After being closed for nearly 10 years, the historic St. Roch Market is set to reopen in the spring as a fresh-food retailer with multiple vendors and a restaurant.
The city plans to enter into a lease agreement with Bayou Secret LLC to operate the city-owned building at St. Claude and St. Roch avenues.
The search for a tenant has been underway for nearly a year. Last fall, the New Orleans City Council approved a cooperative endeavor agreement with the New Orleans Building Corp., giving the nonprofit agency the ability to begin hunting for a lessee for the site. The NOBC contracted with the real estate firm Corporate Realty to line up tenants.
The NOBC has decided that Bayou Secret, whose owners include the founding members of the downtown collaborative workspace Launch Pad, provides the best bet for meeting the city’s goal of finding an operator who “could both operate the property in a manner sensitive to the community’s needs and who had the expertise and financial wherewithal to make the market an economically viable venture,” the city said in a statement.
The NOBC, which operates as the city’s real estate development arm, is expected to sign the lease agreement in the next three weeks.
The proposed lease agreement is for 10 years. Under the terms of the deal, Bayou Secret will pay the city a fixed rent of $3,500 per month for the first three years. That amount will jump to $5,000 a month for years four through seven and then to $6,500 a month in the final three years. The company will have the option to renew the lease for 10 additional years at a rate of $8,000 per month for the first five years and $9,500 per month thereafter.
The lease specifies that the space must be used to house a “full-service neighborhood restaurant” and a fresh-foods market with multiple vendors “in a stalls concept.”
“It is important to the (city) that the fresh and prepared foods market concept remain intact and that such market is designed and operated to be an asset to, and used by, the St. Roch community,” the lease agreement reads.
The St. Roch Market, once a bustling space where vendors sold fresh seafood and po-boys, opened in 1875 as an open-air marketplace. It was enclosed in 1914 and was renovated by the Works Progress Administration in 1937. The city leased the space to a private owner for use as a seafood restaurant in 1945. The market fell into disrepair over the years and has been closed since it flooded in 2005 after Hurricane Katrina.
Will Donaldson, a managing member of Bayou Secret, said the company plans to return the market to its “original intended use.”
“After several months working with the neighborhood, we’ve formulated a plan to create an entrepreneurial hub for community development, provide affordable food options and (offer) educational resources for the St. Roch community,” Donaldson said in a statement.
The market has undergone a $3.7 million renovation. A mix of Community Development Block Grant and FEMA funds paid for a roof replacement, exterior masonry repair and replacement of the 8,600-square-foot market’s finishes, flooring, exterior windows and interior doors.
The renovation was designed to leave the space as a “white box” so as not to limit potential uses. Bayou Secret will be charged with completing the interior development to accommodate its needs.