Market House Up In Air Again

| January 10, 2012
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Late last night, after most people had finished voicing their support of raising chickens in Annapolis and left, the Annapolis City Council sat down to talk about the Market House–again!

Public Works Director, David Jarrell explained that the last day for business at the “old” Market House was December 31st and business “went out with a bang” before all the vendors moved out in the following days. He also advised the council that they had selected Richard Sharoff to manage the market house going forward–after all the renovations are complete by Memorial Day.

This took Alderwoman Sheila Finlayson by surprise since she was under the impression that the Council was to be talking to Mike Ashford (owner of McGarvey’s) on developing the Market House as a Cafe du Monde clone.

The conversation went downhill from there with Aldermen Paone and Arnett asking why the city was putting the cart before the horse. Arnett pointed out that we were in the process of creating a design for which there is no defined use.

The Cafe du Monde model came as a surprise. Ashford had presented this more than a few years ago when the city called for submissions. His idea was cast aside along with the others in favor of offering Lehr-Jackson a lucrative, long term development and management contract.

The Mayor is in favor of the Cafe du Monde model, yet several council members voiced their opposition. The opposition was not necessarily to the model, but to the expense of creating a building without knowing what will occupy it.  On this issue, Aldermen Israel, Hoyle, Silverman, Kirby, and Pfeiffer were silent.

As the Council was gong back and forth, it gave me time to think (yet again) about what might help the Market House; and then it dawned on me. It is likely less about content (vendors) and more about accessibility.

Several years ago, the crosswalk on Compromise Street went from the head of City Dock to the Market House. It was changed to appease traffic congestion and is now currently located at the Randall Street end of the building.  That is the problem. We are taking 100% of the foot traffic (certainly no one can park and run in the Market House can they?) and moving them past the Market House!

Here is the idea I sketched out last night.

Follow along with me here.

  1. Put the crosswalk directly in front of  a welcoming Market House!
  2. Force all traffic on Compromise to go right at the intersection of Compromise/Randall and Dock/Market Space. This will serve several purposes. It will give more space to move cars by eliminating the queue to take a left onto Market Space. It will push cars to areas where there may be parking available. It will expose many of the struggling businesses in the City Dock area to more traffic.
  3. Route this traffic on the Craig Street behind the Harbormaster’s Office and onto Prince George’s Street. This puts the vehicles (and pedestrians) at a controlled intersection. Vehicles can then easily take a left onto Randall and then a right onto Market Space if that was the intent. There is little traffic on the dead end side of Prince George’s Street so the existing stop sign could be re-positioned on the outbound side of Prince George’s Street.
  4. Push people into the Market House. With the crosswalk mid block there will be vehicular back ups during peak pedestrian times. However, by eliminating the confusion for motorists (jockeying for lane position) there will be more space, and less chance for accident or injury. Police presence will still be needed during the critical times as they are now.

We must understand that the Market House is not a destination. People are not coming to Annapolis for the Market House. They will patronize the Market House when they are down here, but only if it is convenient and obvious. As it sits now, we take our pedestrians (the prime target for the Market House) and push them right past the building–oddly enough on the side that houses the dumpster!

Push them into the Market House. Open the front door and let some of the smells of a vibrant market place waft out and capture their attention. Allow the vendors to offer street samples (ala the food court at Westfield Annapolis) to further entice patrons. What do you think?

And as an aside, one question that lurks in my mind, was the newest new HVAC system designed based on running a Cafe du Monde type business. I can only hope so. We don’t need any more spare systems.

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Category: Editorial, OPINION

About the Author ()

John is the publisher and editor of Eye On Annapolis. As a resident and business owner in Anne Arundel County for more than 15 years, he realized that there was something missing in terms of community news--and Eye On Annapolis was born in late spring 2009.John's background is in the travel industry as a business owner, industry speaker, and travel writer. In terms of blogging and social media, he cut his teeth with MSNBC.com.