Eastern Market, Annapolis, and Site Realty

Eastern Market, Annapolis, and Site Realty

What’s worse than having an historic building burn down on your watch? Setting up business on quicksand.

That’s just what Site Realty, d/b/a Market House Ventures LLC (MHV), did in Maryland’s capital, at the city’s historic Market House. That’s the same crew that the DC government pays to manage Eastern Market, only they call themselves Eastern Market Ventures (EMV) for that purpose. I guess negotiating the Annapolis deal and the resulting fiasco explains why Eastern Market’s “managers” were never around, even when Eastern Market was on fire.

Real estate deals, even with public entities, occur in rat-hole darkness, so facts are always in dispute if not slightly odiferous. It appears that Annapolis had an agreement with Dean & DeLuca to anchor a newly-refurbished Annapolis Market House (established 1698) along the lines of the Georgetown D&D (3276 M Street NW). There were corporate problems at D&D and the deal fell through. The other merchants who were parties to the D&D contract were legally prohibited from participating as principals on their own.

Enter Site Realty. Based on their record of managing DC’s historic Eastern Market, not yet on fire, Site incorporated MHV and got the contract to manage the Annapolis facility. MHV worked with the city’s Director of Central Services to choose tenants, including several bakeries and confectioners.  Bakeries have ovens; ovens produce heat. The market’s new A/C could not keep up. The confectionaries threw out the melted fudge and left; prospective customers melted and left. More businesses closed, and the city closed the market.

Example of good market management: the Annapolis mayor has a communication from Site/MHV asking that HVAC repairs be delayed until January 2008 so the work would not interfere with peak tourist season.

Example of good management responsibility: Site Realty filed a Christmas Eve lawsuit against Annapolis asking $2 million in damages because the Market House HVAC system wasn’t fixed.

If you need a business example of “chutzpah,” unmitigated gall, look no further.

There were other areas of dispute — MHV claims it wasn’t allowed to rent outside space to vendors and the city says this wasn’t in the contract — but it was never clear whether the market was intended for residents or tourists, and it ended up pleasing neither. Mostly, though, this seems to be a familiar story of city market managers out of their element, unwilling to attend to the day-to-day tasks required and quick to blame everyone else for the consequences of their own neglect.

Statements about MHV and the Market House by Annapolis Mayor Ellen O. Moyer will sound familiar to anyone conversant with EMV and Eastern Market:

I’m sorry they think that we are doing whatever we can to foil them,” Ms. Moyer said. “But I think they put themselves in that position. I think probably Site is doing everything in their power to see that those who they have contracts with don’t perform well.

They pay little attention to their merchants and they do very little to work in partnership with the people they are the landlords of – that’s been my experience.”

EMV still holds the management contract for Eastern Market. I’m sure EMV congratulates itself for all the work actually done by DC Government and the Eastern Market community in keeping the market going while the original building undergoes multi-million-dollar restoration. The EMV contract expires in June and DC government will shortly solicit bids for an expanded management contract.

One of the strongest recomendations to emerge from last week’s community meeting on Eastern Market management was that the city be prepared to manage Eastern Market directly in the event that the bid process is delayed for any reason whatsoever.

The people in the room disagreed on many things, but no one wanted EMV at Eastern Market a minute longer than contractually necessary.

Image by Mike Licht. Whither Eastern Market?

 

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3 Responses to “Eastern Market, Annapolis, and Site Realty”

  1. Fact, Fire, and Fiction at Eastern Market « NotionsCapital Says:

    […] to the roof. Uncollected trash, especially cardboard, had long been an issue between merchants and Eastern Market Ventures, the management contractor for city-owned Eastern […]

  2. Eastern Market — Fresh Hours, Stale Management « NotionsCapital Says:

    […] OPM has declined to do so. An extension of EMV’s contract will be signed Monday.  EMV was in charge of the market when the original building was destroyed in a fire and, under another name, has been […]

  3. Holiday Housecleaning at Eastern Market « NotionsCapital Says:

    […] tanked (it’s happened before). Recently EMV, reconstituted as Market House Ventures LLC, ruined the historic Annapolis Market House; Eastern Market was gutted by fire on EMV’s absentee […]

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