Many have written off the commercial prospects of downtown Baltimore, particularly the area surrounding the historic Lexington Market. They’ve called the market a relic, pointing to the down-and-out individuals who frequent the area and drugs flooding the neighborhood.
But a new vision for Lexington Market may be around the corner, with market officials launching an online public survey targeting people throughout Baltimore’s neighborhoods and seeking input on plans for a major renovation of the landmark.
“I hope to see a good solid implementable plan,” Robert Thomas, assistant general manager of Lexington Market told the AFRO. “A plan that would facilitate the revitalization of the market as a vibrant public market that services a broad mix of customers.”
For decades, Lexington Market was center stage in the 400 block of West Lexington Street. It is one of the largest, continuously-run markets, offering consumers fresh fruits, vegetables and an array of seafood products since 1782.
In the market’s heyday, farmers came together to sell their goods and Lexington Market was a melting pot and destination for Baltimore’s various generations.
In his 17 years at the market, Thomas said he’s seen a lot of changes.
“There have been some structural and operational changes that have all affected the market,” he said. “It later became an incubator for immigrants it has continued to change and adapt.”
Redevelopment efforts for Lexington Market seek to maintain the authentic elements that make it a revered community institution, while also considering the needs of the growing downtown neighborhood, expanding local foods and farmers’ markets and the health needs of area residents.
“Improving Lexington Market is essential to the city’s efforts to support a thriving district for residents, businesses and visitors, while continuing to attract new investment,” Rawlings-Blake told the AFRO.
She said major capital investments are needed for the market’s facilities, and the city is “exploring new ways that Lexington Market can best serve Baltimore residents and people from throughout the region, regardless of economic status.”
“We are thrilled that so many people have taken the on-line survey,” Casper Genco, executive director of Lexington Market, said in a statement. “I think it shows how strongly Baltimore residents feel about Lexington Market and how much they want it to succeed.”
The mayor said 2014 appears to be a “breakout year” for the two-story market and the Bromo District—the area covering 117 acres around the market. She said her administration and the University of Maryland launched the UniverCity Partnership in 2011, the end result of two and a half years of planning and aimed at rolling out low-cost, high impact development actions.
She said investors and entrepreneurs are noticing the changes and buzz surrounding the market.
“We have vibrant, West African-owned cafes 1 block north of here (the market) and at Charles Center Plaza; Ethiopian restaurants 3 blocks northeast of here on Park Avenue; a vibrant Vietnamese restaurant called Mekong Delta 3 blocks east of the market on Saratoga Street; and a fantastic Indian restaurant called Mem Sahib attached to the market,” Rawlings-Blake said of Lexington Market.
“Anyone can see, food entrepreneurs are clustering around Lexington Market—our mission is to attract that type of quality food choices INSIDE our market,” added Rawlings-Blake