Thursday, December 22, 2011

Weird Start to Winter

The Winter Solstice was this morning (Midwinter and Yule are other names) when we have the longest night and the shortest day of the year, in other words the first day of the winter season. However, it really didn't feel like that today in Charm City. Rather it was mild. Today's high was somewhere in the low 60s, and instead of a potential White Christmas, it's grey and raining. Feels like spring more than anything else.

Honestly, it's tough getting in the Christmas spirit when the weather doesn't cooperate. Sure, it's rather rare that we would get snow at Christmas in Baltimore, but the colder weather still puts you in the right state of mind. This warm streak is just playing with us!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

When Club One was the House of Welsh

House of Welsh in 1943. Note the Guilford Elevated streetcar line.
At one time, what was 301 Guilford Avenue (at some point over time the address was switched to 300 E. Saratoga St) was called the House of Welsh a long time Baltimore steakhouse and restaurant. Originally opened in 1900 it occupied the corner buildings for 98 years. A 1998 article in The Baltimore Sun details the history of the House of Welsh on the eve of its closure. With the demolition of these three buildings yesterday marks the end of some of the oldest houses that stood near downtown. The houses were build in the 1830s, some of the only other houses of the same period were on St. Paul Street and were demolished to make way for the new Mercy Medical Center tower.

Inside these buildings make have taken place some of the more little known, but nonetheless interesting stories in Baltimore's history. In 1904, at the height of the Great Baltimore Fire, a telegraph line was hooked up inside the building so news reports and requests for firefighters could be sent, since the city's telegraph office had been destroyed by fire. Later on, it wasn't uncommon to see city council meetings going on in the upstairs dining room.
At one point the buildings were painted black, adorned with advertisements as can be seen by the pictures. Eventually, by the time the restaurant closed it was covered with the dull gray formstone that we were more familiar with.

House of Welsh in 1947, courtesy of The Baltimore Sun

These photos from the 1940s show a side of Baltimore that has faded away in many ways. With the demolition yesterday the last of these buildings are gone, the others in the background have long since been replaced with the massive parking lot. Unfortunately, this has happened all too often in our downtown; buildings knocked down for future development that does not materialize. While we cannot bring back the way these buildings used to look like, let's hope something that adds to the fabric of downtown actually gets built, so we aren't left with an addition to a surface parking lot.

More Club One Demo in Photos

I was able to continue taking pictures throughout Saturday, December 3rd as what was left of Club One came crashing down. Turns out, I had an excellent vantage point.

Streetview of the demo

Crane gets ready for another wall smacking

Most of the building along Saratoga is gone.

Steel support structure now visible

Tearing off the roof

The pile of rubble on the sidewalk would get much deeper

A Swing, A Hit, and a Shower of Bricks

...And Gone

By the end of Saturday, only one broken wall remained

Saturday, December 3, 2011

So Long Club One

Club One at 300 E. Saratoga Street closed earlier this year after a long notorious life. Billed as Baltimore's "premier night spot" and "upscale club", it was the spot of at least one stabbing and one shooting (plus another incident of gunfire that did not result in any injuries) during it's time. Today brings the end of the actual building.

Work starts right before sunrise
Demolition claw gnawing at the roof.

More roof demolition

Tear down the back wall.

Bringing down the Saratoga Street entrance.

Second floor mostly crushed.

The club originally composed of three older formstoned rowhomes plus a small addition along Saratoga St. These three buildings represent the last remnants of the houses, buildings, and warehouses that lined the eastern side of Guilford Avenue along the Jones Falls and across from the Northern Central Railroad tracks whose remains are now underneath the elevated JFX. Until 1950, the Guilford Avenue Elevated brought streetcars right past these houses as they descended down to street level at the corner of Saratoga. As a last gasp of the onetime impressiveness of these houses, a lone wrought iron handrail and boot scraper are still attached to the long worn marble steps that lead to the street. In time these too while be gone to join the rest of what was on Guilford into the collective memory of Baltimore past.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Unseasonably warm

It's late November, yet it feels as if it could be springtime in Baltimore. The added rain today makes it more like April than almost December. In any event, it is after Thanksgiving, so now all Christmas and winter season decorations are popping up across the city. Federal Hill looks now like a winter village (albeit sans snow), and lights are up along Pratt and Charles.

The main decorating event kicks off Thursday with the 40th annual lighting of the Washington Monument! Last year debuted new lights for the monument, which are brighter and can be seen more clearly from farther away. This year hopes to be as big an event as ever, so make sure you get out there for this unique Baltimore tradition.

Also an update for this year are the lights in Preston Gardens, our other downtown park. Sponsored by Mercy Medical Center, new LED lights hope to make the Christmas scenes in the gardens brighter. Unless cancelled by the rain the new lights get plugged in tonight.

Need we even mention the Miracle on 34th St lights in Hampden went on last week, so make sure to check those out too.

