Who would have thought that an old automobile repair and tire shop promises to emerge as a theater, restaurant and small office building? Look for the Single Carrot Theatre to move into enlarged permanent quarters at the corner of Howard and 26th streets, an intersection now on target to become a new arts and eating destination.
Things are looking up in the Remington neighborhood, which has been on a steady climb for the last decade. This unpretentious working-class community adjacent to Hampden and Charles Village has been displaying signs of change for years. I've watched new families move here. I've seen streets grow cleaner.
That change was obvious the other morning, when I met with Single Carrot actors Elliott Rauh, Jessica Garrett and Nathan Cooper at a coffee and lunch spot named Charmington's opposite their new home. Being a skeptical Baltimorean, I thought that a small restaurant like this might not be busy. I was so wrong. It was packed; obviously this is a place where people want to be. Even though I live two blocks away, I had not counted on the drawing power of a well-renovated cozy spot.
Rauh, the Single Carrot managing director, who also performs, told me, "We've been looking for a new space for 41/2 years." He explained that while his theater troupe achieved a good presence on North Avenue near Howard, across from Joe Squared Pizza, it was ready to relocate to a truly permanent address, closer to theater patrons and schools. Arts education is part of the Carrot mission. He calls it "arts-integrated community-building."
"We were hesitant to leave North Avenue, but all of a sudden the light bulbs went off," Rauh said. "Look at the streets around us in Remington. These are future members, our patrons. Single Carrot has always had a deep relationship between audience and actor. There we can reach out to schools — to Barclay, Margaret Brent and GreenMount."
I got to know Single Carrot four years ago after Doreen Bolger, head of the Baltimore Museum of Art, invited me to a performance. I recall speaking that night to attorney Robert Bowie and recognizing a fair number of friends in the audience. I subscribed. And while I didn't always understand the plays, I met the amazing Carrots themselves and recognized them as Baltimore arts apostles. Their affection for and loyalty to Baltimore is infectious.
I was even more impressed when they began buying houses and living nearby on Whitridge Avenue and East 28th Street.
Members of the troupe met as students at the University of Colorado. They moved to Baltimore because they thought that it was the best city in the country for the art it wanted to produce. They adopted the city with the zealotry of converts.
"I think Baltimore's neighborhoods are the greatest in the country; well, make that anywhere," Garrett said.
There's another powerful force present. The Seawall Development Co. made things happen at 26th and Howard in 2008 when it converted a moribund cannery and shoe factory into the Residences at Millers Court, apartments targeted to young teachers. Seawall did not stop there. It renovated adjacent homes and took on the redevelopment of the 2800 block of Remington Ave.
I spoke with Seawall's Evan Morville, who said the old garage opposite Miller's Court will be renovated according to the federal historic preservation standards. He too is optimistic about the neighborhood's arts potential and will be partnering with the Maryland Film Festival on the renovation of the long-closed Parkway Theatre on North Avenue. That is in the future. Construction for the Single Carrot's new home will begin next year.
As for the restaurant at 26th and Howard, Morville said it's well known in the Baltimore market but declined to release its name. "I'll leave it there," he said. "The restaurant will be awesome."