Mayor Martin O'Malley announced yesterday the kickoff of a $3.5 million face lift for Lexington Market, which he envisions as a social and economic anchor for the soon-to-be-revitalized west side of downtown Baltimore.
O'Malley said his administration's efforts to persuade more people to live in the new housing units being built downtown hinge on providing them "a place to shop, someplace with character, someplace to draw people together."
Indeed, bankers and developers involved in the west-side redevelopment plan see a newly renovated market as a key piece of the project.
The original Lexington Market, a collection of stalls established 219 years ago at Eutaw and Lexington streets, burned in 1949. The current brick-and-glass building opened in 1952, and a two-story addition was built in 1982. Minor upgrades have been done since 1982, but the market has shown signs of aging.
Larger windows, wider entrances and new stalls, signs and lights are part of the face lift.
The most notable change will be the addition of many new windows and the removal of the market's signature red-and-orange awnings which, market officials decided, cast too much darkness on the bustling market. Those awnings will be replaced by a lattice of iron girders and red awnings.
Financing will come from a combination of loans and state grants. The city will not have to pay any of the costs. Struever Bros., Eccles & Rouse outbid five companies for the contract. Construction is expected to take 11 months. The market will not close during renovations.
A few hundred people attended a kickoff celebration yesterday, lured by a four-piece rhythm-and-blues band and free peanuts, part of a marketing campaign for the market renovations: "You'll go nuts over the progress."