On August 20, 2020, representatives from Seawall Development joined the Greater Baltimore Committee (GBC) for a discussion on the redevelopment of Lexington Market — the nation’s oldest continuously operating market.
GBC President & CEO Don Fry moderated the discussion. Panelists included Thibault Manekin – Co-founder, Seawall Development; Jon Constable – Development Manager, Seawall Development; Pickett Slater Harrington – Community Engagement Lead, Seawall Development; and Peter DiPrinzio — Director of Food and Beverage, Seawall Development.
The presentation covered market history, its iconic stature in Baltimore and the next chapter for Lexington Market, which is scheduled for an early 2022 opening. The presenters also addressed market design and construction, vendor selection and public safety.
Manekin began by recalling his own family’s memories of spending time at the market and noted that this project was “an amazing opportunity to help breathe a new life back into Lexington Market. I’m sure that everyone on this call who’s from Baltimore has some sort of Lexington Market story.” He added that “markets are places where everyone can come together under one roof. Our city needs that more than it’s ever needed it before. …Everybody has a responsibility to play an active role in helping to transform Lexington Market.”
Slater Harrington noted that “Lexington Market is a community icon. So goes Lexington Market, so goes the city of Baltimore. It’s that important of an iconic institution.”
The Seawall Development team stressed the importance the community would play in this project. “It’s been in Baltimore for nine generations. It’s this generation’s turn to transform the market and make it our own,” said Slater Harrington. “This is the largest small business incubator Baltimore has ever seen. We’re making sure we’re supporting vendors and the Baltimore community.”
With that in mind, Slater Harrington outlined three guiding principles. These were:
- Increase the variety of prepared and fresh foods while maintaining affordable price points
- Reflect the diversity of Baltimore and increase representation of Black-owned, women-owned and city resident-owned businesses
- Incorporate the best of Baltimore and Maryland food culture
“It should feel like Baltimore,” he said. “This is Baltimore’s market.”
As for preserving the market’s history, Manekin said the group had received a grant to help them research the history — both the positive and negative aspects — which will be displayed throughout the market, “almost as a museum experience” and perhaps, even as a self-guided interactive tour.
On discussing the actual building — whose best known feature is its shed-like arcade — Constable said, “Its history is its legacy. Everyone has the vision of the shed shape, so we wanted to adhere to that.” Constable also noted that the plaza would serve as a “wonderful opportunity for connection, for events. We want you to feel like you’re in the market before you’re in the building.” The plaza would be a community outdoor gathering place for events, live music, markets, fairs, etc.
The team also covered COVID response and recovery plans for the market. Some new offerings include smaller seating areas, more outdoor seating, carryout windows and the ability to incorporate online sales, pickup and delivery.
“It’s outlasted prior pandemics … completely destructive fires and it will outlast the current pandemic,” DiPrinzio said.
“The virus has not slowed us down from a construction standpoint,” Constable said. “Our contractor has taken a lot of preventative measures. Our team is doing an incredible job adapting to the situation.”
In regards to the vendor selection process, both Slater Harrington and DiPrinzio stressed how important it was that the entire process be equitable.
“It starts with spreading the word. Get the word to every corner of the city,” DiPrinzio said and added that businesses need to be individually successful, but collectively provide the best of Baltimore.
All the panelists stressed the importance of community involvement to help the market succeed.
“We feel very responsible to Lexington Market to help small businesses, particularly Black-owned businesses,” Manekin said. “Help fund these small businesses. …The more people throughout the city who feel like they own the market … the more traction this is going to get as it begins to take shape.”
Fry added, “Lexington Market is only going to be successful if all of us are a part of it and really work to make that happen.”
For more information on the future of Lexington Market and to download a vendor application, go to TransformLexington.com.
- BBJ: Lexington Market developers ask business leaders for financial boost
- The Daily Record: As construction continues, Seawall tweaks Lexington Market plan
- What does the future hold for the hospitality and tourism industry?
- Structural Racism in America: What is it?
- News Coverage of GBC COVID-19 Events