It didn't take me long to find Key Highway's new extension. The joggers and the cyclists have discovered this important stretch of the well-known South Baltimore thoroughfare that is not yet open to traffic. Watch out when the barriers come down.
A smooth ribbon of asphalt now wraps around the backside of a once-industrial Locust Point neighborhood. In only a few years, it has become a land of amazing new houses and stylish, glassy apartments.
The four- and five-floor rowhouses have built-in garages and bathrooms the size of a small republic. These places communicate a robust confidence in the city. The builders seem to be saying that buyers will pay for all this, even if the freight trains still run nearby at night.
It was on one of those magical summer nights that I took my walk and snooped along the new Key Highway. There was the scent of the milling sugar from the Domino plant.
I stood on the oversized deck along Tide Point and gazed across the harbor at an expanse of Baltimore prosperity. There was no hint of the homicide rate here. Nor was it the sentimental, nostalgic Baltimore of marble steps and corner taverns.
I looked across a railroad yard and observed the major additions on the former Fort Avenue grain elevator. It was a case of seeing and believing. After all the news articles saying that this was going to happen, it has. Sign me up to take a tour of the grain elevator model apartment.
Over the years, the city has made strides -- and often stumbled, too -- but the advances seemed piecemeal: a spot here, a nice thing there. But on this night, the harbor seemed rather nicely crowded with new homes. All the pieces are interlocking. Baltimore has certainly achieved critical mass in this ZIP code.
OK, the views from Federal Hill Park have been badly compromised by all this construction. But down on the water's edge, looking up and around, it dawned on me that Baltimore's harbor development is off and running so much that the wide-open vacant spaces of the 1980s and 1990s will one day be viewed as a curious, pleasant but passing phase of city history.
Real estate agents should do their best selling in the July sunset, as the harbor lights are coming on. It would be hard not to be a convert to urban living in a setting like this.
The new stretch of Key Highway runs along the railroad tracks. Baltimore should always remember its solidly industrial roots. I think those who settle like the idea that there are still some smokestacks, even if they don't work anymore. And as for desirable urban amenity, how about an unobstructed view of the Domino Sugars sign?