Mart 125 opened in 1986 as an indoor market providing local street vendors with an opportunity to be part of a brick-and-mortar, working rain or shine. Located at 252 West 125th Street, across the street from the legendary Apollo Theater and Victoria Theatre, it was an incubator for Black Owned Businesses selling unique items and food.
As this year comes to a close, we were more than delighted to hear a presentation at the CB10 meeting from NYCEDC on bringing Mart 125 back to life. While all of this is still in its initial stages, Fernando Ortiz, Borough Director for NYC EDC, and Olivia Arnow, Assistant V.P., Design & Construction at NYC EDC, gave those in attendance a view on where the project currently stands and where it is heading.
At the top of our list was the current condition of the building, which was deemed to be solid by a recent engineers report – although the roof has serious wear and tear, and as you would expect, the building is not currently up to code.
Inside, an initial clean-up of the main floor and mezzanine are a blast from the past on how the space was used, and what it might look like today.
Mart 125 was closed by the Giuliani administration in 2001, after serving eviction notices to many of its nearly 50 vendors.
Taking a broad look at the surrounding community, NYCEDC presented some research in the form of maps. The map below gives a sense of many of the cultural assets within a half-mile walk shed of the site.
The map presented below explores all cultural assets within a five-minute walk of the site.
Today, the empty and deteriorating building that once housed Mart 125 sits in the middle of a prosperous and more upscale 125th Street, with too many top brand name stores and restaurants to mention. Street vendors still line the sidewalks.
What’s next? NYCEDC will be working on costs and connecting with the community. They hope to circulate a survey in the winter of 2023 (with QR code in flyer above), in order to get a sense of what the community envisions for the historic space. A Town Hall Event could be planned for spring, 2023, presenting findings from the survey and a completed feasibility study.
While we wait, let’s take a step back before the documentary Mart 125: An American Dream, remembering producer/director Shawn Batey’s documentary, The Changing Face of Harlem (release date 2014) ~ giving viewers a good sense of what Harlem was like during that period of time ~ and what it lost since. (Look how young everyone is in her doc!)
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