If we've missed anything or you want to highlight other city spots, let us know!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Another BaltimoreSkyline Food Review: Grilled Cheese & Co.

Once again we've found ourselves doing a food review here on Baltimore Skyline.

Grilled Cheese & Co. just opened their new location on Light Street in Federal Hill on Friday afternoon. You might remember it as the old location of Dangeriously Delicious Pies, right around the corner from Cross Street, and along a prime walking route (especially for the late night post-bar crowd).

Walking in there is a small counter where orders can be taken or picked up. While you cannot order off their website, you can call in take out orders. The back of the place has about a dozen tables with plenty of room to snack out on grilled cheese, soup, and shoe string fries.

I tried GC&C on Sunday afternoon right right before the Ravens game. For this first time I ordered the BCT: bacon, cheese, and tomato. My wife decided on the same, but added a cup of the cream of tomato basil as an extra. Wait time was about 10 minutes, which was sufficient time to drive down from Federal Hill. Seeing it was a home Ravens game in Federal Hill and all parking in the area was residential only, paid, or get the hell out, I had to make a quick slightly illegal parking job. Luckily our order was ready and waiting. I had enough time to pay, poke around a bit, and head out before the DOT zeroed in on my wife's car.

While a place that only specializes in grilled cheese might not sound that too appealing, the folks at GC&C really prove you wrong. The sandwiches were much bigger than your mom's grilled cheese, and were delicious. In fact, the whole menu is pretty bold. You do have the standard which they call "The Original", but there is an option with crab dip, a cordon bleu, and veggie option to name a few. The soup selection is limited, but they are very tasty.

If you happen to stumble upon their website you will find their underground menu with even more tasty and unique grilled cheese concoctions.

Pricing: Sandwiches range between $4.99 and $7.99, and for what you get it's a pretty solid deal. Soups are $2.99 (small) or $4.99 (large) with salads between $4.99 and $6.49. Sides like shoe string fries and sweet potato fries are also fairly inexpensive.

Staff: Very friendly and accommodating to the first-time patron.

Location: 1036 Light Street in Federal Hill between Cross St. and Poultney St. (also in Catonsville, Sykesville, and the Ravens Walk at M&T Stadium).

Hours: 11am - 9pm Mon-Wed, 11am - 2:30am Thu-Sat, 11am - 8pm Sun

Contact: 410-244-6333,, @GrilledCheeseCo

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Return of the Cartoon Bird

The cartoon bird returns for the 2012 Orioles! In a move that harkens back to the glory days of the orioles, the new uniform sports a remake of the cartoon bird that featured on the orioles hat from the 1960s to the 1980s. Along with the new cap logo, the O's home hat will now have a white face, in a new version of the hat that was made famous by Cal Ripken and others. The road hat will remain black and orange, but with the smilin' bird on the front. The road uniform has been tweaked to improve the "Baltimore" script, and the team introduced a new Orangle jersey for select home games to go along with the black jersey. All the uniforms will sport a commemorative patch to celebrate the 20th anniversary of OPACY.

As a huge uni-fan, I'm excited for the retro look. The best uniform move the Orioles made was returning "Baltimore" on the front of the away uniform where it belongs, just like Brooks Robinson wore it (except not in wool kersey). This is just the next best move. Here's to the O's in 2012!

For the full news check out the Orioles website.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Did You Vote Today?

We hope you did! In light of the dismal voter turnout for the primary election, it should be a shock to the system. Baltimoreans needs to realize they need to do their civic duty. So let's hope you exercised your civic muscles and went to the polling places today!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Big Retail News for East Baltimore

Lately there has been some big retail news to come to the expanding JHH campus in East Baltimore. It was reported earlier this summer that Teavolve would be opening up a second location in the new research building next to JHH, as well as a Cuban restaurant (Cuban Revolution). Now, the most recent news is that Milk&Honey Market will be opening a second location in the same research building on N. Wolfe Street and a Walgreens is expected to be in the ground floor of a new parking garage that will be constructed next to the new graduate student housing at 929 N Wolfe.

All of these reports were posted lately in the Baltimore Business Journal.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Back from Vacation

There hasn't been a lot of posting as of late due to some much needed vacation. Having just returned to the United States there will be some good Baltimore Skyline posting coming your way.

In the meantime the Sun has gone to a paywall for it's online content, sheesh. Maybe enough readers will sign up that the Sun might actually have revenue that can go to hiring better writers and editors! Perhaps?

Monday, October 10, 2011

All Hail the Green Route

The Green Route of the Charmulator is nearly here. It is scheduled to open on November 1st, the same day the Charmulator goes to winter hours. The much anticipated route for those people who want to get to Fells Point and Johns Hopkins Hospital is only a few short weeks away.

