Filling gaps downtown

Northern edge: Mercy Hospital expansion shows construction spreading beyond Inner Harbor.

November 15, 2001

AMID THE BAD news and uncertainty, it's easy to overlook signs of a fundamental change in downtown development: For the first time in decades, a flurry of construction activity is taking place north of Baltimore Street, along the Calvert Street corridor.

Most encouraging is the mix of intended uses.

Mercy Hospital's $110 million expansion plan includes a new seven-story outpatient center and an 800-car garage to be built on currently vacant lots.

But while those additions will take five years to complete, several other projects are already under way in the vicinity:

The Munsey Building, near the Court House complex at Fayette Street, is being converted into 150 apartments.

Another 77 apartments are slated for 222 Saratoga Street, a long-vacant office building that once was the headquarters of the city's housing department.

Across the street, the old House of Welsh restaurant is being turned into a night club.

At St. Paul Place, the 15-story Stanbalt landmark tower, which once housed oil company and state offices, will be a 202-unit apartment building.

All these projects are too advanced to easily fall victims to economic uncertainties. Once they are completed, new residents will bring life to an area that is now largely deserted outside office hours.

Downtown is on the march northward. As development gaps are filled, the Calvert Street corridor all the way to Mount Royal Avenue will benefit. Restaurants will have more customers; retailers and service providers will thrive.

Beyond the Calvert Street corridor, other spokes radiating from downtown are showing new signs of life.

Exciting plans are in place for Charles and Howard streets as well. Meanwhile, office construction continues near the main post office on East Fayette Street.

Construction cranes are always a sign of confidence. They are particularly welcome now to counterbalance unsettling economic news.

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