Budge’s Market House bills pave way for McDonald’s lease, HPC on board

| April 1, 2017
Rams Head

Finally, A Resolution For The Market House

After nearly 15 years, the Market House is moving forward!

Like the Phoenix who rose from the ashes, the Market House in Annapolis will once again be a place to hang out, socialize and dine on inexpensive food.  With all the potential glitches now removed, residents and visitors can expect to experience the smells of what once was as early as January.

As everyone is aware, the Market House has been a dismal failure since Tropical Storm Isabelle blew through the area in 2003. First the existing merchants were thrown out. The replacement merchants snuck out. There were a few other iterations and now, while technically occupied, it is not performing to expectations.

Last month, Alderman Joe Budge introduced a pair of bills to streamline the process for a lease renewal and set the stage for a re-birth of a vibrant Market House. The current lease is up in December of this year; and now it is apparent that the Alderman is putting these requirements in place to facilitate another slight renovation with a new, long-term tenant in mind.

A source close to the negotiations disclosed that McDonalds Corporation has designed a new prototype restaurant which will fit in with the various historic surroundings throughout the country with little modifications.

We contacted McDonalds and while they could not discuss the specifics,  William J. Feeser (VP New Acquisitions) said, “We have successfully brought our product to market in non traditional sites. We have designed a new restaurant, actually branded a Cafe, to fit in almost any historical element including Annapolis. We are looking forward to working with Mayor Pantelides and Alderman Budge to bring this much-wanted addition to Annapolis in 2018.”

Harvey Blonder, a successful local businessman and one of the current tenants in the Market House has agreed to become a McDonald’s franchisee and will re-new the lease.

Our source at City Hall provided us with a draft copy of the proposed long term lease.  Some notable features of this lease include:

  • Initial term of the lease is 20 years with three options to renew
  • Elimination of parking on Market Space to accommodate a drive through
  • All leasehold improvements to be done by the McDonalds Corporation
  • Initial rental of the 2500sf space to be $75 psf, increasing to $225 psf in 2025
  • Installation of a pneumatic “meal delivery device” and remote ordering screen at the head of Ego Alley to accommodate boaters. This will be bored under the road to prevent traffic disruption.
  • A one time contribution to the City for capital improvements in the amount of $1 million
  • Subdued signage to blend in with the historical nature of the town and subject to HPC approval

The lease was executed early last week and does not need a public hearing since it is effectively a renewal of an existing lease. Feeser hopes to begin non-disruptive modifications immediately and make the brand switchover in late December.

Blonder spoke with us and expressed his enthusiasm. “We have tried many concepts here and this one is a winner. How many McDonalds have you seen that failed?” he asked rhetorically. “With increased competition, we needed to bring something unique to downtown. We have Chipotle, hot dogs, barbecue and countless chi chi places to eat, local residents and visitors are clamoring for familiar and convenient food.”

Local resident, business owner, Ward One President, and candidate for Alderwoman, Elly Tierney is excited. “We all know that what has been there has not worked. The most popular spot is the beat up old piano I helped put there last summer.” We asked about the prohibition of fast food establishments in the historic area. “Well, you do need to shift with the times. We already have Pips, Moe’s, Chipotle is coming, so it was a losing battle. We approached Sharon Kennedy (Chairman of the HPC and wife of current Alderman Joe Budge) at the semi-weekly WORA cocktail party two weeks ago, and after three shots of Fireball, she agreed and signed off paving the way for the new fast-food eatery.”

The Market House has actually cost the City nearly $12 million over the past decade, and Mayor Pantelides, who is running for re-election is thrilled.  “Look, it may seem like a political move to some, but I have my finger on the pulse of what the people want. I swept City Hall clean when I was elected, and I stand by my record.” We caught up with the Mayor early this morning asking for some more information, “Look, the City is for everyone. Young, old, black, white, etc. Right now, there are no options for a late-night snack for the 18-25 crowd when they come out of our great night-time establishments other than Mangia.  How great would it be to be able to sit in Hopkins Plaza at 230am eating a Big Mac?”  The Mayor continued, “Last night, I was supporting our local businesses and was at Harry Brownes, Galway Bay, Drummer’s Lot, Rams Head, Stan and Joes, ACME, O’Briens, Middleton Tavern, Dock Street and finished up at Dillos…let me tell you, I could have used a Double Quarter Pounder with Cheese. But I was relegated to stumbling [can you keep that part off record] to Mangia for a slice!”

Acting Police Chief Scott Baker echoed the Mayor’s sentiment but with a more practical viewpoint, “Ask anyone who lives downtown about the problem of people peeing, crapping and vomiting on their property–it’s horrible and a nightly occurrence. McDonalds will have more bathrooms and they are always clean–and this gives the late night revelers, of legal age or not, a chance to sober up a little before heading into Eastport and clipping the mirrors of parked cars.”

Most of the other City Council members are on board as well with the exception of Ward 4 Alderwoman Sheila Finlayson. She told us succinctly, “Look, if the Mayor is on board, I’m not. End quote.” Ward 5 Alderman, Jared Littmann supports the move but expressed his dismay that it wasn’t him who thought of it first.  We tried to reach Alderman Kenny Kirby at his home in Prince Georges County, but he was not available.

On January 1, 20187, the city will get $1 million from McDonalds Corporation. For the first two years, the rent is estimated to bring in $375k in rent.  And the remaining 18 years will realize more than $500K in annual rent. At the end of the initial term, the City will have received $11.5 million

The preliminary copy of the lease, along with artist renderings can be viewed here.

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