At times it felt that it would never arrive, but here it is. The cat was out of the bag not too long ago, if you noticed CCC buses running along Fallsway or Broadway. To the casual observer it was nothing, but for those of you who knew the route, or anything about running a bus system, those were test runs for drivers to get used to the new route, and get timings down.

The new map that is posted on the Charmulator's website, is a bit different from the original route. There is now a slight deviation down to Morgan Stanley's building at the end of Caroline Street. My guess is it's supposed to encourage people to get down there, but I wonder just how that might mess up the flow on the eastern segment of the route. However, I'd wager that the little side track won't last too long.

A big improvement is accessibility to Fells and JHH. I can see JHH employees ducking out to catch the Charmulator for lunch at Koopers (when the Chowhound isn't there) or students and staff who live in Fells using it to commute up to the medical campus.

Only time will tell when the first news of the route to Fort McHenry will be released.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

A Tuesday in Baltimore (Photoessay)

7:30am - Traffic moving along Saratoga St

7:50am - Walking down Fallsway to the JHH Shuttle. You can see how the Orleans St Viaduct could really use a paint job and new lighting.

8:07am - The JHH Dome

8:08am - Entering JHH

8:45am - Office View...sigh. Oh, look construction in East Baltimore!

12:00pm - Constant Construction at Hopkins

12:15pm - Lunch time on East Monument Street

12:18pm - GrrChe makes an appearance once a week at Wolfe and Monument

5:10pm - Skyline from Orleans St.

5:20pm - Light For All

5:25pm - End of the Day, traffic up Calvert St.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

O's go down, but not without a fight

The O's end up in the Loss column tonight, but can you real consider what the Red Sox did, winning? Sure at the end of the game they had 1 more run than the Orioles, but they nearly squandered a 4-run lead, were kept ahead solely on the long ball by 3 players, and they showed just how tired their pitching staff is. The Red Sox bullpen gave up four late game run, and did not put the Orioles away easily.  

Unfortunately for the Orioles, Zack Britton in September is not the same as in April. Only going 4.1 innings he gave up almost all the runs the Red Sox needed to win. Jason Berken, another disappointment this season gave up 2 runs off 2 hits and he was done. The Sox capitalized much on the weakness of the early Orioles pitching, but after the 6th inning were only able to add two more hits in the game. Four of the runs came off of third string catcher Ryan Lavarnway. Not to say that hitting your first two home runs isn't huge after being called up in September, but the only reason he was playing tonight was because Saltalamaccia physically couldn't be behind the plate after getting a foul ball off the collarbone on Monday. And let's be serious for a minute, rookie pitcher vs. rookie hitter, any veteran pitcher would have sent Lavarnway straight back to the bench the way he hacked at the ball (he flew out twice tonight).

The good news is the Tampa Bay Rays won. The Rays have everything to win and nothing to lose, after going on a tear in September they remain tied with the Red Sox. On the other hand the Red Sox are in the midst of an epic fall. The Rays have beat the best team in the AL East twice this week while the Red Sox got embarrassed last night and barely won tonight against the worst team in the AL East. The Rays have been playing their hearts out while the Sox have been rearranging deck chairs on the sinking Titanic.

And so, it brings us to tomorrow's game. The Orioles have one last chance to end the season on a high note. As fans, we would love nothing more than to see the O's ruin the Red Sox season. It's not that we have this massive rivalry, we just like to see them lose. It's hard to be a fan when the Sox come into town like the Massachusetts Militia rallying to Concord. We can't even give our home team an advantage in our own ballpark, so sure we love it when you come down and we send you shipping back to Boston.

The Sox played with their backs against the wall the entire game, and will be playing the same way  tomorrow. But they look exhausted after a 3:37 hour slugfest, and have to go back for one more game. The Orioles are looking forward to finishing game 162 and calling it a season, the Red Sox have at least one more game to fight it out, but if you ask me I'd say they look like Custer and the 7th Cavalry on Last Stand Hill.

Pack The Yard!

The Orioles rallied to beat the Red Sox last night 6-3 after a spectacular inside-the-park homerun by Robert Andino, who is by far the most improved Oriole this season. The win drops the Red Sox to a tie with the Tampa Bay Rays for the American League Wild Card with two left to play. The announced crowd last night was 21,786, but from watching on tv and listening on the radio it sounded like there were WAY too many Red Sox fans in our Camden Yards.

Sure the Orioles have been eliminated from the postseason, and our record is less than stellar (68-90), but they've won 6 out of the last 9 games, and finish up the season at home against the Sox.

So start spreading the word in the Baltimore blosphere, go down to Camden Yards and get tickets for tonight and/or tomorrow. Let's pack Camden Yards with as much orange and black, so we can give our O's a real home field advantage these last two games. We can still remind the Red Sox that we're still a dangerous team, because right now their postseason fate is in the Orioles hands! This is Birdland, let's fill it. You know I'll be there!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Happy 100th Birthday Baltimore Pennsylvania Station

Baltimore Penn Station in 1926, from Maryland Historical Society
On September 14, 1911, the first visitors were allowed into the brand new Baltimore Pennsylvania Station after a year-and-a-half long construction period. At 1:35am on September 15th the first trained pulled into the station.

