Remington `ripe for discovery'


Working-class area nicely located with inexpensive houses

September 16, 2001|By Charles Belfoure | Charles Belfoure,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Never say never when it comes to neighborhood revitalization.

Thirty years ago, if you had said the working-class communities of Fells Point and Canton would be hot, trendy areas in which to live, filled with restaurants and young professionals, people would have laughed. But a neighborhood, no matter how unlikely, can become a thriving community.

It can easily happen to Remington, a rowhouse enclave with a lot more going for it than most people think, according to its residents.

"Remington's ripe for discovery," said Joan Floyd, first vice president of the Remington Neighborhood Alliance. "It has a great location, close to Hopkins, Interstate 83 and downtown." But, most important, said Floyd, are its affordable houses that range in price from the low $40,000s to $120,000. Some houses in need of complete renovation are on the market for well under $20,000.

But for most people, the word Remington conjures up a shabby, rundown working-class section that's the poor stepchild of up-and-coming Hampden, an adjacent neighborhood that was also once scorned as shabby.

The easy access to downtown and I-83 that Floyd describes also has been the neighborhood's Achilles' heel. Both 28th and 29th streets, the main arteries to the Jones Falls Expressway through the community, give the public a poor impression of Remington. A ramshackle collection of businesses, including body shops, bars and used car lots, are what thousands of drivers see every day.

"We'd like to see it look a little better," acknowledged Floyd, whose neighborhood association is working to get beautification grants to try to spruce up those streets.

There have been some improvements lately. The art deco building at 28th and Sisson has been renovated with new dark- green windows and doors, and the former F&M drugstore at 29th and Remington has finally been occupied by the Baltimore City Police Department's Warrant Apprehension Task Force.

The fact that the F&M building is being used has been a boon for the surrounding streets. "The police presence has helped with house sales," Floyd said.

But you have to look above and below 28th and 29th streets to see the real Remington with its wide variety of rowhouses.

At its northern end, which abuts Wyman Park and the Johns Hopkins University, are streets such as Cresmont and Wyman Parkway with the community's highest-priced residences, rowhouses built in the 1920s that fetch from $100,000 to $140,000. Huntingdon Avenue offers moderately priced houses that have sold for $30,000 to $60,000, and on Miles Avenue, fixer-uppers can be bought for $20,000.

Alex Smith, an agent in the Towson South office of O'Conor Piper Flynn ERA, has a three-bedroom, one-bath porch-front house under contract for $54,900 on 31st Street that, like a lot of streets in the western part of Remington, dead-ends into Wyman Park, making for a very quiet street. Smith is listing a three-bedroom, one-bath house on Huntingdon Avenue for $46,500. "There's been a lot more activity, lately," Smith said.

Both Floyd and Ward Eisinger, president of the Neighborhood Alliance, would like the city to help them make the public aware of Remington, especially its housing. "Hampden and Charles Village are in the limelight, but nobody's tried to market this area," Eisinger said.

There has been recent interest in the neighborhood by developers who are proposing a six-story, 47-unit apartment building behind the Papermoon Diner on 29th Street near Remington Avenue, a site where a nightclub was once proposed by Un Kim, owner of the Papermoon. Plans for the nightclub were abandoned and Kim is seeking to sell the land to the development company, but the parcel has to be rezoned.

While some residents see the apartments as a sign of revitalization, the alliance opposes the project. "The site offers many possibilities, and we are studying different approaches of using the site," Floyd said. One of the alliance's biggest concerns is the size of the building and its impact on a community that's made up almost entirely of rowhouses.

The neighborhood is also concerned about a recently proposed urban renewal ordinance that would touch upon the southeast corner of Remington at 27th Street. "We're in a study period about that as well," Floyd said.

As was Hampden, Remington was originally a mill town, heavily dependent on the factories along the Jones Falls. It also contained numerous quarries on its western side, including one operated by Hugh Sisson, the marble king of Baltimore in the late 19th century. Owner of the largest of the 41 marble works in the city, Sisson provided Baltimore with its most enduring image - the marble steps in front of thousands of rowhouses.

As industry prospered, Remington grew as well with the construction of large homes and estates - all of which have vanished. By the early 20th century, it was rowhouse development that took over Remington, giving its working-class residents then and homebuyers now a wide selection of styles and sizes.

Sometimes, it's just a false perception that keeps a neighborhood down. In Remington's case, according to Eisinger, it's what people see along 28th and 29th streets. And that perception is wrong, he explained, "Remington's worth a look."


ZIP code: 21046

Commute to downtown Baltimore: 5 minutes

Public schools: Margaret Brent Elementary, Barclay Elementary and Middle, Northern High

Shopping: The Rotunda, Tower Square

Homes on market: 5

Average listing price: $39,853*

Average sale price: $33,769*

Average days on market: 116

Sale price as percentage of listing price: 75%

*Based on 13 sales in the past 12 months, compiled by Metropolitan Regional Information Systems Inc.

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