets Food Group, a subsidiary of a Canadian private equity firm, closed the shop, citing financial reasons.

The firm continued to pay rent at the site, which had been profitable for the operator, Hillman said. Southern Management got control of the spot this month, he said.

The Downtown Partnership is providing a $100,000 grant over two years to Streets Market & Cafe, Fowler said. The Baltimore Development Corp. has also agreed to provide a $250,000 loan to the owners to help with furniture, fixtures and other equipment, said Jeffrey Pillas, the development agency's CFO. The deal is expected to close in the next 30 days and he said he hopes to see the store open in the next two months, he said.

"One of the number one complaints we've received from residents is the absence of a grocery store in the downtown core, so this obviously fulfills that need," Fowler said.

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