The current Pennsylvania Station is actually the third to sit on the sight. The first, wooden structure, having served Baltimore between 1873 and 1886 and the second until 1910. The third station had many improvements over the previous two. The new station had an elevated concourse above the train tracks with stairways that went down to the platforms between the tracks. Previously, passengers had to cross the tracks at ground level, which could be dangerous. There were waiting rooms, lounges, baggage checking areas, a lunch counter, plus offices for the Pennsylvania Railroad on the upper floors.

At one point trains stopped at Penn Station that were travelling along the Pennsy's main line between Boston and Washington, D.C. as well as those that ran along the Northern Central Railway to Harrisburg. The Western Maryland Railway also served Penn Station until the late 1950s.

Today, Baltimore is still a busy passenger station for both Amtrak and MARC. Over 925,000 passengers went through Baltimore on Amtrak in 2010, making it the 8th busiest train station in the US. Roughly 2,600 MARC passengers board at Penn Station every weekday. Together about 150 trains pass through Penn Station every day in both directions.

Penn Station also serves as a major hub with the Midtown-Belvedere neighborhood to the south and Station North to its north. With MICA and the University of Baltimore adjacent to the west and south, there is a lot of activity during here. BoltBus makes its runs to and from New York and Newark, NJ at a stop on St. Paul Street while the Purple Route of the Charm City Circulator makes its northern loop around the station picking up visitors and residents on its way back downtown and into Federal Hill. The MTA runs its Penn-Camden shuttle from Penn Station as well, although this is an underutilized service with 30-minute headways, and could be drastically improved if light rail trains could service directly BWI (or made to serve the northern end of the line).

Although not as large, or famous as some of the other landmarks of the old Pennsylvania Railroad, our Penn Station still makes a large mark on Baltimore and is daily utilized by thousands of riders. There will be an exhibition of the station history through the next couple of weeks.

Baltimore Sun article

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Primary Election Day

Today is the Primary Election for the Mayoral and City Council races across the city of Baltimore. Since Democrats hold a nearly 9-to-1 advantage over Republicans in the city, the primary effectively is the general election.

Campaign fliers, posters, and TV ads have been out in force for the five Democratic candidates for Mayor. By far Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake has shelled out the most for her campaign and is the perceived front-runner, but who knows.

Make sure you take the time today to go out and vote because who ever wins today will help to shape the future of Baltimore.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Hurricane Irene in Baltimore (Post #5)

10:30am: Still getting some good wind and gusts from the NW. Walked around downtown earlier this morning and the wind is still whipping between the buildings. Rain is over but it's still overcast. Lots of pictures posted of down trees in the city, some good ones at the Baltimore Sun. A couple of big ones are down by the Homewood campus of JHU.  A tree fell across the Falls Road on ramp to the JFX earlier this morning.

The metro is back up and running at least to Rogers Avenue. The Light Rail will be back up at noon, but you can probably expect delays due to the wind and debris. Good news is the Yankees and Orioles will be playing a doubleheader today, and while it's windy the weather is nice right now.

Downtown this morning, everything looks clear.

Irene casualty in Preston Gardens

Hurricane Irene in Baltimore (Post #4)

7:30am (Sunday): Baltimore Skyline headquarters survived the night with no loss of power. The rain really picked up after 11pm and the wind began to give that telltale howl. The rain came down horizontally and at time it felt like the HQ was running through a carwash. The street signs and light poles were swaying and rattling and trash was blowing and flowing down the streets (although that last one is no different than any other rainy Baltimore day). There is a billboard that we can see from here, and the rain blowing into it was streaming around the sides like a waterfall.

The wind has now shifted to the NW as the storm passes by. Irene is heading toward NYC as we speak and the eye is now sitting off the Jersey coast. In Baltimore, we are now experiencing the back end of the hurricane, but the winds are still nasty. is reporting 28MPH winds with gusts up to 40MPH in Baltimore. Irene dumped somewhere over 3 inches of rain on us, and knocked out power to over 60,000 residents in the city. WBAL is reporting downed trees around the city, but not too much flooding.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Hurricane Irene in Baltimore (Post #3)

6:45pm: Wind and rain has picked up considerably. According to there are 20 MPH winds and gusts up to 33 MPH in the Baltimore area. A heavy, steady rain is now falling downtown, but still a lot of people are out on the roads. Took the dog out not too long ago, and he did not like that at all. The eye of Irene is right along the NC/VA border moving to the NNE. WBAL is reporting just about an inch of rain has fallen in Baltimore, but the brunt of the storm is on the way and will continue overnight.

