Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Greater Lexington Market: Finally Its Own Superblock

Perhaps the second most challenged part of Downtown's Westside is Lexington Market. The honor of being first goes to the "Super Block" of course. For decades, there have been ideas to improve the public market and its surrounding areas and most if not all of them have fallen flat. Lately, there have been initiatives to reinvest in or redevelop public markets in the City. The one that's been getting the most news has been Cross Street Market in Federal Hill. There are also plans going through the pipe line to redevelop or revamp Hollins Market and Broadway Market. Lexington Market originally would be getting a $2 Million Face Lift.
Now Lexington Market may finally be getting the chance it so desperately needs. Plans are now on the books (but funding isn't) to completely redevelop the market. The price tag for this tear down and rebuild is estimated at $40 million, a far cry from giving the existing building a face lift at a mere $2 million. When this part of the City is given a gift like this, it requires thinking big. If Baltimore is getting a brand new Lexington Market, what will that mean for its surroundings? Will the demand for other uses go up? I personally believe so, and I think the four square blocks immediately surrounding the market deserve a master plan so that they may be redeveloped and/or rehabbed as the Lexington Market Superblock.
The Center Point for this new Super Block will be the intersection of Lexington and Paca St. and will have the borders of Greene St, to the west, Fayette St. to the south, Eutaw St. to the east and Saratoga St. to the north. The current redevelopment plan involves building a brand new building just south of the current one, extending Lexington St. between Paca and Eutaw St. and putting in a park where the current building stands. Although I largely support this plan especially the park since this part of the City severely lacks green space, I don't feel that extending Lexington St. would be appropriate as this separates the market from the park. I would like to see the two linked together without a major thoroughfare separating them.
Just south of Lexington Market in the 400 block of Fayette St., demolition crews are making way for another redevelopment project. This will help bridge the current perceived gap between UMB and Lexington Market. The planned building, called "University Lofts" will feature 230 market rate Apartments in a 12 story building with ground floor Retail. The 500 block of Fayette and the 100 block of Greene St. has been handsomely rehabbed and redeveloped as "University Square at Fayette Courts." No further work needs to be done in this area of the Lexington Market Super Block.
The south side of the 500 block of Lexington St. and the west side of the 100 block of Paca St. are both in need of investment. Given that these are buildings are traditional row house style architecture that appear to be in relatively decent shape, I don't see a need for demolition and redevelopment. Instead, I envision these buildings being rehabbed completely and the end product resembling the newly rehabbed 300 and 400 blocks of W. Baltimore St.
Perhaps the most dramatic transformation of this Super Block is the northwestern end of it. This is currently a very short parking garage with a few Retail bays scattered throughout it. Before the economy crashed, there plans to build three high rise Apartment and Condo Buildings with 100 units each and 23 town homes over top of the existing garage. The ill-fated development was to be known as "The Residences at Lexington Market." Originally, I was all for reviving this very ambitious project.
Although bringing new Residences to the area is something that is desperately needed, I would like to revamp the plans and bring something to the area that I think will better complement what is already there and what is proposed to go there. Rather than keeping the short parking garage, I would demolish the whole thing and start from scratch. Since this particular area doesn't have high rises, I would prefer something mid-rise in the 5-7 story range. Although this new Residential building will have a parking garage, I would like to see the building wrapped around it. ground floor Retail will be present along the Lexington and Paca St. sides while the ground floor Saratoga and Greene St. will remain Residential. I envision the end result something akin to the new Jefferson Square at Washington Hill Apartments.
The final part of the Super Block is the 400 block of Saratoga St. more specifically the south side. and the 200 block of Eutaw St. Currently this block is dilapidated row house Retail. I personally think the new Lexington Market should have a Hotel attached to it and the front of this new Hotel should located on Saratoga St. in the 400 block as well as the 200 block of Eutaw St. The existing parking garage will stay and will provide parking for both the market and the Hotel.
Although this covers the reinvestment and redevelopment of the Lexington Market Super Block, there are still numerous areas around these blocks that can and should benefit from it. Examples include but aren't limited to Saratoga St. east of Paca St. and the west side of the 200 block of Greene St. both of which are surface parking lots. The Lexington Market redevelopment currently only includes the market itself. When looked at comprehensively as a Super Block, it shows that four surrounding blocks and then some are ripe for reinvestment and redevelopment to complement the Market itself.


cnunn85 said...

Cool idea. I hope that the face lift or rebuild actually happens. I also wonder if it would be a good idea for State Center to be relocated to the old MetroWest facility on Greene St. It would definitely go a long way in increasing foot traffic in the area. That, in turn increases the potential number of customers to the shops of Lexington Market, as well as any new shops created in the new development that you've described.

Spence Lean said...

I was planning to write a post discussing the state offices moving to Metro West and how it will impact the area.