Sunday, October 31, 2010

Sunday Chillday

With the Ravens off this week, this particular Sunday was a little bit more relaxed in town. Since I didn't have to plan my day around watching Baltimore football, I had free range to take in some well need chill time.

First stop...Federal Hill. Met up with some friends for brunch at Metro. Though I don't live in that part of the city anymore, it has still remained a staple for breakfast and brunch, and well worth the out of the way trip down. Now with the Circulator, the trip is so much easier. It's always a crowded spot, but the service is good and the food is great. Self service coffee is a plus, especially when it does get busy.

It was such a great fall day out, I decided to walk back to the old homestead by way of the Inner Harbor. In the early afternoon the first batch of trick-or-treaters were already out on the streets of Federal Hill and Otterbein.

Second stop...downtown. I walked up Charles Street and saw the new landscaping around the Kona Grill addition. It looks like they'll have an outdoor patio for the warmer months, but that isn't finished yet. I saw the new David & Dad's Express at 1 N. Charles. It's open M-F, and will be a nice addition for the office workers.While I haven't been to the original David & Dad's in a long time, I do remember it having a tasty menu, and it's nice to see them expand. I'll have to make a point to stop by the Express stop in the near future.

Overall, a crisp fall day in Baltimore. Gotta love this time of year.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Mobbies 2010: Thanks for the Nomination

Baltimore Skyline was nominated under two categories for this year's Baltimore Sun Mobbies under the Misfits and Neighborhood sections. Thank you for the nominations, and thank you for reading and commenting on this blog. I've enjoyed writing these posts and looking into many of the topics that effect Charm City, whether that be sports, events, transportation, construction, development, or the news. Though this is something I pursue in my free time, I do try to keep up with as much that is going on. Thanks again, and I hope you continue to follow along!

History Shattered

(photo credit: abc2 news)
At around 2:30am this morning a van crashed into the decorative cast-iron fence that surrounds the Washington Monument in Mt. Vernon. In one fell swoop a driver took out a large section of the 172  year old fence.

The monument was designed by Robert Mills and built between 1815 and 1829. The iron fence that surrounds the monument and forms the center of the Mt Vernon Place circle was installed in 1838. The four decorative gates in the fence are adorned with motifs of Roman fasces - a symbol of jurisdiction and unity - where not damaged.  In the early Republic, George Washington was compared to the Roman general and hero Cincinnatus who after defeating a threat to the Roman Republic resigned his position as Dictator, returned his fasces which were the symbol of his authority, and returned to his farm. Very much in the same way George Washington left the office of the President and retired to Mount Vernon. The fasces became, and remains a symbol in the United States (although mostly overshadowed by others) and Robert Mills added these to the design of the monument. Mills would go on later to design the more famous Washington Monument in D.C.

As of now there are no answers on how the fence will be replaced. Most likely a recreation of the missing section will have to be cast from surviving pieces or other intact parts of the fence. The cost of which has not been determined, nor the timeline. Until then a temporary chain-link fence covers the gap, and leaves the Monument scared. If there is any good news about this, the Washington Monument will be undergoing renovation in the near future to repair structural weaknesses in the observation deck. The fence repair could be added to this renovation.

There is no word on how the van lost control and slammed into the fence, but I think an appropriate fine would be to have the driver (or his insurance) cover the damages. One thing's for sure, our quintessential landmark may be irreplaceably marred. Only time will tell.

Halloween in Baltimore

Its the last weekend in October, that could mean only one thing...Halloween in Baltimore! Just when you thought the crowd in Fells Point on a Saturday night couldn't get any weirder. Party goers and bar hoppers pull out all the stops on Halloween, and nothing is left to the imagination. If you have never been to a Halloween weekend in Fells Point you're missing out on the sights and sounds.

Creativity abounds among the young and old. You'll the traditional ghosts, goblins, and vampires. There will also be the trendy topics, I'm sure there will be a couple groups of Chilean miners. Some pull ideas out of the past, Legends of the Hidden Temple anyone? While others go nerdy like a complete Obi-Wan Kenobi with working lightsaber. But the most will be the ladies wearing the least amount of clothing the weather will allow and donning a costume entitled "sexy (insert any non-sexy job)"

There you have it. We'll see you in Fells!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Cranes are Going Up in Baltimore

It's always a good sign when you see construction cranes popping up across the city. The newest crane to go up is on the Johns Hopkins Medical Campus in East Baltimore where a new 20-story housing tower for graduate students is now under construction. The target day for completion is August 2012, just in time for the fall semester.

This has the potential to be a big asset for the this side of town. The tower will have space for over 500 students. It will immediately add to the residential feel to the Hopkins campus, which now is only a small number of Medical students who live on Broadway.