At Baltimore Skyline Headquarters we're stocked up for the storm. Cellphones are charged up, bottled water aplenty, and candles at the ready in case the power in downtown Baltimore goes out. There was cookie baking earlier, and as you can see by the picture below the beer supplies are plentiful. Keep dry out there!

Stocked fridge at Baltimore Skyline Headquarters

Hurricane Irene in Baltimore (Post #2)

2:45pm: Three hours later and the rain and wind are more steady now. There was a period for a while where the rain stopped as a band passed by. Currently Irene is sitting north of the Outer Banks and by this evening will be right off the Virginia Capes, but its leading edge is soaking much of Virginia, Delaware, New Jersey, and now Maryland. The rain and wind is expected to get heavier as Irene approaches throughout the day. Irene will be getting closer to our area right when high tide is expected in the Upper Patapsco around 6pm. This could be bad news for the folks in Fells Point and other areas right along the Harbor.

Hurricane Irene in Baltimore (Post #1)

11:45am: The first bands of rain started to come through Baltimore. Nothing more than a steady drizzle, but the skies looked ominous. The wind has picked up and there are frequent gusts. In downtown there is still a decent amount of traffic on the roads, but the smart folks have removed their cars from being parked on the street. There are still a lot of people walking around. The Charmulator is shutting down at 4pm, Light Rail at 6pm and Metro subway and bus at 9pm.

Dark clouds over N Charles Street

Windy in Preston Gardens

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Obligatory Earthquake Post

So that was odd huh? Sure earthquakes in the Mid-Atlantic aren't rare, but the ones we're used to are the hardly noticeable earthly tremors, but not today. Right before 2pm an earthquake centered near Richmond at a deep of nearly 4 miles hit the Richter scale at 5.8. The rippling effect was felt in Baltimore and as far north as New York and far south as South Carolina.

Sitting in my office today, I felt the odd sensation that the room was trembling like a truck was rolling down the street, although there was no truck. Then my office began to rattle, as I stood up I noticed the unnerving feeling of the ground under foot moving. Next thing I knew our whole building was out the door and into the streets on the Hopkins Medical Campus. Street signs were still waving for moments after the 15 seconds or so of earth quaking. It was nearly an hour before we were allowed back inside our offices, after who I can only assume was Johns Hopkins maintenance's crack Earthquake Squad checked out all of our buildings.

Having watched the news, there doesn't seem to be much damage, other than some buildings losing some bricks and roof ornamentation. Cornice work at a Fells Point church came crashing to the street, and some derelict buildings saw some partial collapse, but nothing worse.

Unfortunately MARC and Amtrak travel was haywire this afternoon with major delays, and even well after rush hour things have not returned to normal.

Now that we've survived the first noticeable earthquake in a long time, what next? Oh wait, Hurricane Irene seems to be bearing right towards us...great.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Construction Updates in Midtown

UB School of Law is getting tall, and still has 4 more floors to go before it's topped off.

The new School of Law redefines the view toward Penn Station. From the south the station is almost completely blocked from view, but the approach no longer looks barren.

Lyric additions coming along nicely, performances that will utilize the new space have already been set for the new season at the Lyric.

The Varsity, UB's new apartment tower is growing fast

The 11-story building will be hard to miss surrounded by 3.5 story townhouses.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Water is Back On

photo by me
I snapped this photo yesterday on the way home for work. After much time and effort, the two fountains in Preston Gardens are now flowing again. According to the Downtown Partnership, these fountains have not worked in over 30 years. The return of the fountains is a part of an ongoing effort to turn Preston Gardens from the once underutilized - and often thought overgrown median - into a revitalized park in the center of downtown. New tables and chairs, plants, and flower baskets have been added over the last few months. The grass is often mowed and the landscaping is taken care of by a full time groundskeepers.

Free poetry on Tuesday afternoons has brought more atmosphere to Preston Gardens, which is now a destination lunch spot for many in the surrounding buildings. The sloshing of the fountain waters now adds to the ambiance, and helps to drown out some of the other city sounds.

The Downtown Partnership still has more plans for Preston Gardens, but more concrete details have not been made available other than the Master Plan that was released in the spring. What has been mentioned here before is the need for better traffic mitigation surrounding the park to make it easily accessible from both the western and eastern approaches. Traffic continues to zoom down lower St Paul Place (except when it comes to a standstill at rush hour), and the approach (and look of the park) from upper St Paul Place is still less than ideal. A redo of the upper side median, and better crosswalks all around would do much to improve this access. Other than that, things are looking good!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Baltimore 9/11 Memorial - I think we can do better

Rendering of the new Baltimore 9/11 Memorial
Under construction right now at the foot of the Baltimore World Trade Center is the spot where Baltimore's memorial to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks will stand. As can be veiwed above it will consist of mangled steel from the Twin Towers atop marble blocks on which will be inscribed the 63 names of the Marylanders who died that die. Designed by Zigler/Snead it will be unveiled on the 10th anniversary this September.

