Why the Federal Hill Hospitality Industry is Excited About a Redeveloped Cross Street Market

| February 10, 2015 | 1 Comments

Cross Street MarketThe Federal Hill Hospitality Association (FHHA) has been vocal about the need for a redeveloped Cross Street Market for many years and they will soon get their wish as an RFP was released in January for its redevelopment. SouthBMore.com caught up with FHHA President Brian McComas, who is also part of the ownership group of Ryleigh’s Oyster and Crossbar, to see why the condition and future of Cross Street Market is such an important issue to the FHHA.

Tell us about the history of the Federal Hill Hospitality Association (FHHA) and who is a member?

The FHHA was started in 2008 to better organize the hospitality industry of the Federal Hill business district for the purposes of marketing and promotion, as well as enhanced government and community relations. The FHHA is comprised of roughly 20 restaurant and bars, representing the single largest industry in the area with an employee base of more than 500+.

Why has the condition of the Cross Street Market been such an important issue to the FHHA? 

Most who are familiar with the Cross Street Market would agree that it has been in decline for many years and, contrary to what some believe, we feel it is very important to the FHHA and the neighborhood as a whole. Times have changed as have the demographics of the Federal Hill neighborhood and ultimately the market’s customer base. The market has not “evolved” and thus it has suffered both in retail sales and its overall appearance. As reported, recent studies have indicated that the Federal Hill area is filled with a customer base consisting of young professional to empty-nesters who are ready, willing and hungry to support the right concept.

What physical changes and vendor changes would you like to see at the market?

We will leave the specifics to the developers but it is our opinion the market should be the “center stone” in the diamond ring. Everything should revolve around the market. With that said we feel that the market needs more natural light and better access between the market connecting both sides of Cross Street. We hope this includes some green space, an atrium of sorts or something to set the center off a bit and maybe be the key crossing point to get from one side of the market to the other.

Would the FHHA support turning the unit block of East Cross Street into a pedestrian-only area to enhance the Cross Street Market?

This has been discussed for many years and if the market truly becomes the “center” of it all then closing the streets from say 5pm Friday to 12pm Sunday would make perfect sense to us. It happens in many other cities and it is something that truly brings people together in what could resemble a European Plaza of sorts. How great would it be to see bars and restaurants setting out tables and residents gathering, walking dogs, eating, or just walking thru to socialize a bit!

One would assume that an updated Cross Street Market would likely include more sit-down dining options. Are there ever worries the Federal Hill food scene could get too saturated? Or is it simply the more the better?

No worries what so ever. In fact we are counting on the market to raise the food and beverage scene to an all new level in Federal Hill. Places like Eataly in NYC and Union Market in DC are the way today’s world enjoys interacting with hospitality. It is our belief that Federal Hill is perfectly positioned to be one of the top “food neighborhoods” in America and that a revitalized Cross Street Market would seal the deal for us to be recognized as such.

A ‘world class’ market in Federal Hill would likely attract many more out-of-town visitors to the area. How could this be a benefit to the FHHA and the area business community as a whole?

When Federal Hill becomes home to a World Class Market, it will in my opinion help everyone in the entire business community. The daily foot traffic alone will increase because of improved hours and seven days a week access. Also with the advent of programming like the Food Network and Travel Channel to name just a few, everyone is interested in food and beverage socially like never before so not only will we get the “travelers” who are visiting Baltimore,  but I believe the “local tourists” coming in from just outside the city will increase as they become curious and want to explore what is happening on the Hill!

Your group now owns three Ryleigh’s Oyster locations and is currently building Crossbar. Are there any other future locations planned? And, when can people expect to have their first stein at Crossbar?

We are always on the lookout for future locations that fit the Ryleigh’s Oyster concept and we have some ideas that may or may not end up in the new market. Ironically our last two locations in Hunt Valley and Mount Vernon have sort of found us so I would say we are happy where we are right now, with lots of work ahead and plenty of motivation to keep improving. As for Crossbar, we should be opened up in mid to late May and we look forward to being a part of the exciting times ahead in Federal Hill!

About the Author:

Founder and Publisher of SouthBmore.com, longtime resident of South Baltimore, and a graduate of Towson University. Diehard Ravens and O's fan, father of three, amateur pizza chef, skateboarder, and "bar food" foodie. Email me at [email protected] and follow me on Twitter at @SoBoKevin.