Annapolis city council panel approves Market House fixes

An Annapolis panel has recommended authorizing $300,000 in renovations to Market House, the shuttered, city-owned public market that has been the subject of a series of legal and political disputes.

The city council's Finance Committee voted 2 to 1 to recommend the council approve the expenditure, according to its chairman Alderman Ross H. Arnett, III. The committee's recommendation will be forwarded to the full council, which will vote on the measure next week.

The $300,000 renovation plan, which was endorsed by Annapolis Mayor Joshua J. Cohen, will reconfigure the market's layout to allow waterfront views, relocate the electrical and plumbing, install shelf seating and add two bathroom stalls in the women's restroom. City officials are banking on the renovations to kick-start the success of the 1890s-era public market, a once-thriving institution that in recent years has cost the city millions in litigation and repairs.

"I'm thrilled," said Cohen, a staunch advocate of restoring the market, who expects the measure to get full approval. "This Market House has had so many false starts over the last eight years. … This time we're going to do it right."

Arnett, who voted against the funding and has been an outspoken opponent of the city spending more money on the market, conceded it would likely pass the full council.

"We're just throwing good money after bad," said Arnett, an Eastport Democrat. "There is no real likelihood that these minor changes are going to improve the outlook of the Market House. If anything, I believe it will drive up competition between other restaurants downtown."

Richard E. Israel, a Democrat who represents downtown, voted for the renovations along with Democrat Sheila M. Finlayson.

"The Market House and the City Dock belongs to all the people of this city," said Israel. "I don't think we can take it back to exactly the way it was 50 years ago. … But I think we have a responsibility to rely on the professionals who know marketing and retailing and give them a chance to turn things around."

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