2007 Was A Year Of Renovation, Renewal Around Baltimore

December 29, 2007|By JACQUES KELLY

It has taken more than 30 years to see the void at Eutaw and Camden streets filled with the new Convention Center hotel. But it happened in 2007, a year when it seems that projects appeared in brick and steel after years as just ideas.

The west side of downtown Baltimore had plenty going on this year. So much happened that it caused me to recall nearly 35 years ago when the grand old Hotel Joyce was ripped apart. A wrecker sold some of its stained-glass windows to a neighbor of mine who outfitted his Lovegrove Alley carriage house with stuff from the hotel that once faced Camden Station.

That lot where the Joyce and other buildings stood remained empty for all those years. Now the Convention Center hotel is well on its way to completion.

The area around the old Steiff Silver plant in Remington/Stone Hill has been in a state of quiet change for decades now. It seemed to me that over the past 12 months, this secluded quarter of handsome old Baltimore suddenly began to spruce up quite a bit. I don't know if it's the Ace of Cakes people at Remington Avenue and 30th Street or the quality of the lima bean soup at Dizzy Izzy's bar and restaurant that has colored my impressions.

But in 2007, this neighborhood made leaps that Hampden (just to the north) made five years ago. The Stone Hill streets, which predate by many years the urbanization of Baltimore, are great for walking. If you close your eyes here, you might think are in a New England mill village.

Speaking of walking, there are subtle things about 2007 that could best be appreciated by pacing the alleys of Baltimore. I did more than a little snooping and spotted numerous examples of new back porches, screen enclosures, new windows and staircases to rooftop decks and saunas. The trend to add an additional story kept up, too. I thought Baltimore rowhouses were filled with enough precarious stairs, but I guess I'm wrong.

I never thought I'd live to see Key Highway extended through Locust Point. But 2007 made a believer of me. I also learned about the reality of putting condos in the old grain elevator off Fort Avenue in this part of South Baltimore.

There were changes near Pennsylvania Station. Once the work began, the old Parcel Post Station, a curious building later used by the city's housing department, didn't take long to be made into apartments. This building lingered for years in a kind of bureaucratic funk. Now, outfitted with cleaned-up windows and paint, and new interiors, it's become a showpiece. I hope the residents like the sound of railroad engines and their bells.

I'd like to remember 2007 as the year that a handsome apartment house was completed at Charles and Preston streets. Let's hope this is the project that injects some new energy into the Mount Vernon neighborhood. I have a feeling, however, that 2007 will be recalled as the year that Starbucks Coffee outlets embraced Charles Street big time. Now what about Federal Hill?

jacques.kelly@baltsun.com

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