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Lexington Market Inc. seeks East Market overhaul proposals

Lexington Market

City officials hope that an overhaul of Lexington Market will spur a revitalization of Baltimore’s Westside neighborhood. (The Daily Record/File Photo)

Lexington Market Inc.’s board is seeking proposals to redevelop the East Market building that dates back to 1952.

Lexington Market Inc. wants to begin work on the 66,869-square-foot building in late 2021 after Seawall Development delivers the new $40 million Lexington Market on the lot next door. City officials said they planned on issuing a request for proposals to redevelop the East Market building during the groundbreaking for the new market two weeks ago.

“From a real estate perspective the building has great bones,” said Dave O’Donnell, the director of development for Lexington Market, adding that officials don’t want the property demolished. “We don’t want to see it vacant. That’s why we started the process now.”

Interested parties must respond in writing to Lexington Market Inc. in writing by 5 p.m. on July 1.

The East Market building is bounded by the Market Center Garage to the north, Lexington Street to the south, North Paca Street to the west, and North Eutaw Street to the east. The zoning designation for the area, Downtown Core Subdistrict, is among the most permissive in Baltimore.

The request for proposal also stipulates there’s no public financial assistance “offered or anticipated” for the project. Lexington Market Inc. does note in the request there are several tax credits available in the area.

There’s no specific purpose envisioned for the property, O’Donnell said. There’s a wide range of potential uses, he said, including office and incubator space.

“That’s why we have the RFP process, so it will give our board ideas,” O’Donnell said.

For years the city has sought to redevelop the historic market, located in downtown Baltimore’s Westside neighborhood. Once a draw for residents and visitors alike the market, which dates back to 1782, and neighborhood have declined over the course of decades.

The Westside was once the region’s premiere retail district, and home to major department stores as Epstein’s, Hutzler Brothers and Hochschild, Kohn & Co. Once those stores decamped as white residents fled to the suburbs following integration the neighborhood’s condition declined.

As the economy recovered from the 2008 financial collapse the Baltimore Development Corp. has aggressively moved to find developers for the scads of vacant, dilapidated properties in the area including the old Brager-Gutman building, the former Mayfair Theatre site, and properties that were once part of the so-called Superblock project.

In 2018 Baltimore selected Seawall Development to build a new market shed, which the city and Lexington Market Inc. hopes will revive the flagging landmark. Seawall, joined by Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young and Gov. Larry Hogan, celebrated the new market’s ceremonial groundbreaking on Feb. 18.

On March 8 Volunteers of America Chesapeake & Carolinas, Somerset Development Co. and New Community Partners will celebrate the completion of construction on the Paca House across the street from Lexington Market at 116 N. Paca St. The building, which provides 92 units of affordable housing, underwent nearly $27 million in renovations.

Lexington Market Inc., O’Donnell said, hopes the new market building, and eventually the repurposed East Market, will contribute to area’s resurgence.

“The new Lexington Market will be a catalyst for growth, and issuing the RFP allows us to leverage existing market assets to create opportunity to attract new residents, and jobs, to downtown’s Westside in a timely fashion while repurposing a Baltimore landmark,” O’Donnell said.

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