Lexington Market could get a big face lift

$3 million proposal would add windows, balcony, lighted signs

April 06, 2000|By Tom Pelton | Tom Pelton,SUN STAFF

A $3 million face lift of downtown Baltimore's 218-year-old Lexington Market would add larger windows, lighted signs, a balcony for outdoor dining and a 45-foot-tall globe with a digital display reading "World Famous Lexington Market."

The renovation, which a city architectural review committee will begin reviewing today, is intended to make the market more attractive as the city helps lead a $350 million rebuilding of the struggling neighborhood around it. The panel will approve or reject the renovation in the coming months.

Hoping market thrives

"I think tourists who visit the market today are a bit disappointed because it doesn't look historic and it doesn't look world famous. It looks like a 1950s-style public school, with its large areas of blank brick walls," said Bryce A. Turner, an architect on the project.

"We are hoping that all of these changes will help the market thrive as part of the redeveloped west side of downtown," said Turner, a principal of Brown & Craig Inc.

Started as shed

The original market -- a collection of stalls under an airy shed at Eutaw and Lexington streets -- burned in a six-alarm fire in 1949. The air-conditioned brick and glass market opened in 1952. The city built a two-story, 20,000-square-foot addition in 1982.

The nonprofit Lexington Market Inc. plans to spruce up the interior by adding bathrooms, repainting walls, and adding lights and signs, said Leonard Jaslow, the organization's general manager.

The builders will add an old-fashioned-looking cornice along the roof, making the market look more like a 19th-century warehouse, Turner said.

Promoting food

Workers will place a 20-foot-diameter blue and yellow globe atop a 25-foot pole at Lexington and Eutaw streets. It will serve as a symbol for the market, and the managers hope it will communicate the idea that the market is "world famous."

Diners will be able to eat outside on a balcony on the south side. New windows and signs will send a clearer message to passers-by about foods for sale inside, Turner said. The project could start in October.

`Like Planet Hollywood'

When shown sketches of the proposed renovation yesterday, shoppers said they liked the new look.

"Looks like Planet Hollywood," said Eric Martin, 45, a janitor from Fells Point, making a comparison with the globe sign in front of the Inner Harbor restaurant.

"This sounds like a great idea," said Denise Jackson, a Census Bureau worker who stopped by the market on her lunch break to buy Chinese food. "The food here is still good, but the place does need a face lift. And this could bring a lot more people down here."

Cookie Carroll, owner of a jewelry stand in the market, said the only problem she saw with the design was the proposed balcony.

"It's a very good plan, but that balcony idea doesn't seem like it will work. Kids will throw food on passing cars," said Carroll.

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