Station North and North Baltimore 'moving closer together'

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Johns Hopkins University wants "a strong connection" between the Homewood campus and Station North.

There's talk of expanding the Station North arts and entertainment district into North Baltimore in the years to come.

It was one of the topics expected to be discussed this week at an upcoming board retreat of Station North Arts & Entertainment, Inc., which has several new members, said Ben Stone, of Oakenshawe, executive director of the organization since 2011.

"We had talked about it two or three years ago," Stone said. The idea was to expand the 90-acre Station North district's northern boundary, currently along 20th Street between Howard and Calvert streets, to roughly 25th Street, where Single Carrot Theatre is, at the border of Remington and Charles Village. But the conversations at that time were put on hold, partly because of questions about the impact of tax incentives for business owners on Baltimore City and the state of Maryland, he said.

There's still interest in the idea, although, "It's somewhere between the back and front burner," Stone said. "I don't think it's dead. I certainly hear it from a lot of artists and from business owners."

He also said, "We see our boundaries as somewhat porous."

But he stressed, "If it's going to happen, it's not going to happen tomorrow or the next year."

There's movement from north Baltimore toward Station North, as such institutions as the Homewood campus of Johns Hopkins University have established a foothold in Station North. Hopkins, along with the Maryland Institute College of Art, plans to use the old Parkway Theatre, once it is restored, as educational space for film studies.

Jed Dietz, founding director of the Maryland Film Festival and leader of the planned $18.2 million restoration of the Parkway, said that Hopkins president Ronald Daniels has spoken publicly about his vision of being able to walk from the Homewood campus to Station North to see a movie and get a bite to eat.

Hopkins, which has invested $10 million in its Homewood Community Partners Initiative to make Remington and nine other North Baltimore neighborhoods safer and more vibrant, is not specifically advocating for Station North expansion, but wants to foster "a strong connection" with the arts and entertainment district, said Andrew Frank, Hopkins' special adviser to the president on economic development.

Frank, former Baltimore City deputy mayor, said the university supports bringing temporary "pop-up" stores to fill vacant storefronts and increase off-duty police presence between North Avenue and Remington.

"All of those (ideas) speak to the ambitions we all have, which would be to be able to walk down to Station North," Frank said. "That's not required to make the strong connection, but it's a natural question," he added, calling Station North "the most successful" of the state's 22 art and entertainment districts. "It's only natural to think about its future."

Although Station North currently encompasses the Charles North, Greenmount West and Barclay neighborhoods below North Baltimore, several of its board members have strong North Baltimore connections, including Doreen Bolger, of Charles Village, former president of the Baltimore Museum of Art, and Elliott Rauh, an ensemble member and former managing director of Single Carrot Theatre in Remington.

And the connection is growing in other ways. Seawall Development Corp., which is well-known for turning old mills into affordable housing for teachers in the Remington and Hampden areas, is serving as a consultant on the Parkway Theatre project.

Dietz believes that the development of the Remington/Old Goucher area and the growth of Station North "are moving toward each other."

"I think that connection is happening organically, whether or not Station North officially becomes part of North Baltimore," said Thibeau Manekin, a partner in Seawall Development. He said the area in between is "filling in" with new retail, restaurants and studios for artists.

"It's all kind of connected," Manekin said.

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