This was the year that a sleek and tall apartment building rose at 414 Light Street. A striking addition to the Baltimore skyline it occupies a revered place in the harbor. The apartment was constructed on the site of the old McCormick spice plant, one of those Baltimore institutions recalled for the ever-present scent of cinnamon. It was also a long time coming. The McCormick site has been a parking lot since 1989.
Light Street got another new arrival — One Light — which occupied the site of the Southern Hotel and Chesapeake and Potomac Telephone Building, as well as the old Southcomb hat shop on Baltimore Street. The design incorporated the mansard-style room and walls of the former Thomas and Thompson drug store, which had a once-renowned soda fountain.
It was a curious year for the old commercial heart of the city. I watched as these new sizable structures arrived, bringing new residents and corporate businesses. But I wish I could report these rest of the old downtown appeared as healthy. The site of the Morris A. Mechanic Theatre remains empty. There are too many empty shops along what were once busy commercial corridors too.
It was sad to say goodbye to Brett Nunnally at South Baltimore’s Cross Street Market. Nunnally, whose family has sold beef and pork — and later chicken — at the venerable city market since 1875 in a time-honored Baltimore way, left his stall in early November as the market gets renovated into a food hall retail setting. I admired that Nunnally remained a staunch traditionalist.
“I’ll never sell red wine when I’m selling beef,” he said in a reference to the blurring of retail selling distinctions in the festival marketplace setting destined to replace the old Cross Street Market ambience of sawdust on the floor and plain paper-handled shopping bags.
On closing day, Nunnally told me stories of my own family — many of them I’d never heard. My grandmother, who was born in 1886, and lived most of her life a block away, bought her beef for souring here.
East Baltimore’s Oliver neighborhood continued to make major housing gains. It once had 623 abandoned houses, but now there are more than 360 rebuilt units. The community honored one of its longtime secret benefactors, Anthony W. “Tony” Deering, the former head of the Rouse Company. Deering became a follower — and financial backer of the work being done along Oliver, Caroline, Gay and Preston streets.
“We spent our Sundays walking these blocks,” said his wife, Lynn Deering, after she received a posthumous award for her husband, who died in 2017. “Tony loved watching how this neighborhood could come around.”
East Baltimore remains an amazing work in progress. The old A. Hoen and Sons lithography plant closed in 1981 and soon assumed the appearance of a rust rust-belt abandoned ruin awaiting the arsonist’s torch. But in April, work began on a $26 million transformation of the complex at Biddle and Chester streets. It is due to become the home of a nonprofit, Strong City Baltimore, and other tenants.
Construction crews also transformed another industrial building, the old Williamson veneer works at 1 N. Haven St. in the Highlandtown industrial corridor. It adjoins Monument City Brewing is also part of this much-changed village.
Southwest Baltimore saw the completion of the Poppleton neighborhood’s Center West, new apartments constructed near the Poe Homes and the University of Maryland BioPark. The $81,5 million investment stands at Lexington and Schroeder streets.
It’s not really Fells Point and it’s not totally Harbor East, but Harbor Point continues to expand on a former brownfields site overlooking the harbor. A new Whole Foods store is being completed at Liberty Harbor East on South Central Avenue. But perhaps the big news here is that this developing new urban destination finally has a bridge competed to tie it into the street grid. It took years, but the Central Avenue span is ready for autos, bikes and pedestrians.