A rally, called “Last Stand at the Cross Street Market,” was held yesterday evening at the Cross Street Market. An overflow crowd of neighbors, which SouthBMore.com estimates at more than 200, gathered to show support for the current vendors, and their uncertain future, as the city-owned market is scheduled to close this spring for 8 to 10 months to undergo a $6.5 million redevelopment by Caves Valley Partners (CVP). CVP took over management of the market in January.
“We are here so that city leaders can see the support for the merchants,” said Attorney John C. Murphy who is representing the merchants and helped organize the event. “They (vendors) are being offered nothing, no moving or relocation expenses, and no consideration that they will be out of business for a year. They are having their businesses taken away from them.”
Many merchants were hoping, and were under the impression, that the renovation would be done in stages so that they could continue to operate. Arsh Mirmiran of CVP said at the Cross Street Market Advisory Committee Meeting in January that a more extensive renovation is needed than originally thought. Mirmiran said getting the building up to code will take $2.5 million of utility work. The City, which still owns the building, is putting up $2 million of this cost and CVP is putting approximately $4.5 million into the renovation.
The merchants are currently on month-to-month leases which Murphy described as being put into place a couple years ago to make way for the redevelopment. Most merchants will have the opportunity to return after the renovation, but Murphy said the new rents are more than three times the current rates. “Not one of these merchants will be able to afford to come back,” said Murphy. “This is a city project and the merchants need to be protected. They have their life savings in these businesses and they stand to lose everything.”
Mirmiran said at January’s Advisory Committee Meeting that rents will go up, but will be in line with Mount Vernon Marketplace, Belvedere Market, and R. House. He described Cross Street Market as a much better location than the others and said rent will be 10% of revenue projections. The new market will also have common indoor and outdoor seating areas, which are not currently present at the market.
Murphy encouraged everyone in attendance to contact area politicians. Cards were passed around with the names and contact information of Mayor Catherine Pugh, City Council President Jack Young, Councilman Eric Costello, Senator Bill Ferguson, and Delegates Luke Clippinger, Brooke Lierman, and Robbyn Lewis.
Murphy said there hasn’t been much contact with local leaders, but that he and some merchants went to meet with Mayor Pugh at the Board of Estimates meeting last week. “She said she’d look into it, but we haven’t heard anything.”
Cross Street Market merchants were thrilled with the turnout. Sharon Johnson, owner of Cheese Galore & More, described the turnout as “awesome.” Anna Epsilantis of Big Jim’s Deli said, “This is amazing, I’m going to cry. There is so much love and energy in this room. This is Baltimore!”
CVP and Nick’s Inner Harbor Seafood are currently involved in a legal matter involving Nick’s lease and its future at the market.
The following list was put together for the event showing how many years each merchant has been at the Cross Street Market.
Nunnally Brothers 125+ Years
Big Jim’s Deli 52 Years
Steve’s Lunch 52 Years
Fenwick Meats 46 Years
Nick’s Seafood 44+ Years
The Flower Shop 40 Years
Bruce Lee Wings 30 Years
Nick’s Samurai Sushi Bar 23.5 Years
Mondawin Fried Chicken 23 Years
Sweet Shoppe 22 years
Baltimore’s Best BBQ 20 Years
Kwon’s Produce 18 Years
Pretzel Twist 15 Years
Cross Street Seafood 8.5 Years
Teriyaki 7.5 Years
Cheese Galore and More 5.5 Years