Although it is unknown who the next tenant of the Market House will be, there is one thing that is certain—the project needs money.
"Everyone wants to see the Market House as a crown jewel," Mayor Josh Cohen said on Friday at a weekly meeting of the Anne Arundel County Delegation.
But making the Market House a crown jewel isn't cheap.
Cohen appeared before delegates from Anne Arundel County to make a pitch in support of House Bill 1220, which would provide state funds to help the city pay for renovations to the troubled property.
In February, the City Council passed a resolution asking the county delegation to support the bond bill in the state legislature, which would provide $300,000 that the city would ultimately have to match.
Much of the funding would go to updating and replacing the HVAC system, which is in dire need of repairs, according to Cohen. He added that the unique nature of the building, and its close proximity to other businesses, makes the fix a costly one.
"[The] HVAC is by far the biggest cost of the renovations," said Cohen. "We want to provide at least a basic working shell [for a possible tenant]."
Cohen also informed delegates that the City would be partnering with the Annapolis Economic Development Corporation to perform a study that would analyze the economic viability of the property, as well as how best to move forward with the new request for proposals (RFP), since Gone To Market, LLC. has dropped out of their lease.
But now that the Market House is without a definite tenant, some delegates were wondering why the funds were still being sought after— especially since an economic viability study has yet to be performed.
"It concerns me that you're asking for 300 (thousand) before your own commission has determined the economic viability of the Market House," said Delegate Herb McMillan (R-Annapolis), who served on the City Council from 1997 to 2001.
McMillan said he thinks performing the study prior to the state approving the funding only makes sense, adding that bond bills are for "shovel-ready projects."
"This is like a shoot then aim type of approach," said McMillan in a phone interview. "Usually we aim, then we shoot."
However, the mayor's administration believes that performing some renovations prior to the RFP is vital to attracting the best bidders.
"The City needs to get the facility up to a commercially reasonable standard to attract a range of viable bidders for the RFP," said Phill McGowan, public information officer for the city of Annapolis, in an e-mail. "The renovations that are proposed by the city would establish a baseline of sorts, and this process would allow the City to defer to proposed operators to pay for additional improvements over and above what the City is providing."
But McMillan,who serves as the Chair of the Capital Projects/Bond Bill Subcommittee of the Anne Arundel County Delegation, wasn't the only Delegate to have doubts about giving the city the funds.
Delegate Ron George (R-Annapolis), who owns a jewelry store on Main Street, said he still has many reservations about the bill. Additionally, he believes that some bidders in an RFP may be willing to foot the bill for the proposed renovations.
"I believe in an RFP, there will be people willing to make those changes, and also we don't know exact costs," said George. "It's not a definite no, I'm being open and I'm studying it."
Another hearing for the bill is scheduled for March 12 at 9a.m.