BCL To Administer Funds To New Lexington Market Vendors

February 23, 2021

(From the Baltimore Business Journal)

As construction proceeds on a modern, $40 million rebuild of Baltimore’s historic Lexington Market, its developer is partnering with local institutions to provide loans and business support to the market’s vendors.

The financing for the newly announced Lexington Market Accelerator Fund will come from the University of Maryland, Baltimore, whose graduate campuses surround the iconic public market, as well as the T. Rowe Price Foundation, and potentially other foundations and lenders. The $1 million fund will provide a broad range of loans, from $10,000 to $150,000, with interest rates of 5.25% to 7.25% to vendors.

In addition, loans will come with “technical assistance support” for businesses old and new, provided by the community development financial institution Baltimore Community Lending and the social enterprise-supporting organization Innovation Works.

Seawall Development, which is spearheading the market’s redevelopment, had teased plans for the accelerator last summer while appealing to Baltimore business leaders to help support Lexington Market’s new group of 50 to 60 vendors.

Peter DiPrinzio, food and beverage lead at Seawall, said in a statement Tuesday that the fund “is a first-of-its-kind type of support that provides loan products that many small business owners, especially women and people of color, unfortunately have a hard time accessing at reasonable rates.”

Any financing from the fund will come with “significant tenant construction allowance” for building new stalls, and the money can also be put toward other pre-opening expenses. The assistance comes as Seawall is building a brand new, glass-enclosed market on the site of the now-demolished Arcade building, and amid a mix of excitement about the redevelopment and concerns that legacy vendors — many of them run by minority entrepreneurs — will be left out of the mix.

Baltimore Community Lending has been active in supplying grants and other financing to small businesses throughout the pandemic. The organization has worked with the Baltimore Development Corp. and received hundreds of thousands in grant funding to funnel to local businesses from large banks like Truist and Bank of America.

Baltimore Community Lending will administer the funds to the selected vendors.

Bonnie Crockett, Baltimore Community Lending’s director of small business lending, said in a statement that the “Small Business Lending innovative loan program was intentionally designed around the primary barriers to credit for small businesses in Baltimore City by supporting new and emerging small businesses typically shut out of traditional lending resources.”

Seawall is currently in its second round of accepting vendor applications, due by March 19. A selection panel chose 20businesses in the first round that ended in October and drew more than 160 applications. Twenty to 30 more are due to be chosen this time around.

Vendors have been operating in the East Market building since work on the new two-story, 61,000-square-foot market began last spring. It is still set to debut in early 2022, per today’s announcement.

By Ethan McLeod, Associate Editor, Baltimore Business Journal