2005 might mark year we turned the corner

December 31, 2005|By JACQUES KELLY

I've been thinking of the spring of 1998, when I attended an emotional community meeting. It seemed then that Highlandtown's Eastern Avenue was falling apart, with too many vacant buildings and far too much fear. Things didn't look a whole lot better when, a year later, Haussner's restaurant shut down and its collection went under the auctioneer's hammer.

I thought: What next?

On a fine morning two months ago, I stood by this Southeast restaurant, which had just reopened as Dunstin's Steak & Seafood. I looked around. The old Patterson Theater was very alive and reborn as the home of the Creative Alliance. In the distance, blocks south on Clinton Street, Ed Hale's tower at Canton Crossing had joined the skyline. No sign of doom here.

I think 2005 was the year when I just couldn't keep up with the city's momentum, despite numerous attempts to see all the changes, additions and maybe observe a trend or two.

For starters, isn't the electric Mr. Boh atop the old National Beer plant just what we needed? I look back on 2005 and wonder if this isn't the year that despite Baltimore's troubles, we turned a major corner. Who would have thought there would be new houses going up at Calvert and Lanvale? Something major is going on at the old Waverly Press on Mount Royal Avenue. Northeast Baltimore is on a roll, too. And after a decade, Woodberry's old Poole & Hunt Foundry looks like a catalog of imaginative city living choices.

I made it to the harbor's Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture this year and spent most of an afternoon there. On the way back to catch a bus home, I spotted the new Best Buy store on Pratt Street. How many years has it been since you could buy name-brand electronic equipment downtown?

Not all in 2005 was perfect. I've grown tired of people complaining about the sculpture in front of Penn Station. Also, it wouldn't hurt if the people at Amtrak or MARC put up the money to paint the dingy window frames on the station.

On the topic of the new Baltimore, I seem to do my best investigative reporting after office hours. The other night I received an invitation to a residence on South Poppleton Street that stymied my best city directories, locator maps and knowledge of Baltimore geography.

It was a prime component of the new Baltimore: townhouses that have appeared near the old Koppers Co. site. Even my able cabdriver had trouble finding this new part of old Pigtown, which I think might have once been a coal yard.

After a couple of glasses of wine, and a large dinner with old friends, I sank into an easy chair and nodded off. When it was time to leave, the bracing December night air imparted a revivifying jolt. I glanced up at the sky and looked up at the cupola atop the B&O Museum, bright as a railroad lantern. It too has emerged triumphant from that snow of 2003.

jacques.kelly@baltsun.com

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