HAMPDEN IS ONLY 10 minutes from downtown Baltimore, but the old Jones Falls Valley mill village has retained a distinctive small-town character. Now things are picking up on 36th Street, the community's Main Street, which has gone through some rough times.
The old Sandler's department store, at 36th Street and Roland Avenue, is undergoing major reconstruction that has eradicated all the memories of a Goodwill outlet that occupied the space in recent years. Within months, the refurbished landmark building will become an operations center for the Royal Farms chain.
Across the street, New System Bakery, which closed earlier this fall, is reopening as a bakery and bagel shop. A few doors away, Mamie's Cafe, which took over the long-troubled Hampden Mall last year, is doing brisk breakfast, lunch and dinner business.
These are among changes strengthening Hampden. There are still plenty of vacant storefronts, but "the Avenue," as locals call 36th Street, is showing much promise.
Newcomers drawn by comparatively cheap housing prices and rents are adding variety to Hampden's blue-collar character. Businesses are trying to meet the demands of the changing age and economic mix. Hampden now boasts a used book store, several art galleries and a widening choice of eateries, from Cafe Hon to gourmet sandwich shops.
For years Hampden has fallen short of its promise as a reinvigorated urban village. If the current momentum can be maintained, this intriguing community that borders Roland Park and the Johns Hopkins University may finally witness a renaissance.
Pub Date: 11/10/97