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Renovation of Baltimore’s Lexington Market moves forward after $40 million in financing is secured

The developer renovating Baltimore’s Lexington Market, the longest continuously operating public market in the country, has secured $40 million in needed financing, and construction will begin this year, officials announced Monday.

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Baltimore Public Markets, a city entity that owns Lexington Market and five others across the city, tapped Seawall, the developer behind R. House, Remington Row and Union Collective, to lead the redevelopment effort of the market on the West Side of downtown on behalf of the city.

“The revitalization of Lexington Market will be an important catalyst for economic development and investment in Baltimore’s downtown and western neighborhoods,” Baltimore Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young said in a statement. “This historic public market has long been a center for food access and culture in our city and this vital project will set it up for success long into the future.”

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The financing for the project includes an $11.3 million loan from Fulton Bank; $9.5 million in New Market Tax Credit equity investments from Cinnaire, Enterprise Community Investment, Harbor Bank and U.S. Bank CDC; $9.4 million in state grants; $7.3 million in city grants; and $2 million from Lexington Market, Inc., according to Seawall. Separately, Enterprise Community Loan Fund provided a $7.7 million bridge loan to fund construction until the state and city grants come through.

The market is expected to remain open during the construction, according to the project plan, which was approved by the City’s Urban Design & Architecture Advisory Panel in May.

While some vendors eagerly await the revitalization they hope will attract new customers, others have closed up shop. The owner of Mary Mervis Delicatessen, a market staple that opened in 1913, told The Baltimore Sun last month that the deli lost customers and sales after the unrest over the death of Freddie Gray from injuries suffered in police custody in 2015 and was hurt by a change in federal rules that made it ineligible to accept the food stamps used by many regular customers.

All tenants in the market’s 1980s-era Arcade section will move to empty stalls in the older, maze-like East Market later this month. The Arcade will be razed beginning in February and replaced with an outdoor plaza. A new South Market will be built on an adjacent parking lot, filling the block between Paca and Eutaw streets and opening onto the plaza.

The East Market will remain open until the new structure opens in 2021, then will be redeveloped in a later phase.

Colin Tarbert, board chair of Baltimore Public Markets, said the city has spent many years determining the best path forward to revitalize the market.

“With the closing of financing for a project plan that we all know will take the Market confidently into the future, it is amazing to see this important transformation get the concrete financial support it needs to come to life,” Tarbert said in a statement.

Seawall, which built Remington food hall R. House, has been sharing its plans for the market with current vendors and community groups since it was selected by the city to redevelop Lexington Market in October 2018.

“This is an opportunity to prove that a single building can unite an often-divided city, provide launchpads for under-represented entrepreneurs, and be a catalyst for further inclusive economic development in the area,” Seawall partner Thibault Manekin said in a statement.

The next community meeting, focusing on the environment and safety in and around the market, is planned for Feb. 5.

Baltimore Sun reporter Lorraine Mirabella contributed to this article.

UPDATED 2:45 p.m. Jan. 8. This story was updated to accurately reflect the name of the Enterprise Community Partners affiliate involved in the financing.

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