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Historic Avenue Market gets federal funds for renovation

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Wanda Best, executive director of the Upton Planning Committee, speaking at the Monday press conference, with federal lawmakers and the mayor. Credit: Sarah Y. Kim/WYPR

West Baltimore’s historic Pennsylvania Avenue Market will be getting $2 million of federal funding for its renovation, a project that would cost about $10 million overall.

Maryland Sens. Chris Van Hollen and Ben Cardin and Congressman Kweisi Mfume joined Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott on Monday for the announcement.

Van Hollen said the renovation will provide Upton residents with better access to fresh, healthy food. The Avenue Market currently has only one fresh produce vendor.

“When you have food deserts and people don't have access to healthy foods, you have a less healthy community,” Van Hollen said.

He noted that the Avenue Market’s history dates back 150 years, and that Baltimore has the longest continuously operating city market system in the nation.

“Now it's time to breathe new life in the Avenue Market and to make sure that this historic place is part of a brighter future here in West Baltimore,” Cardin said.

Congressman Kweisi Mfume said this investment is of personal importance to him. He grew up three blocks from the market. This is also where he had his first job in the 1960s.

Mfume lamented the disinvestment the Upton neighborhood has seen over the years.

“It pains my heart when I see people act like it didn't exist, and doesn't exist,” he said. “We want to turn this back into a first class market so that it rivals any other market. We're going to have fresh produce and fresh food. People will come and have an opportunity to gather again, and all the things that were lacking are going to be put back in place.”

Wanda Best, executive director of the Upton Planning Committee, said that the market will be a “flagship operation.”

“We will make sure that the community is engaged in all aspects of the development of the Avenue Market.” Best said. “Personally, it's very dear to my heart. I've been a practicing dietitian for 40 years. So I expect to see more fresh fruits and vegetables in Central West Baltimore.

Mayor Scott said this investment will “return the market to its former glory and a glory it has never seen.”

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