Nancy Faidley Devine remembers sitting on barrels of terrapin her grandfather sold at his outdoor seafood stand in one of old Lexington Market’s sheds, before it burned to the ground in 1949.
She recalls helping her parents as a teenager when the family business moved inside the market and her father gained a local reputation for his fried fish sandwiches. And, of course, she remembers that day in 1987 when she decided to try making Faidley’s now-famous jumbo-lump crab cake, which she was sure would be too expensive to sell.
“It tastes just the same," said Devine, now in her 80s. "I don’t change anything.”
CIty officials hope to maintain that historic flavor of the country’s oldest continuously operating market with the planned new, $40 million South Market building, which will open in late 2021 on what’s now a parking lot. Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young and Gov. Larry Hogan joined Devine and other officials at a crowded groundbreaking ceremony for the project Tuesday.
Faidley’s will be among a mix of 50-60 current and new vendors selling fresh produce, meats, prepared foods, specialty foods and retail products in the new building, officials say.
For many years, Lexington Market was a culinary and social hub for Baltimoreans as well as a beloved destination for visitors all over, Hogan said.
“Sadly over the past 50 years, the market itself and the area surrounding the market experienced significant decline and economic disinvestment, which affected the ability to respond to the city’s diverse communities and residents," the Republican governor said. “That ends today."
The project is forecast to bring nearly 270 new jobs and a $351 million economic impact over the next decade, Young said. Vendor sales are expected to increase 40% with the new market building, the Democratic mayor said.
“This is how we build Baltimore better and stronger for the future,” Young said. “Lexington Market’s next chapter represents an incredible opportunity for our city, and it is essential that we support the equitable redevelopment and revitalization of this iconic hub for delicious food and home-grown entrepreneurship.”
Several of the city’s other public markets, including Cross Street Market in Federal Hill and Broadway Market in Fells Point, have undergone makeovers that refreshed the buildings and brought new offerings alongside some of the longtime vendors.
Founded in 1782, Lexington Market is considered the country’s oldest continuously operating public market, hawking everything from crab cakes and fried chicken to fresh fruits and vegetables, baked goods, candies and nuts.
The city chose Seawall Development, the developer behind R. House in Remington and Union Collective, to transform the market.
Here are some things to keep in mind as work gets underway
Where is the market? Lexington Market is at 400 W. Lexington St. on Baltimore’s west side. It’s near the University of Maryland, Baltimore, the University of Baltimore and downtown offices. There are Baltimore Light RailLink and Baltimore Metro SubwayLink stops nearby.
What will happen during construction? The market will continue operating in what is called the East Market, where most vendors have been since the 1950s. The Arcade building, put up in the 1980s, will be torn down and some of its vendors will move into the East Market. A new, 61,000-square-foot market will be built to the south, on the site of an existing parking lot and the Arcade site will be turned into an outdoor public plaza. Long-term plans for the East Market are yet to be determined, but it will be home to about 55 vendors during the construction.
What is the timeline? After construction begins Tuesday, the market will hold two rounds of applications for interested vendors. The first will take place from March to July and the second will be from August to December. The design and construction of vendor stalls is expected by June 2021. The new market is expected to open in late 2021.
Who is the developer? Seawall Development is handling the overhaul and leasing under a deal with the city. Seawall also developed R. House, Remington Row and Union Collective. The city began exploring options in 2014 and Seawall was awarded the job in 2018 through a public selection process. Baltimore Public Markets, a city entity, will retain ownership of Lexington Market and the five other markets in the city.
What will happen to the vendors? Seawall expects many current vendors to apply to remain in the market.
Where is the funding coming from? The project has secured the $40 million needed through public and private sources. 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 public grants were awarded.
Why now? There have been other efforts in the past to overhaul Lexington Market, but they were deemed too expensive or unworkable. This project is scaled back to a degree, making the building slightly smaller than what is there now. Many in the community have pushed for upgrades, as the historic market has faced infrastructure problems inside and crime outside. Federal limits on food stamp usage also cost some tenants their customers. A 2018 viral video of a rat scurrying around a display case in the market added insult.
Where can I get more information? See the Transform Lexington website.