After entering into an Exclusive Negotiating Privilege (“ENP”) agreement for the redevelopment of the Cross Street Market with the Baltimore Public Markets Corporation (BPMC) in June 2015, Caves Valley Partners (CVP) has reached a deal with Baltimore City and will operate the market as CSM Ventures LLC. The agreement was submitted to and approved by the Board of Estimates today. CVP originally partnered with Scott Plank’s War Horse, LLC, but they withdrew from negotiations.
The agreement, which begins on January 1, 2017, sets forth a redevelopment plan to manage and transform the market within the next two years, funded by $4.5 million in capital contributed by CVP and $2 million in capital provided by BPMC and the City. The initial term of the agreement is for 15 years with seven renewal periods of five years each for a potential total term of 50 years. Under the management agreement, CVP is entitled to generate revenue from the operation of the market. Allocated revenue will fund the following: $10,000 per month ($120,000 per year) to BPMC as a Priority Payment; monthly payment to CVP’s lender; an annual amount equal to 8% of CSM’s equity contribution; and 50/50 profit-sharing between BPMC and CSM.
Arsh Mirmiran of CVP, along with Robert Thomas of BPMC, met with vendors of the Cross Street Market on Monday morning. On Monday night, an open meeting was held with the public at Leadenhall Baptist Church. It was led by Mirmiran, Thomas, District 11 Councilman Eric Costello, and Maryland District 46 Senator Bill Ferguson.
CVP will spend the next six months working through the design review and community input process, as well as negotiating with existing and future tenants. CVP hopes to start construction in the second quarter of 2017 and expects construction to take about 10 months.
The renovation will include the addition of outdoor seating on Cross St., likely eliminating six parking spaces; more natural light including new windows and the potential addition of glass garage doors facing Cross St.; updated utilities; a common seating area with approximately 100 seats; and facade improvements. More details will be presented in future meetings. CVP is aiming for 25 to 30 tenants within the market.
Previous renderings included a rooftop deck, rooftop greenhouse, and a breezeway along Patapasco St. Those plans have been eliminated due to cost, but Mirmiran noted that success at the market could lead to a second phase of improvements.
As a current tenant in the market, Nick’s Inner Harbor Seafood is open every day from 11am to 7pm with the exception of Friday when it stays open until 10pm and Saturday when it stays open until 9pm. The rest of the market is currently open from 7am to 7pm, Monday through Saturday. Mirmiran wants to extend the hours to 10pm during the week and likely 12am on Fridays and Saturdays. He also said the entire market would be open on Sundays. He noted that vendors would not be required to be open every hour the market is open.
Mirmiran is hoping an additional story will be constructed on the city-owned West St. garage, which is located one block from Cross Street Market. He’s been in discussion with the Parking Authority of Baltimore City, and Councilman Costello said there is a “greater than 50% chance” of that taking place. A South Baltimore parking study is currently underway using Casino Local Development Council funds. CVP’s Stadium Square development project is additionally building 2,000 garage spaces a couple blocks from the market.
Mirmiran said at Monday night’s meeting that existing tenants will have the option to stay and that CVP will “negotiate in good faith.”
“Rents have to go up, but vendors will make more money at the new market,” said Mirmiran. “The vendors have to succeed in order for us to succeed.”
CVP is also working with Senator Ferguson to acquire a liquor license for the property. Nick’s and Big Jim’s Deli currently have liquor licenses and Mirmiran said he would work with those businesses to make sure those licenses are not devalued.
Another aspect of negotiations would be the logistics of the redevelopment. Mirmiran said the project would either be done in phases or all at once depending on how many tenants decide to stay. Kaliope Pathermos of the Mayor’s office said they are working with the Baltimore Development Corporation (BDC) and all city agencies to find temporary homes for vendors and to fast track the permit process if temporary spaces in South Baltimore are found.
If done in phases, tenants would also have the option to relocate temporarily within the market while its section is under construction. Thomas also said that existing tenants would have the option to relocate to the City’s other five public markets.
SouthBMore.com visited Cross Street Market yesterday and spoke with many vendors to get thoughts and concerns about the news and the future of the space. Mirmiran was not permitted to discuss the market with them during negotiations with the City. While many businesses still operate at the market, there are many vacant stalls.
“We were in the dark for so long and there was a fear of the unknown,” said Sharon Johnson, owner of Cheese Galore and More, which has been at at Cross Street Market for five years. She noted that she wants to “make it work” at the market and staying is her focus.
Anna Epsilantis, who has owned Big Jim’s Deli for more than 37 years, said, “I’m excited. This needs to happen and will be a game changer.” She also said the deterioration of the market has led to big drops in sales.
John Nichols, owner of Steve’s Lunch, which was started by his father 53 years ago, said, “Something had to be done, we were not going to survive for long. I’m staying, I just hope the rent is reasonable and I hope everything works out for us and the other merchants.” Steve’s has six employees and said business has remained strong.
Henry Reisigner, who has owned Fenwick Meats for 30 years and has worked at Cross Street Market for 45 years, said, “As I’ve always said, I’m cautiously optimistic. We’ll have to sit down and figure out the details.”
Reisigner loves his space near the door and loves saying hello to everyone as they enter the market. He noted business has been flat but profitable in recent years. Mirmiran said on Monday night that Reisigner could be a “star butcher” with the right market around him.
Kimberly Travers, who has worked at Nick’s Seafood for 18 years, said, “I’d like to see the market updated but not overhauled. If you change the dynamic of the building it’s not going to help anyone.” She noted how she loves the “old city market” feel of Cross Street Market and credits that aspect and their strong Yelp ratings for attracting a lot of tourists and people on the way to a ballgame. She said business has been good.
All the tenants SouthBMore.com spoke with expressed concern about the possibility of closing their business during renovations.
Mirmiran said he would like to add new vendors and has spent the last couple years visiting markets around North America, including Pike Place in Seattle, looking for ideas and studying the tenants. He wants to see a lot of food vendors and prepared offerings, and tenants that make Cross Street Market a popular place to grab lunch as well as dinner. He also told SouthBMore.com he’d like to see some “food as entertainment” options like Beecher’s Cheese at Pike Place, as well as a place for events such as photos with Santa Claus.
Councilman Costello said a community stakeholder group would be formed during the redevelopment and transition. It will be comprised of representatives from peninsula neighborhood groups, business groups, Live Baltimore, Horseshoe Casino, and the Downtown Family Alliance.
“Revitalizing the Cross Street Market has been a goal for the community for many years. The market has tremendous potential and this partnership should provide much needed capital investments in the property. Doing so will help re-establish Cross Street Market as a vibrant, inclusive anchor for all neighborhoods on the South Baltimore peninsula,” said Councilman Costello.
“In order for Cross Street Market to continue to serve as the centerpiece of Federal Hill and South Baltimore, it needs reinvention, renovation, and a dramatic infusion of new investment,” said Kirby Fowler, chairperson of the BPMC, in a press release.
CVP has been very active in South Baltimore developing 1111 Light Street, Riverside Wharf and the former M&T Bank on Cross St. in Federal Hill. It is also constructing Stadium Square, a $275 million mixed-use development with 300,000 sq. ft. of office space on three city blocks of Sharp-Leadenhall and South Baltimore.
“Everything near the market will go up in value,” said Mirmiran. “And I think we’ll start to see more offices built on the second floors of many surrounding properties.”
Rendering Courtesy of Caves Valley Partners and Brown Craig Turner