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Best week, worst week: Lexington Market closer to facelift; Red Line supporters further from transit solution

Supporters of downtown revitalization got a boost this week when the renovation of Lexington Market moved a step closer to reality while Red Line advocates continued to rail against state officials for canceling the $2.9 billion project.

On Tuesday, The Daily Record’s commercial real estate writer Adam Bednar reported that architectural firm Murphy & Dittenhafer Architects was awarded the contract for architectural, engineering and specialty consulting services for the Transform Lexington Market Initiative. The contract was awarded by Lexington Market Inc., a nonprofit corporation that runs the historic market on behalf of Baltimore. The project involves keeping the market operational while overhauling its structure to attract more customers and vendors.

The improvement project has been months in the making, but has now gained more traction. The request for proposal for the contract was initially issued in May. The first phase of the project will involve design, construction documents and construction oversight. In January, consultant Market Venture Inc. issued a report with its suggestions for improvements to the market. Those recommendations included suggestions that the market consolidate its operations into a single building. The report recommended folding operations into the East Market and keeping the market envelope but gutting the inside of the building and creating a flat floor that reaches from Paca Street to Eutaw Street.

Another scenario involved keeping the West Market and building a new facility on the Lexington Street side of the block. Under that scenario, the East Market would be redeveloped with complementary uses.

That same report also suggested the market make a change in the makeup of vendors. It urged a move away from prepared foods to providing more fresh offerings and reducing the number of vendors operating at the market. The goal laid out in the report calls for 25 percent of vendors selling staple foods; 35 percent selling specialty foods; 25 percent selling fast-food items; and the remaining 15 percent to be non-food vendors.

Meanwhile, city officials and congressional leaders who would have liked to have seen people traveling to a revitalized Lexington Market via the Red Line voiced their displeasure again this week that the mass transit project was killed by the Hogan administration.

Bednar reported Monday that Baltimore area elected officials continued to criticize  the decision during a meeting about the future of transportation in Baltimore and came away from the exchange not feeling very optimistic.

U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski, Rep. Elijah Cummings, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and others met at Maryland Department of Transportation’s headquarters in Hanover with Secretary Pete K. Rahn to discuss improving Baltimore’s mass transit system, but elected officials said they expected to hear alternatives to the canceled the $2.9 billion Red Line. What they got was more criticism over the decision in late June to cancel the 14.1-mile project that would have connected Woodlawn and Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center.

Mikulski, Cummings and Rawlings-Blake argued that the decision wastes 10 years and roughly $300 million spent planning the project and deprives the city of desperately needed jobs.

Hogan administration officials said it’s time for local officials to accept the decision, to stop complaining and to work with them to come up with alternatives to the Red Line.