Established in 1782, Lexington Market is a Baltimore landmark and one of the oldest existing markets in the world. From 2020 to 2021, the historic market will be undergoing major renovations. IHB member Pickett Slater-Harrington, who founded the social change design firm Joltage, sheds light on how the redevelopment project will incorporate the visions of both community members and institutions.
Throughout his career, Pickett has worked closely with a mix of nonprofits, governmental and for-profit entities. And when it comes to community development, he’s noticed a disheartening pattern.
“The thing that I kept seeing no matter what…was this disconnect between community and institutions,” Pickett says. “They never developed mutually beneficial relationships and partnerships.”
That’s why he founded Joltage in 2010, a social change design firm that bridges that disconnect between communities — particularly communities of color — and institutions. Originally founded in Cincinnati, OH, Joltage relaunched in Baltimore in 2018.
“A lot of my work is making sure resources flow back and forth between those two groups,” he says. “A lot of the times communities try to go at it alone and a lot of the times institutions try to go at it alone. And when you go at it alone you’re never as successful as when you go together.”
Currently, one of Joltage’s biggest undertakings is leading the community engagement efforts connected to the redevelopment of Lexington Market. Baltimore officials announced that they intended to spend $40 million renovating the historic market last year. Overseeing its redesign is Seawall Development, which also built R-House, a popular food hall in Remington. Seawall contracted Joltage to design and lead their community engagement process.
Some Baltimore residents have raised concerns about how inclusive the renovated market would be to those in the surrounding community, particularly black and low-income residents. As part of that process, he’s formed working groups. Made up of community members and professionals, these groups are organized around specific topics, like safety and environment. “The only way to get a thriving successful market is if the community around the market is thriving and successful,” Pickett says.
Pickett credits Impact Hub for helping him better understand Baltimore. Pickett, who is from South Carolina, lived in Cincinnati for 10 years before moving to Maryland. He settled down in Baltimore in 2018. Though he arrived just a year ago, it’s a city that he now calls home.
“The thing that has helped us to grow and scale is connecting to places like Impact Hub,” he says. “It’s deeply connected to both communities and institutions…it’s one of those natural places in communities where different people collide and feel comfortable being in that space.”
Leading Skillshares is one way that Pickett has been able to strengthen his network in Baltimore. He also moderated the third and final event in Impact Hub’s SOCAP365 series this past July, focused on co-creating with communities.
“Impact Hub has a culture that’s open and accessible, equitable, and it holds a place that’s unique in Baltimore. And we need more places like this,” Pickett says. “My greatest hope is that Lexington Market will be a place like that… a place where people feel like this is where I belong, and this is where I can connect and be.”