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Port Covington rises and the Waverly Hall debuts as Baltimore’s skyline and future shifted in 2021

The finishing touches are being put on a renovation of Waverly Hall, which remains under construction ahead of an expected February 1 opening for the building's apartments and a restaurant
The finishing touches are being put on a renovation of Waverly Hall, which remains under construction ahead of an expected February 1 opening for the building's apartments and a restaurant (Ulysses Muñoz/The Baltimore Sun)

Baltimore bustled along in 2021 but the changes to the skyline and neighborhoods required some careful inspection. They often arrived by surprise.

For starters, the awaited redevelopment of the 235-acre Port Covington progressed decisively. A construction crane and steel arrived along the Middle Branch of the Patapsco near the Hanover Street Bridge as a new village took shape.

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This one promises to be a revelation to what was once a busy railroad yard back when Baltimore made its money from industry.

Developer Marc Weller announced that Port Covington will include an Impact Village, to support innovative Baltimore startups.

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Traditional Baltimore got a boost when a new Lexington Market building was completed at Lexington and Eutaw streets. It’s not open yet — so this year we’ll get to sample the wares of the new and old crop of vendors there. Stay tuned.

Plans were approved for a new residential development to surround the preserved facade of the old Mayfair movie theater at Howard and Franklin. Construction starts this year and should bolster that neighborhood.

Many people caught up in 2021 with a large Whole Foods that opened at Liberty Place on South Central Avenue, adjacent to Harbor Point. The grocery store technically opened in 2020, but ongoing construction made it difficult to navigate.

The whole Harbor Point development, an amazing transformation of one of Baltimore’s most challenging environmental brownfields, added a new structure, Wills Wharf, with its hotel and ground level restaurant. The views across the harbor here are dazzling, and would be even if the Domino Sugars signs hadn’t been so successfully renewed with LED lighting in 2021.

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North Avenue saw the completion of the former Odell’s disco hall into the new home of Arts for Learning and Code in the Schools. The 1909 structure has never looked better after its $7 million renovation. The building that sat empty for nearly 30 years emerged from a sleepy depression wearing a bright color scheme, covered in shades called “sea life,” “semolina” “ebony slate” and “maritime white.”

The old village of Waverly saw the transformation of its Waverly Hall in 2021. What had been the Northside Bar is now apartments (tenants due to move in Feb. 1) and a food operation at the corner of Greenmount Avenue and 31st Street.

The restoration of this venerable structure took most of the year, with its interior being gutted for the loft apartments that occupy the upper floors.

This is one of several bright lights in the Waverly/Greenmount area.

Not far away, the Northwood Plaza Shopping Center is quickly becoming something called Northwood Commons.

The Johns Hopkins University plowed down the former Mattin Center for another campus structure at Charles and 33rd streets. Watch for a new $250 million Hopkins Student Center to fill what now appears to be a large void.

The Cross Street Market got a new second-floor roof deck bar and restaurant in time for the summer outdoor season. The perch, overlooking South Charles Street, did not take long to fill up.

Way less obvious was the continuing rebuilding of a large collection of East Baltimore neighborhoods — Oliver, Midway, Johnston Square, Broadway East and Greenmount West.

Consider this: The 2020 census showed that Baltimore’s population citywide dropped by 5% from 2010 to 2020, it increased by 48% in Oliver/Broadway East and by 31% in Greenmount West.

These communities have been the recipient of $10 million investment from the Together ReBuilding Stewardship Committee, a group of concerned and philanthropic people wanting to see Baltimore’s neighborhoods restored and vibrant.

The target area stretches on a diagonal from Pennsylvania Station to the Johns Hopkins Hospital.

Speaking of Pennsylvania Station, big plans were announced for its restoration, but so far, no scaffolding has gone up around the venerable train depot owned by Amtrak. We‘ve been waiting for this old beauty to shine again for a long time.

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