City Councilwoman Mary-Ann Baldwin had some rare public criticism for a downtown landlord who she says isn’t doing enough to develop the landmark City Market property.
Baldwin’s remarks came during a council meeting this month when Hakan Market Partners sought a permit for a new grease trap. The council approved the permit, but Baldwin had strong words about the company’s work at City Market.
She said she’s not happy with how the 1914 buildings alongside Moore Square have been managed as the rest of downtown has seen rapid growth. She’s particularly concerned about the former Greenshields Brewery space fronting Martin Street; it’s been vacant since a 2004 fire shuttered the popular night spot for good.
“It’s a totally underutilized property that really impacts the entire area where the market used to be,” she said. “It’s owned by out-of-town folks who really don’t care. The developers involved in this have such a laissez-faire attitude. ... It has been disappointing, and at some point I hope they will step it up and really reenvision that market.”
Five of 24 retail spaces in City Market are currently listed as vacant on the property’s website. Hakan began renovations to the former Greenshields building in 2008, mentioning a Brazilian steakhouse as a possible tenant.
Gary Greenshields, who owned the brewery bearing his name, told The News & Observer that he never reopened after the fire because Hakan wouldn’t fix a leaky roof.
Hakan bristled at Baldwin’s criticism and sent the councilwoman an email. “You made comment to the public under the mistaken belief that I am an owner who cares not about the condition of City Market,” Hakan wrote.
Hakan noted that while he does live in California, he’s a Chapel Hill native who visits Raleigh monthly to oversee the property.
“In the years since Greenshields closed, there has been no one more energetic in trying to obtain a suitable tenant for the central Market building than I,” he wrote. “I have been promised ‘results’ by more than one leasing company, and have consistently offered the property for lease on the terms these leasing professionals have given me as ‘fair market.’ ”
Hakan says he’s spent $750,000 to renovate the building and establish Cobblestone Hall, the event rental space in the back of the Greenshields building. And he’s spending another $500,000 on the front 5,000 square feet for a restaurant and catering business, which he said will open this spring.
He blames the city for failing to respond to his requests for assistance in developing the site. “There are reasons that it has been difficult to attract credible tenants to a large unique space such as the City Market building ... most of them are related to city government and policies,” he wrote.
Hakan requested a face-to-face meeting with Baldwin to discuss the issues, and the two are scheduled to get together this week. But in her response, Baldwin says she stands by her critique.