As hundreds of Remington residents rocked to live music Sunday, ate hot dogs and hamburgers, and lined up for free Baltimore City recycling bins, three longtime residents watched appreciatively and with a strong feeling that redevelopment will bring better days to a neighborhood that traditionally struggles against blight and crime.
"I think it's a great thing," said 57-year resident Debbie Mulligan, reflecting on plans that include a shopping center on the Anderson Automotive site at 25th and Howard streets, a new restaurant and butcher shop in an old tire shop across the street, and a mix of apartments and retail on Remington Avenue between 27th and 29th streets.
"We really have nothing here in this neighborhood," said Mulligan, standing with Pat Morales and Diane Hom at the corner of 27th and Sisson streets.
"No drugstore," Morales, a 50-year resident, chimed in. "We have to go to Hampden for everything. If we build it up, it'll bring jobs to the neighborhood."
As for legally stalled plans to build a shopping center with a Wal-Mart, "It would be very disappointing if they don't," Morales said.
On its face, the event was Rock Remington Clean II, the second annual community picnic and free recycling bin giveaway, co-sponsored by the Greater Remington Improvement Association, Seawall Development Corp., Johns Hopkins University, the transportation company CSX Corp., and the restaurants The Dizz, Charmington's and Sweet 27.
Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake was scheduled to attend, but sent a representative, who said the mayor was sick.
It was one of two community events in Remington on Sunday, as another Remington community group, the Remington Neighborhood Alliance conducted its annual school supplies distribution, this year at the Wyman Park Center, also known as Greenmount School, said Joan Floyd of the Alliance. The group gave out supplies either purchased and donated by members and friends, or purchased by volunteers with money donated by members and friends, Floyd said.
She said the group has spoken to Seawall officials about the need for a public pre-Kindergarten through eigth grade school in Remington, preferably at 29th Street and Remington Avenue, to "make education the heart of our community (and) the rising tide that will lift all boats."
At the Greater Remington Improvement Associuation picnic and recycling event, a stage was set up for three bands and 400 free bins with covers were distributed, which association president Judith Kunst said is important to promote cleanliness and help abate the neighborhood's rat problem.
"This is the first time I've seen recycling bins with lids," remarked City Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke, who attended the picnic along with City Councilman Carl Stokes.
Kunst said the association prides itself on cleanliness efforts and last year won a city Clean Community contest for a 6-month project to sweep streets and alleys, adopt community gardens and paint storm drains, among other initiatives.
Remington entered the contest this year, but is prohibited from being awarded first place because it won last year, Kunst said.
"We would have done it if we couldn't win anything at all, because that's who we are," she said.
CSX participated because it has a lot of railroad tracks and right-of-way properties in Remington, where people often dump mattresses, furniture and other trash.
"We love communities like this that try to work with us," said Sharon Daboin, of north Roland Park, CSX's resident vice president for state government and community affairs.
All eyes on Seawall
But the picnic was more than a recycling event. For those who attended, it was a sign of community spirit and hope for the future, as Seawall prepares to redevelop the 11-acre Anderson Automotive site, the former Mr. James Tire Shop on Howard Street, and a three-block swath of Remington Avenue.
On hand at the picnic were Seawall partners Thibault Manekin and Evan Morville, whose plans include redeveloping the tire shop as the future home of Single Carrot Theatre and a new restaurant and butcher shop to be run by restaurateur Spike Gjerde, of Woodberry Kitchen fame.
Plans to build 25th Street Station, a shopping center anchored by a Wal-Mart, may be dead, pending a court battle, because Anderson Automotive owner Bruce Mortimer banished the previous developer, Rick Walker of WV Developments, earlier this year, and announced he would sell the property instead to Seawall, which has not announced plans for the site.