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2015 brought big changes to Baltimore

After years of planning, the Harbor Point mini-city at the old Allied Signal property off Philpot Street in Fells Point shot skyward.
After years of planning, the Harbor Point mini-city at the old Allied Signal property off Philpot Street in Fells Point shot skyward. (Barbara Haddock Taylor / Baltimore Sun)

This was a year when construction cranes pointed out the changes in Baltimore's neighborhoods.

After years of planning, the Harbor Point mini-city at the old Allied Signal property off Philpot Street in Fells Point shot skyward. The Exelon building took form and joined the Thames Street Wharf in what promises to be its own distinct part of the city.

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The complicated business of converting Fells Point's 1914 Recreation Pier on Thames Street into a hotel got underway. This fascinating endeavor, bankrolled by Under Armour founder Kevin Plank, involved major structural strengthening of the old pier and its bulkheads. It's a complicated project that will extend through much of 2017. I visited the site in September and predict that the pier's renovated head house will become one of Baltimore's most dramatic wedding and event spaces.

The Brewers Hill neighborhood had an interesting addendum. A former boiler house at the old Gunther Brewery on Conkling Street is on its way to becoming a new restaurant, called, appropriately, Gunther's Inc. When it opens, it will be a part of the larger Gunther residential complex.

The construction equipment came off the 10 Light Street building, built in 1929 as the Baltimore Trust Co. It's now apartments after serving as a bank and office building. Other downtown apartments also took shape nicely in the long vacant U.S. Fidelity and Guaranty buildings on Calvert Street.

I observed a number of new hotels open their doors this year. The old Keyser Building, long a commercial landmark at the southeast corner of Calvert and Redwood streets, opened as the Hotel RL. The old downtown YMCA on Franklin Street is now the Hotel Indigo. Its jazzy interior features references to Edgar Allan Poe.

The Mount Vernon neighborhood saw the scaffolding and cranes come down from a preserved and cleaned Washington Monument. Charles Street's Brass Elephant restaurant changed hands and spent much of the year being cleaned out. A few bocks east, at Calvert and Preston, the old William Painter mansion made a dramatic comeback as the Ivy Hotel.

The neighborhood also got a new food market on the ground floor of the old Hochschild Kohn department store's warehouse at 520 Park Ave. Attached its a stylish coffee emporium, Ceremony Coffee Roasters.

The Remington Row project at 2700 block of Remington Ave. rose over the summer and fall and will become medical offices. The neighborhood also got a gathering spot and eatery at Bar Clavel on West 23rd Street.

The Charles North-Station North area along North Avenue saw some of the most remarkable change of the year as both the Centre Theater and the Motor House opened. At night, the dramatic lighting returned to the Centre, built in 1938 as a movie theater. It now houses offices for Maryland Institute College of Art and the Johns Hopkins University, as well as Sparkypants Studio, a video game development firm, and other users. Joe Squared Pizza also worked away on its new location at North and Maryland avenues.

The Hampden-Wyman Park area experienced a dramatic physical change in the rebuilding of the Rotunda site. The former parking lot behind the old headquarters of Maryland Casualty Co. became an intensely developed grouping of apartments, stores, a movie house and a garage.

Hampden also saw a new group of townhouses in the 3400 block of Roland Ave. completed.

The final reconstruction touches were made in the rebuilding and landscaping of Charles Street alongside Johns Hopkins above 29th Street. At the same time, a new structure began rising at 3200 St. Paul St. in Charles Village. The first floor will be retail shops, and the complex includes a substantial garage and student housing.

It may not be in the same category as some of the other items I've mentioned, but I was delighted to stand by one evening this fall as the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Museum unveiled the restoration of a locomotive heavily damaged in 2003 when the museum's roof collapsed during a snowstorm. The 1875 J.C. Davis has never looked so handsome.

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