As much as it will be a powerful reminder, I cannot help but think that the contemporary designs for memorials and landmarks have strayed too far to the abstract and honestly, the bland. I think our memoral could look much better than what will be built.

We used to make and dedicate great memorials in this country to epic events in our history. Take a look at the Battle Monument which was built between 1815 and 1829, and dedicated to the defenders of Baltimore during the War of 1812. Or the Liberty Memorial in Kansas City, The International Peace Memorial, or any of the monuments dedicated to our presidents. These are grand structures

Battle Monument

However, one of my favorite, isn't a massive memorial, but rather it's small, but powerful and meaningful nonetheless. It sits in Philadelphia's 30th Street Station and itd dedicated to the 1,300 plus employees of the Pennsylvania Railroad who died in the Second World War. It depicts an archangel pulling the body of a soldier out of the flames of war. It is powerful in its simplicity, but the symbolic representation is easily understood. Moreover it is strinking to look at. This is one aspect of conteporary memorials that is lost, and it's the same drab abstraction that the new 9/11 Memorial will have. Those 63 Marylanders deserve so much more. Memorials like the new Baltimore 9/11 Memorial show broken and twisted metal, remnants of what happened. These are powerful reminders, but great memorials show us not the broken remains of something that used to be there, but stand as a new reminder of how we have grown.
Pennsylvania Railroad World War II Memorial, Philadelphia

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Seriously SRB?

Mayor Rawlings-Blake's proposal to lower property taxes is the subject of a recent Baltimore Sun article. Her "realistic and feasible" plan is to drop the rate 9% over the next 9 years, dropping the rate from $2.268 per $100 of assessed value to $2.068.

Is this a serious solution to the problem? 9% over 9 years is not going to stop of flood of people leaving the city of Baltimore, nor is it going to help to build the residential and business tax break in this city. Even if slashing the tax rate by 50% sounds unreasonable, when two leading university economists in Baltimore said it could actually work if done correctly, 9% is a drop in the bucket. Maybe if she said 20% we could take this as a serious proposal.

The City of Baltimore needs to get serious on these proposals if they are to help turn around this city into a place it could truly be. Look at the development that is going on here, and imagine what it could be like if more residents and business were entering the city instead of fleeing for the counties or development friendlier cities.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Taller and Taller
The new law school at UB has reached up to about the 7th floor of 12. No doubt this will be a striking building when traveling down 83. It already blocks the view of Penn Station from down Charles Street. Slowly, block by block, UB and MICA are changing the way the neighborhoods around Penn Station are looking and feeling like. With a proposal for high density development on the Amtrak owned parking lot north of Penn Station, who knows what this part of Baltimore will be like 5 years from now.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Follow Up on 1 Light Street Proposal

The Baltimore Business Journal has some proposed renderings of the apartment tower for 1 Light Street. Designed by Hord Coplan Macht the building would reach up to 15 stories. The proposal would keep the old Thomas Building on the corner, but would tear down the three buildings that front Baltimore Street. With all the hoopla on the west side about tearing down historically significant downtown structures, will the same thing happen here?

I've never agreed with knocking down what is left of our downtown 19th and early 20th century structures in favor of what is new and in my opinion bland. Instead the architects and planners should make a concerted effort to incorporate these older structures into the new design. The plan calls for retail to front Baltimore St, so why not gut out and rehab the current buildings as apart of this new idea.

It's ok for old and new to coexist in our city, especially downtown. Take a look around, and you'll see it all over.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Lots of Development News Out There

Red Line gets Federal permission to move to Preliminary Engineering. This process will take about 2 years.

16-story apartment tower pitched for the empty lot which at 1 Light Street.

114 E. Lexington Street, the former Provident Bank building and before that the Baltimore Branch of the Federal Reserve is sought to be redeveloped into apartments.

Meanwhile the new UB Law School is growing up. The new JHU Grad Student Tower in East Baltimore is completely topped off, and work has begun on the new Varsity at UB.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

That's About Right

So, we're not at the top of the list, but still pretty close. I believe it, so what do we do about it? We sometimes forget that Baltimore is more than just the neighborhoods that surround the Harbor, and that there are swaths of this city covered in blowing litter. Maybe this should be a priority of the city? That, and putting recycling bins next to each and every trash can in the downtown area. It's 2011, how can this city not do that?

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

MTA Gripe #(Insert Obnoxiously High Number Here)

Has anyone else noticed that the Metro Subway signs are being replaced? The new triangular signs are taller, more visible, and have two illuminated "M"s on two sides and the station name in large letters on the 3rd. I noticed the first at Shot Tower (they omit Market-Place on the new sign) and then a couple weeks later at Charles Center.

