Baltimore's six municipally-operated markets may be a throwback in time. But they also are a unique asset. No other American city boasts such a comprehensive network of neighborhood markets where people can buy fresh produce, meats or fish from a merchant who greets them by name. Robert L. Kinsey's family has been selling veal and lamb from the same stall at Hollins Market since 1889.
Now comes a proposal from a group of merchants at Northeast Market to buy that 105-year-old brick building, recently renovated at the cost of $2.75 million, from the city for $1 million. That way, the merchants argue, they will be assured that the city will not eventually sell the building out from under them.
We hope that the Schmoke administration has the foresight and fortitude to declare in no uncertain terms that neither Northeast Market nor Belair, Broadway, Cross Street, Hollins or Lafayette is for sale. Considerable amounts of public funds -- and management time -- have been spent to upgrade those markets in recent years. With the exception of Lafayette Market, each is now doing quite well, a fact which is reflected in the steadily declining subsidies from city coffers. Any tinkering with the municipal market system at this point could deal a fatal blow at efforts to revitalize nearby inner-city neighborhoods.