For Policy not Poses

Market House Strategy


Photo by Jon Renaut

Well here we go again. Apparently without any open bid process, the City has selected a “professional facilitator” for the mayor’s market house “charette.” Apparently it will be the firm that specializes in “nurturing restaurant franchisors” that was hired as an expert witness for the litigation. See If so, maybe they’ll be great at it, but how would anyone know?

Although their report is being described by the City as “lessons learned,” that’s very misleading. Expert witnesses in trial have exactly one function — to show that everything bad that happened was somebody else’s fault (the mayor’s position on, well, just about everything). Until the litigation is over I can guarantee that they will voice no lessons for the City itself, which would come back to haunt them at trial.

UPDATE: According to Annapolis Capital Punishment, the City has now hired someone else to facilitate the charette:

I urge residents to watch this process closely and get involved. We are all stakeholders.

The charette is scheduled for May 30th from 10 until 2 in Council Chambers at City Hall. If you want to participate, you must be there at 9:30 to sign up. N.B. The Capital says 9 am, but the City’s web site says 9:30. See

There are too many variables and moving targets to say exactly what should happen next. The litigation with tenants is still scheduled for trial, and its outcome may have an impact on the Market House’s future. Additionally, there are people working on plans who should be allowed a full and fair hearing. For that reason I don’t want to be overly specific about what I want to happen. I recognize that there may well be better ideas out there than mine, and I do not want to discourage anyone from teaching me something. In general, I think the following is safe to say, however.

A new business plan for the market house will be prepared and published in the fall by the new city management team. The business plan should prepare for full occupancy of the market house and new tenants for successful and strong relationships with the city and finally acknowledge the learning curve necessary for building new businesses “from scratch.” It should include a strategic plan of 5, 10 and 20 year intervals.

A new solicitation will be issued to open up competition for new (and old) vendor owners. The new process will outline in great detail fair and open competition with explicit written criteria and time lines for occupancy, Above all, new merchants must be able to demonstrate their experience and commitment to excellent customer service and quality products.

Some years ago, the City attempted to turn McNasby’s into a watermen’s co-op. Regrettably it failed. But the landscape has changed since then. The buy-local and eat-local (“eat your view”) movements have achieved a much more widespread following. See To the extent possible, moderated by season and availability, all products sold in the market house should be sourced locally and identified as such for both local and tourist customers. They should represent the best products and quality available from our hard-working local farmers, watermen, and ranchers, and from our local farmland, rivers, and Bay.

A marketing plan should be drawn up and approved at multiple levels to include government and market house vendors on a regular basis.

To the extent possible, given the proprietary nature of the solicitation process, the business plan at every stage of development and implementation will be given its due treatment of transparency to the citizens of Annapolis through the internet, newspapers and other print media.

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