Baltimore City officials will tell potential contractors Wednesday morning how they want to turn the historic Lexington Market into a “food destination” for the region. And that’s causing a bit of concern to be mixed in with the usual buzz of activity at the market.
Mike Houvardas, owner of Berger’s Bakery, says he and other vendors would like to see details of what is being planned. “What they are going to do and what’s going to affect us,” Houvardas says.
Last month, market officials issued a Request For Proposals, seeking ideas to broaden the customer base and the food offerings as part of a $25 million facelift at the Baltimore landmark.
Peter Murphy comes to the market every Monday from Prince George’s County to eat oysters and clams at Faidley’s while his wife shops. He says talk of a facelift troubles him because he likes the market the way it is. “I’m thinking to myself that there must be some improvements involved,” he adds.
Officials with Baltimore Public Markets Corporation, which operates the city’s six markets, say they are going to keep Lexington Market the same as it has always been. Executive director Casper Genco says that they are just going to improve it, add more product choices and expand the customer base. “The RFP is for a consultant to put together a team of people that can present to the board of directors and the city a comprehensive approach to moving Lexington Market forward and becoming a true food destination resource for the city of Baltimore and really for the state of Maryland and even for the people who visit Baltimore,” said Genco.
City officials say 2.8 million people visit Lexington Market each year. According to surveys conducted in 2004, the majority of market patrons are between the ages of 25 and 44 with household incomes between $25,000 and $50,000 a year. The survey also notes that the patrons in the $50,000-and-under category spent the most per visit, especially those that came by public transportation. The market is served by a Metro Subway, Light Rail and several buses.
Gregory Scruggs, operator of the Pure Shea Store, which sells natural soaps and bath products, says that he is seeing his customer base expand. “The market has seen a little bit of a turnaround over the last 10 years,” Scruggs says, adding that some improvements need to be made. “They have to do better with controlling some of the undesirables that come through the market on a regular basis. Once they get that done, we should be alright.”
About 20 different groups are expected to have representatives at the meeting at the Benton Building. Proposals are due in July with the contract expected to be awarded in the fall.