Avenue Market in West Baltimore gets $2 million in federal funding – CBS Baltimore

BALTIMORE (WJZ) – Market Avenue in West Baltimore is receiving $2 million from the federal government for renovations, local officials said Monday.

Cherrie Woods, director of marketing and communications for Baltimore Public Markets, the nonprofit that oversees five of the city’s six markets, said the building is undergoing a top-to-bottom renovation, including including the reconstruction of 30 stalls and the creation of a hub to improve access to healthy food.

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Plans for the renovated market include event space and a demonstration kitchen, Woods said.

No Boundaries Coalition, a West Baltimore advocacy group, is the only vendor currently offering fresh produce, according to a list of sellers on the market site.

“Everyone in the state, everyone in the city, everyone in Best West Baltimore deserves access to fresh, healthy food,” Sen. Chris Van Hollen said. “And we know from common sense, but we also know from a mountain of evidence that having access to healthy foods does of course lead to healthier lives and healthier outcomes.”

The neighborhoods immediately surrounding the market have been designated as priority areas for healthy eating, according to a 2018 report from the Planning Department and the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future. In these areas, the availability of healthy foods is low, the median household income is at or below 185% of federal income.
At the poverty level, over 30% of households do not have a personal vehicle and the nearest supermarket is over a quarter of a mile away.

“For us, it’s more than just grabbing an apple, we do workforce development,” said Ashiah Parker, CEO of No Boundaries Coalition. “It’s a gathering place, it’s a place where young people can see that this is my community and that I should love it.”

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Located in the 1700 block of Pennsylvania Avenue, the market dates back to 1871, when it was known as Lafayette Market, according to Baltimore Public Markets.

After a fire in 1953, the sellers moved into a shed until a new building opened four years later.

In 2019, the state designated the Pennsylvania Avenue Corridor as an Arts and Entertainment District, providing tax incentives to attract artists and arts organizations. In its heyday, venues like the Royal and Metropolitan Theaters and social venues like the Arch Social Club, Bamboo Lounge, Club Casino, and Club Tijuana hosted black artists and musicians.

“This area was once the beating heart of a thriving, middle-class black community,” said Mayor Brandon Scott. “Our residents here have lived through decades of disinvestment in neglect. But we are gathered here today to say that those days are over.

Representative Kweisi Mfume said he got his first market job in 1965, when at 16 he dropped out of school to help care for his sisters after their mother died.

Bagging groceries, shining shoes and other jobs, he said, gave him an appreciation for the community — a community that suffered three years later during the unrest following the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. .

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“We want to return this market to a top market so that it rivals any other market,” he said. “We’re going to have fresh produce, and fresh people coming in and having the opportunity to come together again, and all the things that we’ve been missing are going to be put back together.”