Thursday, December 22, 2016

How is Washington Boulevard Faring?

What Neighborhoods do you think of when asked about which Neighborhoods in Baltimore are "up and coming?" Many people's answers will include a combination of the following Neighborhoods; Brewer's Hill, Port Covington, Station North, and Middle East (near Hopkins.) One Neighborhood that most will forget about is Pigtown. This is easy to overlook because Pigtown has been "up & coming" for about 30 years now. One thing that isn't easy to forget is that Washington Boulevard is the central spine of Pigtown and by looking at Washington Boulevard, it can be easy to see how Pigtown is doing. With that being said, how is Washington Boulevard Faring?
Today Washington Boulevard appears to be faring relatively well. It was poised to make a comeback in the mid 2000s when one block to the north, a new town home development known as Camden Crossing broke ground. Camden Crossing began to sell well but when the economy crashed, so did Camden Crossing. Along Washington Boulevard at that time, more upscale Businesses began opening along the Boulevard creating a Main St. effect. The Main St. effect stretched from Cross St. to MLK Boulevard. Past Cross St., Washington Boulevard becomes more Residential in nature.
Not too surprisingly, the more upscale Businesses that had begun to pop up along Washington Boulevard in the mid 2000s didn't last long. The up & coming status of Pigtown was destroyed with the economy. This was nothing against Washington Boulevard and Pigtown as a whole, virtually every up & coming Neighborhood in the nation took the same massive hit when the economy tanked.

As the 2000s became the 2010s, there were many boarded up homes and Businesses along Washington Boulevard. Some of these buildings were some of the new Businesses that had opened and others had been boarded up for some time. Since Washington Boulevard is part of an up & coming Neighborhood, there will still be buildings that have yet to see the rehab they so desperately need. Like the City of Baltimore, Pigtown has been losing population in the 2000s as well.
Today Washington Boulevard and the surrounding Pigtown are in transition. Granted they've been in transition for 30 years but this time the transition appears to be moving upward. The number of vacants along Washington Boulevard has plummeted. Boarded up homes which were once much more common have given way to freshly rehabbed occupied homes. Streetscape enhancements have also improved lighting along Washington Boulevard and have contributed to the Main St. feel the Community is going for. Especially between Cross St. and MLK Boulevard.
On the Retail front there have been several new shoppes and restaurants that have recently opened along Washington Boulevard. Tony's Grill, Tasty Creations Bakery, Ebeneezer Ethiopian Restaurant, Breaking Bread, and Cafe Jovial have joined Washington Boulevard staples such as Hamilton Bank, Nick's Rotisserie (which has been renovated), and Sunny's Carry Out. The old public Bathhouse and Fire Station will be rehabbed to make the mixed use development known as "Bathhouse Square" which will included Milk & Honey Market which will relocate from Mount Vernon as well as Apartments on the upper floors.        
Although these great Businesses have moved to Washington Boulevard, it's still an up and coming area. This means that there are still improvements throughout the area that need to be done to keep attracting new growth and investment. The first would be additional lighting. Although lighting has improved in recent years, I still believe that in order to keep Washington Boulevard safe at nigh, additional lighting is essential. Next would be facade improvements. Although newer Businesses have modernized their building's facade, older Businesses have yet to do so in some cases. Having a well maintained building both inside and out is good not only for your Business but the entire block and entire Neighborhood as a whole.
Next, I would do additional streetscape enhancements to Washington Boulevard between Cross St. and MLK Boulevard. This will include but not be limited to, brick crosswalks, new mast arm traffic signals, resurfaced roads and sidewalks, and additional way-finding signage. My final improvement to Washington Boulevard would be to redevelop the 700 block of Washington Boulevard between Barre St. and MLK Boulevard. This is a shame since this block has seen new Businesses open recently but it does not fit the traditional row house with Retail scheme that the rest of Washington Boulevard is known for. In order to draw people into the Neighborhood, the entrance to it which is the intersection of MLK Boulevard and Washington Boulevard has to be a welcoming environment that ties the area together. Long term I would like to redevelop the Bon Secours building into a Grocery Store to anchor Washington Boulevard. This partly because I would like to redevelop Mount Clare Junction eventually.
The title of this post poses the question; How is Washington Boulevard Faring? The short answer is that it's faring better than it has for a while but there are many additional improvements that can and should be made to ensure long term success for just for itself but for all of Pigtown as a whole.  

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