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Reopening of Market House may be delayed

HomesRenovationBondsRental ServiceJosh Cohen

The reopening of Annapolis' Market House, set for October, is likely to be delayed.

"It may not be Oct. 1, so I may be walking the plank after all," said Mayor Joshua Cohen. He had vowed to take a plunge into the harbor if the historic building at City Dock wasn't refurbished and reopened with new vendors by then.

The state bond funding that was authorized in 2011 for renovations added the Maryland Historical Trust as a holder of the historic easement on the Market House, said David Jarrell, director of the city's Department of Public Works.

As a result, the Historical Trust must review and approve the renovation plans; the state agency looks at interior work as well as the exterior. After that, the city's Historic Preservation Commission must approve any exterior changes proposed, said Lisa Craig, the city's chief of historic preservation. She said a review by the state agency, common when the Historical Trust is on an easement due to a state bond, is new for the city.

That may add four or so weeks to the initial timetable, the mayor said.

"My main priority is to make sure we do it right and this will be a solid success," Cohen said. He said he met with several prospective vendors and was pleased with what he heard.

Vendors can't build out their spaces before major renovations are done. That opens the possibility that they will miss the October boat show crowds.

"I can't say I'm all that surprised," said Alderman Ian Pfeiffer, a Ward 7 Democrat who earlier this year had unsuccessfully sought less costly, smaller-scale renovations in hopes of getting the building, once called the "cafeteria of Annapolis," reopened sooner.

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Alderman Fred Paone, a Ward 2 Republican, didn't see why Market House should have been shut last winter and subject to major renovations, and he continued to question the six-figure sum, from the city and grants, being spent on it. He sarcastically called the possible delay a "shocker. … I've got very strong and very negative feelings about it."

The waterfront building was flooded during Tropical Storm Isabel in 2003 and has been open only intermittently since.

Over the years, there had been a series of complaints, including that it had too few bathrooms and poor ventilation. Both of those problems are being addressed in the renovations, which also will include seating with a view of the water.

Cohen said he wants Market House to boast a Chesapeake connection and feature seafood in its offerings.

More than 30 businesses applied for stalls and kiosks, said Richard Sharoff, whose firm, FranPoint Partners, was hired by the city to help manage vendor selection. The business managed Market House during its short reopening during the second half of 2011.

"It's a complex puzzle," Sharoff said. "You have to get the right quality of tenants and the right mix of tenants. There are some logistics, like the amount of cooking in there."

andrea.siegel@baltsun.com

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