The Maryland Daily Record had a piece yesterday describing how the MTA is spending $500k to replace all of the signs along the entire route to make the system more "user-friendly". If you have been down in many of the stations you will also notice that platforms are being updated with new AV displays. Many stations already have smaller signs that denote the time and announce when the next train will arrive.

All of this sounds really good, so why am I complaining? You see readers, all of this news has come from observations and from other news sources. Not one thing has been posted or released by the Maryland Transit Administration on their website, email, or posted on their social media pages. What gives? How about photos, maybe a press release on the timeline for the project, or details about what to expect?

How is the MTA supposed to make their system more user-friendly, when they don't let their users know about changes or updates to the physical or aesthetics of the system? As a frequent rider of the metro, I've noticed these changes, but what about occasional riders or potential riders? Seriously, MTA, if you're going to have a Facebook page, use it to its furthest extent.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Great News for the West Side

Everyman Theatre starts its construction. The Baltimore Sun has a small piece on the groundbreaking ceremony, while the Baltimore Business Journal has some pictures of the groundbreaking.

Construction and renovation is expected to last through next summer with Everyman Theatre opening their 2012-2013 season in their new space.

Even with the stagnant Superblock, this is a big addition to the West Side of downtown.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Hey, How about Cleaning Up After Deathfest?

Overflowing Dumpter Across from Sonar
This is only a small part of the trash that is leftover from Death Fest at Sonar this past weekend. Sure, yesterday was Memorial Day, but today wasn't, so how about cleaning it up, huh?

Oh, and all the the portajohns are still sitting along Saratoga Street too, in the 90+ degree heat, it sure doesn't smell too pretty by the Hollywood Diner. Anyway, the portajohns are from Gotugo based in Glen Burnie. Feel free to call them at 410-360-1215 or to complain!

Friday, May 20, 2011

More on Linthicum...

Shut Linthicum station, most tell MTA at hearing

This is crazy. They want to take away a walkable station! Many people don't drive, so they don't have the ability to go to other stations. This is what many people were saying at the hearing. People who utilize Linthicum to get back and forth from work, and don't drive. Instead Citizens Against the Linthicum Light Rail, are calling foul, and demanding the hours of the station be cut, or the full station closed.

Linthicum has the potential to be a great walkable station. It is close to neighborhoods and the main drag in Linthicum, but there are definite improvements that need to be made. First, MTA needs to beef up security to ward would be criminals. Second, MTA  needs to make sure this and all stations are clean everyday. Third, have fare inspectors and MTA Police ride trains more frequently to enforce fare collection.  Fourth, add better lighting and directions signage that let potential riders know where the station is. Light rail signs for the most part are not light up at night, and at Linthicum there are no signs on the western approach to the station. Lastly, add bike racks or lockers at this station, and others, and advertise this as an option. Just because it doesn't have a parking lot doesn't make it useless.

Most of all this is also clearly a case of NIMBYism. Neighbors are worried about one crime from kids from Halethorpe? First of all, the light rail doesn't go to Halethorpe and there aren't any bus connections at Linthicum, but I'm sure they didn't know that because they never ride the light rail. So, how do you think the kids got there then?

The real issue here is with the MTA, in my opinion. MTA does not do a great job in maintaining its stations, especially on the light rail. When new signs and route maps were added downtown, this was not done at other place. (Note: most station still have rail maps that show how the line was previous to 2006). Stations rarely have updated schedules posted, nor are they replaced when they are not there. The P.A. system is in shambles, although there are plans to have this all replaced (but then again will MTA decide to use them?).

MTA also does not do a great job in letting people know about the system or its stations. Have you ever read the General Information on the website? It's two short paragraphs. Stations do not have maps or information that tells riders what is near the station, nor do they have bus or rail connection maps to tell you how to say transfer to the Metro or MARC.

This should be a wake up call to the MTA. They need to improve their system, and the custom information process. And they wonder why the Light Rail has never met is daily ridership expectations even after 20 years!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Club One Closes, Sonar Stays Open

Club One has officially closed, and Sonar has reopened in downtown. The block of land that Club One sits on has recently been sold, so what happens next? Maybe some good downtown development that we need!

Friday, May 6, 2011

In Defense of the Linthicum Station

I have to disagree with the service adjustment at the Linthicum Station. The Light Rail already has too few walkable stations along the line. The better solution would be to improve the visibility at the station and allow for better signage. There are no signs along Oakdale Road or Hammonds Ferry Road that alert residents that the station is down the street. The signs along North Camp Meade Road are also poorly visible. The Linthicum Station doesn't have a working PA system, which should be fixed immediately. That and a next-train arrival system which most transit systems in the US already have in operation, would be beneficial to this station and the whole system.

