As Cross Street Market developer shares details, community members express concerns

More details, and more concerns, emerge surrounding Cross Street Market's future.

The developer behind Cross Street Market's overhaul unveiled new details surrounding the market's renovation and heard from anxious stakeholders in and around Federal Hill at a Monday night meeting of the Cross Street Market Advisory Committee.

About 100 people turned out Monday night at Leadenhall Baptist Church, where they stood for hours to hear the latest plans for the market and weigh in on its future. Nearby residents, longtime patrons and business owners urged the committee to protect vendors within the market and expressed their concerns about the project, which became heightened after Caves Valley Partners announced it was terminating the lease for Nick's Inner Harbor Seafood, a market anchor, at the end of the month.

Arsh Mirmiran, a partner in Caves Valley partners, the Towson-based developer partnering with the city to manage the market, said during Monday's three-hour meeting that the timeline for the market's overhaul has not changed. Demolition is expected to start in May, and construction is projected to last 10 months, with the market reopening in spring 2018. 

Nick Alevrogiannis, who is handling the new leases for the market, attempted to deliver letters of intent to each of the vendors Monday to begin lease negotiations with the market tenants, many of which Caves Valley intends to keep. Those negotiations failed to get off the ground immediately when Alevrogiannis was told tenants were being represented by attorney John C. Murphy. Mirmiran said Caves Valley will work with Murphy to hash out new leases. 

Despite the hiccup, Mirmiran said during his presentation that he hopes tenants see the value in the market's redevelopment and stay on board through construction, which will force them to close for about 10 months. He hopes Steve's Lunch remains as a tenant within the market, and said he wants it to become the market's breakfast staple. He hinted at other concepts slated for the space, too, including a coffee shop. Caves Valley has been in talks with four different coffee vendors, including Starbucks. If Starbucks, the only national coffee chain being considered for the market, were to move in, Mirmiran said it would be specially designed to reflect the original Starbucks in Seattle, rather than its many offshoots. 

The new market would also retain fresh food merchants such as produce sellers, a butcher, bakery and cheese shop, with a mix of price points among the variety of prepared and fresh foods. 

Much of Monday's discussion surrounded Caves Valley's decision to terminate the lease for Nick's Inner Harbor Seafood at the market. On Jan. 1 Caves Valley delivered a letter to Nick's indicating its lease will end Jan. 31, a decision Mirmiran said was based on a series of health code violations at the stall.

Gary Maslan, an attorney representing South Cross Street Market LLC, which owns Nick's, has acknowledged the stall received health department "violations" but maintained it was never issued a citation for violating health or safety codes.

Mirmiran said he still wants a seafood vendor to anchor the space Nick's occupies. A new tenant has not yet been confirmed, but he envisions it as part restaurant, part fishmonger. 

Most tenants would be situated on the north side of the market, with communal seating on the south side. The space would seat about 200 communally and each vendor would also have the option to add seats at their stalls, which range in size from 200 square feet to more than 600 square feet.

The new rent will be higher for tenants, and rent amounts would be based on revenue projections for the tenants. Mirmiran said in total, the rent will amount to about 10 percent of the market's revenue.

Current plans for the $6.5 million renovation include an emphasis on opening the market to the outdoors. That would include up to six outdoor tables seating four guests each; glass walkways that would stretch through the market on Marshall and Patapsco streets; and include garage doors that could be rolled up to let in fresh air when the weather is nice. Mirmiran also floated the idea of closing one or both sides of the street for periodic farmers' markets and special events.

Mirmiran said $2.5 million will be spent on infrastructure upgrades to bring the building up to code, including new mechanical, electrical and sprinkler systems. Of that, $2 million will come from the city.

"This deal is exceptionally challenging," Mirmiran said. "If anyone thinks this is a get-rich-quick type operation, it is not. ... We are not doing this project to make money."

Patrons were concerned how merchants in the market would weather a 10-month closure. Caves Valley offered to temporarily relocate them to spaces in Lexington Market or Hollins Market, or work with them to find retail space in Federal Hill.

"There's been no assurance," Murphy, the attorney for the merchants, said. "I think there's been a blind eye turned to the merchants as to how the merchants will survive this process."

Federal Hill residents also worried a proposed liquor license that would cover the entire property would give the space the potential to transform into another "mega-bar." Some community members and advisory committee representatives stressed they wanted measures written into legislation required for the license that would restrict the liquor license's hours and prevent it from participating in bar crawls.  

Mirmiran said he wants to incorporate beer and wine tasting rooms in the market in addition to the other vendors because he thinks they would provide a destination for customers who may not otherwise come through the doors.

"We want to try to create as many draws as possible to draw people to the market and patronize the other vendors," Mirmiran said. 

Deborah Flavin, a Riverside resident, said Cross Street Market was one of the first places she went when she moved to Baltimore 19 years ago.

"It was wonderful," she said. "And then we were at the market every week."

She said her child grew up there, and she's built friendships with vendors at the market over the past two decades.

"Taking the most valuable asset out of the market are these vendors right here," she said. "They're the ones that have made it and made it last this long and welcomed people new into the city and new into the community."

The advisory committee's next meeting will be held Feb. 13 at 6 p.m. at Leadenhall Baptist Church.

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