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Seawall Development to lead $40 million Lexington Market overhaul

Thibault Manekin, right, speaks Wednesday as Kirby Fowler and Mayor Catherine Pugh look on. (The Daily Record / Adam Bednar)

Thibault Manekin, right, speaks Wednesday as Kirby Fowler and Mayor Catherine Pugh look on. (The Daily Record / Adam Bednar)

Seawall Development will steer a planned redevelopment of Lexington Market that’s expected to cost up to $40 million and break ground late next year.

Mayor Catherine Pugh, Lexington Market Inc. Board Chairman Kirby Fowler, and Seawall Development Principal Thibault Manekin announced the agreement at City Hall on Wednesday. Baltimore will also issue a request for proposals for the west parcel block bordered by Paca, Saratoga, Greene, and Lexington streets to help finance the project.

“We really believe that re-imagined real estate can unite cities, and of all the projects we’ve ever had the opportunity to work on this is the one that’s going to prove that the most,” Manekin said.

Lexington Market Inc., the quasi-public entity that runs the market, expects to break ground on the redevelopment in late 2019 with construction taking about two years. Seawall has been working with the city to refine the development plan since earlier this year. The company signed a developer consultant agreement with Lexington Market Inc. on Tuesday.

Lexington Market

(The Daily Record/Maximilian Franz)

By refining the development plan Lexington Market Inc. hopes to ensure the market’s financial viability. Efforts to reassess plans for overhauling the site include making sure the redesigned market is the correct size, incorporates sustainability and energy-efficient features, and opens Lexington Street for pedestrians and for use as a farmers market. Seawall will also lead efforts to renovate the east market for potential new uses as well as community and vendor outreach.

Baltimore will also seek a new user for the west market parcels owned by the city and currently leased by the Lexington Market Inc. It’s hoped the request for proposals will draw interest from new tenants that will allow Lexington Market Inc. to maintain the $700,000 in net profit derived from those properties, with escalations.

Lexington Market, through various sources, has cobbled together $17 million for the development. The organization, with the backing of Pugh, is seeking federal money to help close the funding gap. The entity is also seeking private donations.

Seawall Development, which was started by Thibault Manekin and his father Donald Manekin in 2007, has garnered a reputation in Baltimore as a community-friendly developer.

The company’s first project transformed the century old  H.F. Miller and Son Tin Box and Can Manufacturing Plant into the mixed-use Miller’s Court development in Remington. That project features apartments with discounted rents for teachers and amenities such as a resource room for educators to make copies and handle tasks.

Miller’s Court’s coffee shop, Charmington’s, is owned by a worker’s co-op. Former President Barack Obama visited the cafe in 2014 to promote a proposal to guarantee workers paid sick leave.

Seawall redeveloped the Union Mill in Hampden using a similar model to Miller’s Court. The firm also redeveloped a block of rowhomes in Remington with the idea that they would attract teachers in their apartment buildings who wanted to invest in Baltimore. To date the firm’s biggest project is the $80 million mixed-use Remington Row development.

But the project that attracted Lexington Market Inc.’s attention is R. House.

Seawall completed the $12 million redevelopment  of a historic former car showroom at Remington Avenue and 29th Street into a launching pad for aspiring restaurateurs. R. House has become one of the most popular dining and gathering location in North Baltimore.

An early rendering of Seawall Development's R. House project. (submitted illustration)

An early rendering of Seawall Development’s R. House project. (submitted illustration)

“We wanted to be neighbors and not guests in the community,” Donald Manekin said in a 2014 interview. “We want to find ways that real estate can enhance the value of communities in a holistic sense.”

Recently the city and the Public Markets Corp., which oversees operation of five of Baltimore six public markets, have launched efforts to revitalize those assets.

Northeast Market, near Johns Hopkins Hospital, underwent a $1.6 million interior and exterior remodel in 2013-2014. the markets corporation has teamed with Caves Valley Partners to complete a roughly $7 million overhaul of Cross Street Market.  Both sheds of the Broadway Market in Fells Point are undergoing a $5 million redevelopment. War Horse Cities LLC plans to redevelop the Hollins Street Market, but needs to close a $3.25 million budget gap for the $5 million project.

But Baltimore and Lexington Market Inc., have struggled for years to redevelop the aging Lexington Market on downtown’s Westside. A viral video posted this summer of a rat scurrying around a case of baked good underscored the urgency of addressing the market.

Andrew Bertamini, Wells Fargo regional president, and Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake celebrate the bank’s new branch at Lexington Market. (The Daily Record/Adam Bednar)

Andrew Bertamini, Wells Fargo regional president, and Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake celebrate the bank’s branch opening at Lexington Market. (The Daily Record/Adam Bednar)

Redevelopment efforts started under Pugh’s predecessor, former Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake. Market Ventures Inc. produced a study in 2013 examining the best way to redevelop the market. Roughly two years later, the firm recommended a complete overhaul of the historic market.

Later in 2015, Murphy & Dittenhafer Architects were selected to provide architectural, engineering and specialty consulting services for the Transform Lexington Market Initiative. Whiting-Turner Contracting Co., in association with Mahogany Inc., was chose in December 2015 to serve as construction manager.

The Rawlings-Blake administration unveiled plans in late 2016 to redevelop the market, demolishing the east market structure and building a new market on the south parking lot. But the cost of that proposal quickly escalated from the initial $35 million to $40 million price tag to about $50-60 million. Seawalls plans call for a smaller building on the south lot and maintaining the east market building, saving $10 million to $20 million.

“We just didn’t have that kind of money,” Fowler said.

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