Much of the attention given the Charm Ciity Circulator's Orange Route has focused on its ability to draw downtown Baltimore closer to the trendy Harbor East area. But there's another end to that route where the iimpact could be even more profound.
On the far western end of the free shuttle route is the Hollins Market (right) -- in a neighborhood that has long teetered between blight and renewal. There's not a lot there now -- the charming, down-home market itself and a couple of good restaurants -- but the city administration has high hopes that the Circulator coould make it a lunchtime desination for adventurous downtown workers.
The Sun/Michael Dresser
I found time Wednesday to duck out for lunch at one of those eateries -- Baltimore Pho. It's a Vietnamese restaurant that's well worth a visit for its $5-a-bowl lunchtime pho (a meal-size soup) and other delights you can't find downtown. Also worth a visit is Zella's gourmet pizzeria on the other side of the market.
Baltimore deputy transportation director Jamie Kendrick called Hollins Market "the hidden jewel" of the Orange Route and confirmed that the city had revitalization in mind when it charted the route. "That's exactly why we're going out there," he said. "Part of the idea is to add to the vigor of Hollins Market."
The market might be too far a run for workers on the east side of downtown (unless the boss comes along), but people whose jobs lie west of Charles Street might want to take advantage of the opportunity to explore one of Baltimore's colorful and historic neighborhoods without having to get the car out of the parking garage.
One kink the city needs to work out is keeping the Circulator on its schedule of 10-minute intervals. I ended up waiting 20 minutes for a return bus -- not an acceptable performance for those on tight lunchtime schedules.
But as Kendrick noted, the Circulator is still in its shakedown period. "We're learning every day," he said. The service's operators better learn fast because they'll only get one chance to make a first impression.