Pumping life into a no-man's land Midtown crossroads: Neglected southern fringe of Charles Village attempts a comeback.

October 27, 1997

THE AREA FROM North Avenue to 25th Street, between Howard and St. Paul streets, remains a veritable no-man's land. Not quite Charles Village, the community has tried to forge an identity for itself as a midtown neighborhood of mixed residential and commercial uses.

Attempts to pump life into the intersection of Charles Street and North Avenue, a key locale, have floundered. The North Avenue Market, which in the late 1920s was the city's largest, never recovered from a series of fires. The old Parkway Theater remains padlocked, with plans to convert it into a retail emporium seemingly on eternal hold.

A development team has won permission to construct a shopping center on a parcel in the 2000 block of Maryland Avenue. Once completed, it should complement a cluster of automobile-related service facilities that was built along Howard Street a few years ago.

More recently, developer Steve Kang has proposed construction of a $6 million Korean community center, complete with parking garage, ballroom and grocery store, at Charles and 20th streets. "It would be good for the Korean community. We would have something to call our own," he says.

Mr. Kang's venture acknowledges a stark dichotomy: While most of this region's Korean-Americans live in the suburbs, the midtown area continues to serve as the center of their ethnic business activity. Many Korean restaurants are there. So are the offices of their organizations.

Among Asian immigrants, Koreans were relative latecomers to the Baltimore area. In recent years, their numbers have soared. So has the number of Korean churches. This is a dynamic and hard-working community. The midtown area could reap great rewards from a Korean community center in its midst.

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