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Picnic paints a picture of Remington as a hot neighborhood

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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.

Seawall has unveiled plans to redevelop the 27-2900 block of Remington Avenue with three separate projects, based on suggestions from residents ranging from day care and doctor's offices to apartments, a health club and an art gallery.

In the 2700 block, a "hodgepodge" of 10 underutilized and vacant properties, including several storage lots and an old church, would be torn down to make way for a five-story, U-shaped building, with 8,500 square feet of retail on street level, 130 affordable rental apartments above, and 177 parking spaces, 127 of them underground and 50 in the building itself.

In the 2800 block, Seawall would redevelop the Anderson body shop as 21,000 square feet of retail, as well as 101 parking spaces, some of which would be inside the building.

In the 2900 block, two existing buildings would be redeveloped with 28,000 square feet of retail and commercial space. A Pizza Boli's would be razed for additional parking.

"If the community wants a barbecue joint, I'm going to find the best barbecue joint I can find," Morville told 50 people at a recent community meeting Saturday. He said he envisions the projects as "neighborhood retail," with no big-box stores planned, but did not rule out chain stores.

Seawall is well known for redeveloping the old Union Mill in Hampden and the former U.S. Census building in Remington, now called Miller's Court, as affordable housing for new teachers and nonprofit offices.

Seawall is also rehabbing numerous row houses in the area so that its teacher tenants can buy them eventually as first-time home owners.

Looking toward the future

With Halloween more than two months away, Remington resident Erin Haithcock Goodloe was already handing out fliers at the picnic for the neighborhood's annual Hauntingdon party and recruiting volunteers.

Goodloe, an eight-year resident, is excited not only about the Halloween party, but also about Remington's new-found status as a hot, up-and-coming neighborhood.

"I've always thought Remington was great and I'm thrilled other people are acknowledging it, too," she said.

Kunst said Remington residents would turn out for events like Rock Remington Clean and Hauntington, whether or not redevelopment was coming. But she said plans for the neighborhood's future certainly don't hurt and that she is trying to rebrand Remington with slogans such as "Making Remington Better," on canvass bags that she is giving to her association members.

"I think (redevelopment is) an exciting motivator," she said.

Councilman Stokes, who lives in nearby Barclay, said Remington doesn't need much motivation, because it as "an old-time neighborhood," where residents look out for one another and come together for various projects.

Stokes said he doesn't think a redeveloped Remington will become a victim of over-gentrification, as some people say Hampden has become. He predicts "Remington-ification."

"I think we'll get a mix of new people and they will fall in line with the traditions of the neighborhood," he said.

"I think it's very positive that we're going to get new development," Clarke said. "We just have to make sure housing remains affordable."

"I hope it's not as bad as Hampden. I liked the old Hampden," said lifelong Remington resident Tina Brady, picking up a recycling bin. But she said in concept, she supports redevelopment.

"It's just bringing the neighborhood up," she said. "For a long time, the neighborhood was down."

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