Additionally, this could add to the retail availability next to the EBDI site. Places that will cater to a student resident population would be attracted, e.g. coffee shops, sandwich shops, dry cleaners, etc. The types of retail that are lacking around the Hopkins Hospital, which now mostly serve the 9-5 crowd. This building will also serve as a catalyst to fill empty store front space in the the newly constructed campus buildings, and the storefronts along Monument St.

In the meantime, two other projects will be putting cranes up in the near future. The new 12-story UB School of Law center is moving along on Mt Royal Ave. A crane isn't visible yet, but the foundation work is well underway. By the springtime, another UB project on Biddle St will add an 11-story student apartment building which should open in 2012.

Above is a rendition of the final product at what will be 929 N. Wolfe St (at Ashland Ave). As the floors go up I'll update with more photos.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

You're Looking Good Preston Gardens

Over the summer, the Downtown Partnership took over the maintenance and landscaping for Preston Gardens. For those of you who don't know where that is, it's the park between St. Paul Place between Centre Street and Lexington Street. Since then, the appearance and feel of the park has significantly improved.

Daily, there are Downtown Partnership workers cleaning away trash along the pathways and the grass. A park steward has been hired to oversee the park, along with Center Plaza. Every morning park tables with umbrellas are put out on the grass, and at lunch time these are generally filled with downtown workers on their breaks.

For once, the landscaping has been more than just mowing the grass. The gardens across from the entrance to Mercy hospital were recently replaced and improved.  New planters have been added around the center fountain, but nothing has been planted as of yet. Trees were pruned back to keep the branches from hanging low over the pathways. Finally the yew bushes that line the northern end of the garden and surround the statue of John Mifflin Hood have been manicured.

Along with the lampposts and illumination of the walls, Preston Gardens is looking better than ever, but there is still more to be done. The long marble and brick walls will need to be restored and cleaned, which will take both time and money. Lastly, the fountains that have not worked in decades, will be restored to their former glory, although the timeline for that is in the air.

Further Suggestions:
  • Make pedestrian improvements at crosswalks to encourage access to the park, especially mid block on St. Paul Place.
  • Add traffic mitigation techniques such as a sidewalk and bike lane on the lower route of St Paul Place, and narrowing the northbound lanes that allow access to Oreleans Street to better improve pedestrian flow.
  • Pedestrian improvements on the upper park at the beginning of the Orleans Street viaduct.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Over and Out

(photo credit, The Baltimore Sun)
Yesterday wrapped up the 2010 season for our Baltimore Orioles, and what a roller coaster of a season it's been. After starting 2-16, the Orioles finished up at 66-96, at the bottom of the AL East but not the worst in the American League.

Dave Trembley didn't make it through the season, Juan Samuel picked up the reigns on an interim basis, and then things actually changed when Buck Showalter was hired as the new O's skipper. Under Buck's lead, the Orioles went 34-23 for the rest of the season, a .596 winning percentage. For a team that started off so poorly, that is a remarkable turn around for the end of the season. However, the abysmal performance in the first half of the season still kept the O's 30 games out of first-place in the AL East.

Eliminated from playoff contention on August 30th, the first team this season to get their Elimination Number to zero, the rest of the season was played just for the sake of the game, and hound better AL teams as much as possible.

The one glaring figure that O's fans cannot ignore this season was attendance; down 9% from the 2009 season. This marked the lowest season attendance at Camden Yards, and the second lowest for the franchise. This is a cause for concern for both team and fans. The Orioles hurt because the home fanbase is low, and likewise the fans feel the pain because many can't justify buying tickets and food to watch the O's lose when they can just as easily do that from the comforts of their own homes (MASN viewership was way up for the Orioles this season).

The solution needs to come from both parties. We'll promise to come to the stadium and fill Camden Yards, but you need to give us something to cheer about more consistently. Under Buck Showalter's guidance, we have a good chance of this happening!

Here's to the Postseason and we'll see you in February at Sarasota.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Why is the Circulator so Slow?

Now there is probably a reason for this that I don't understand, but why is the Circulator so slow? Every time I have been on it, the circulator seems to put along at a few MPH below the speed limit. I would think that the buses would drive along at the same speed as traffic to get between the stops a bit quicker. I have noticed that when driving slower than the speed limit, it can make the trip agonizing when you take into account all the red lights the circulator gets stuck at.

Sure, it's a free shuttle, and its very convenient, but what's the need for going so slow? Is it to ensure a more comfortable ride? I don't see how going 25mph vs. 30mph makes a whole lot of difference in the feel of the ride.

Maybe it has to do with spacing the buses, or maintaining the schedule? If anyone out there has an answer please let me know, because I don't have one.