Karzai no longer part of Chesapeake project

Baltimore Sun photo/Gene Sweeney, Jr.

Qayum Karzai has pulled out of the partnership developing the former Chesapeake Restaurant space, and the previously announced plans for the project’s fine-dining restaurant have been scrapped.

The prominent restaurateur was the focal point of the plans that the project’s developers presented to the public when it purchased the property from the city last fall. The developers are looking for a new restaurant operator, or operators, for the property.

The sale of the Chesapeake and an adjacent lot was approved by the city's spending board last October. The restaurant site were sold to Station North Development Partners LLC developers Michael Schecter and Ernst Valery of Station North Development Partners LLC for $2.5 million, under the deal approved by the Board of Estimates.


Under the deal approved by the spending board, the development team was to pay the city $500,000 up front and submit 5 percent of gross receipts to the city until an additional $1 million has been paid. The developers will then pay 2.5 percent of gross receipts to the city until the full $2.5 million has been paid.

Valery said that Karzai had actually pulled out of the project in January but reconsidered, only to separate decisively in April. The news, Valery, said was known to his associates and to the Baltimore Development Corporation, which had been contracted by the city to manage the sale of the property.

“No one really asked,” Valery said when asked why the news had not been made public. “When he made the decision not to be a part of it, we just put our head down went back to work.”

Valery says the current plans for the property call for a retail-restaurant mix on the ground floor, with offices and studio space on the second floor. Earlier descriptions of the project included a restaurant operating on the second floor and a mixed market-dining environment on the ground floor similar to the project Bryan Voltaggio is now developing for Market Street in Frederick.

BDC president M. J. “Jay” Brodie discounted the suggestion that Karzai’s departure, and the scaling back of the project’s public spaces, amounted to a newsworthy change of plans. “The developers’ plans were to revitalize the area,” he said.

“We firmly believe that that the area is prime for retail and restaurants,” Valery said. “It's a challenging project, but we're working hard. What we've done so far is some minor miracles, and we hope to get this project off the ground.