On Sunday, a crowd of approximately 60 people rallied outside of Federal Hill Main Street’s office at 42 E. Cross St., across from the Cross Street Market, in support of a revitalized market. After the gathering, the group marched around the block-long market with chants including “CPR for the CSM.” The rally was organized by a group called “Citizens for a Better Cross Street Market.”
The redevelopment of the Cross Street Market has been a topic of much discussion and debate in South Baltimore this year. Last month Caves Valley Partners (CVP) announced it was pulling out of an agreement with the Baltimore Public Markets Corporation (BPMC) to complete a $6.5 million redevelopment of the 31,800 sq. ft. Federal Hill market. However, Arsh Mirmiran of CVP told SouthBMore.com on March 7th that he and his team would be moving forward with a new plan which Mirmiran believes will address many of the concerns in the community.
Mirmiran told SouthBMore.com the CVP team received “email after email” from area residents asking them to reconsider and that they would be more supportive moving forward. CVP’s new plan, according to Mirmiran, includes starting fresh with Nick’s Inner Harbor Seafood, which was involved in a “legal matter” with CVP regarding its lease, and working with the existing merchants by keeping portions of the market open during construction and developing strategies to keep new rents and costs down for these businesses. Mirmiran and his team met with the merchants last week.
CVP is also seeking a liquor license for the building that it feels is in line with Mount Vernon Marketplace and Belvedere Square Market. A bill drafted by Maryland General Assembly District 46 Representatives was a key factor in CVP’s February decision to walk away from the project. The bill required a $50,000 per year fee for the liquor license unless CVP could obtain and extinguish an existing liquor license in Federal Hill. This fee was reduced to $20,000 per year if CVP obtained and extinguished one Federal Hill liquor license and $10,000 if CVP obtained and extinguished two Federal Hill liquor licenses. Mount Vernon Marketplace’s license in comparison has an annual fee of less than $3,000 per year.
Mirmiran told SouthBMore.com the liquor license situation must be resolved this year in order for CVP to move forward. The Maryland General Assembly 2017 Session ends on April 10th.
“We want a fair liquor license at a fair market value – one of the things the original bill did not give whatsoever,” said Jameson Chalmers, Otterbein Community Association president and one of six core volunteers who organized the event. He also said the rallying group is hoping to see the maximum amount of funding from the state legislation for the existing Cross Street Market merchants and the market.
Chalmers recently launched an online petition titled “Redevelop Cross St Market Now,” which currently has 977 supporters. It notes the liquor license costs and stipulations, including no liquor sales for the first two years, will cause CVP to drop out of the project.
During the rally, Federal Hill South resident Dan Strodel led a chant of “revive, revive, revive” and waved a Baltimore City flag.
Longtime Federal Hill resident and former Federal Hill Neighborhood Association (FHNA) president Ian Neuman also spoke at the rally. He described how he’s seen many things change in his 39 years in the neighborhood, but not the Cross Street Market. “I do believe in change, I do believe in the market, and I do believe it can become a spot that we all absolutely will be proud of and use, and that will support the area and all the merchants around here,” he said.
Councilman Eric Costello, who has been a vocal supporter of the redevelopment of Cross Street Market, participated in the march.
Sonny Morstein, the former owner of Morstein’s Jewelers and Vice President of Federal Hill Main Street, told SouthBMore.com, “We are lucky to have a second chance. Hopefully everyone will come to the table and make it happen. We are not getting a third chance.”
Volunteers at the event collected written signatures for a petition to send to the District 46 Delegation, as well as cards to send to their offices.
There is also currently an online petition titled “DON’T LET CAVES VALLEY TURN CROSS STREET MARKET INTO A 30,000 SQUARE FOOT BAR MALL!” which currently has 155 online supporters.
A rally was held in February in support of the 17 existing merchants at the Cross Street Market.