Light Rail stations do not have to be all Park-and-Ride to warrant ridership or access. People who live in Linthicum should not have to drive the extra 1.5 miles to get to the North Linthicum Station. The MTA already does a horrible job in encouraging local riders who have walkable access to the Light Rail to ride. Station upkeep is minimal, signage is limited, and the public information at each station is limited as well. The maps at each station have not been updated in years, and provide little information about what is nearby each station or connections to other modes of transportation. At many stations the posted schedules have not been updated in over 2 years. Light Rail Stations do not have bike racks for the most part, which would also encourage access at more stations.

Limiting access at Linthicum is the wrong solution. There is no proven evidence that transit stations encourage crime, so the community's arguments are debunked easily. Moreover, this action is a stark example of the MTA's own faults in promoting and maintaining its transit system. Fix the problems, and the riders will come. It works for every other city.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Disturbance in the Inner Harbor?

Well something triggered a mass juvenile disturbance in downtown near the Inner Harbor tonight that the police are still trying to clear up. Following @Justin_Fenton to see what's going on, but apparently there were masses of young people out causing a mess downtown.

While this is going on a few blocks away the man who spearheaded the revitilization of the harbor, and was mourned by thousands today, William Donald Schaefer, lies in state beneath the Baltimore City Hall dome. One must wonder what he would think (or do) about this.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Transit Systems on Facebook

In the next move in social networking, many transit systems have begun Facebook pages to post information, news, comments, etc direct to anyone on Facebook. The Maryland Transit Administration is no different. They have had a page for sometime now, and having viewed the posts and especially the comments you can see the good and the bad of utilizing this technology.

It's definitely a plus because the information is very accessible. MTA does not have a mobile version of its website, so it's difficult to access it from a smartphone when you need to know if your bus is detoured or the light rail is running late. Facebook on the other hand is mobile, so riders can see the information if it's updated. So far, MTA has been on top of reliably adding information on delays and changes to its Facebook page. Facebook also lets the MTA cross list events or posts from other pages that may relate to information they are sharing.

Being on Facebook also lends itself to serving as a public record for how well (or not so well) MTA does its job. Comments on the page are both positive and negative. Riders do not hesitate to make a comment when their bus is late, or why there were no updates on service changes. They've also commented about great or poor customer service while riding the system. It forces some transparency on MTA to respond to the comments that are added to their page. Moreover, it forces accountability on MTA especially when negative comments are posted.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Opening Day!

Welcome Back to the Yard!

Orioles enter opening day at Oriole Park at Camden Yards with a 3-0 record , their best since 1997, and the only team to sweep the first series of the year on the road. Here's to another season!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Charmulator Posts Highest Monthly Ridership

The Month of March ridership figures were released today and wow. The total ridership for the Charmulator in March was 188,409 or a 54% increase in ridership over February. This also exceeds the highest ridership set during the peak of last summer. The second news is that the average headways for March are the closest they have been to the 10 minute mark that is advertised. The average for the Orange Route was 11:16 and the Purple Route was 10:49.

With the addition of 5 VanHool buses in mid February, service has been a lot more reliable across the route. Additionally, much of the downtown construction that plagued the buses over the course of the past months has mostly ended.

If ridership continues at this level throughout the height of the summer tourist and vacation season, I would say that the Charm City Circulator was a successful plan by Baltimore.

In related news: have you heard of the "new" MTA buses?

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Hollywood Diner Reborn...Again

Sweat Equity: Hollywood Diner gets new owner, vision from Maryland Daily Record on Vimeo.

If you hadn't noticed, the Hollywood Diner at 400 E Saratoga St. reopened this month, and not a moment too soon since the Baltimore Farmer's Market returns on Sunday April 3rd. I've always thought this was a prime location with residents and workers nearby, and market traffic on the weekends. Their angle is good, affordable, comfort-style food. Best of luck to new Hollywood Diner presents: Red Springs Cafe.

Monday-Thursday: 8am to 5pm
Friday: 8am to 7pm
Saturday and Sunday: (during Farmer's Market Season)

400 E. Saratoga Street

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

One More Ranking...Social Networking

Men's Health has now ranked Baltimore the 58th most socially networked town in the US. I'm starting to think Men's Health has a vendetta on Charm City. Men's Health based their rankings on each city's users of Facebook and LinkedIn per capita, amount of Twitter traffic from members in the city, and other networking sites and blogs (are we not writing enough here?) to get the final tally.

With all the calculations that puts us at 58 out of 100, and a C letter grade. Well below Washington, DC (1), Boston (9), Wilmington, DE (22), and Los Angeles (33), but closer to Philadelphia (49), and New York City (53).

In our contemporary times when tweets, likes, and status updates lets us know everything that is going on in the world, and judges popularity from everything to celebrities, retail items, and what makes national news, is it that bad to be disconnected? Rather, do we here in Baltimore still just favor the original social network, face-to-face verbal conversations. You make the call.