Hello 2013, goodbye 2012: Another year is history

Written by on January 2, 2013 in Featured, Neighborhood News - No comments

Note: A retrospective of January through June 2012 appeared in last week’s issue. July through December follows here.
Though it actually occurred at the end of June, the derecho storm that hit the city on the night of Friday, June 29, caused power outages that lasted into July. Cars mangled under fallen tree limbs were a common city sight until crews could clean the widespread mess.

O’Donnell Heights—a mixture of deeply-subsidized, affordable, for-rent, and for-sale housing to be built on the now-vacant grounds of the mostly-demolished housing project of the same name—drew closer to groundbreaking. Andrew Vincent, director of the non-profit developing the propert, AHC Greater Baltimore, said that the first phase of construction would begin with 76 housing units—38 “heavily subsidized” units for those earning 30 percent or less of the median income, and 38 affordable units, for those earning 30-50 percent of the median income.

Some residents living near O’Donnell Heights have protested its re-construction, saying that there aren’t enough nearby services to support the future residents, and that O’Donnell Heights isn’t likely to end up being a true “mixed” development—with subsidized, for-rent, and for-sale units—as described by developers.

AHC Greater Baltimore said that it could be a decade before the 62-acre site is fully developed.

In early July, the Fire Department disbanded Squad 11 of the 5714 Eastern Ave. fire station. The squad consisted of four firefighters, who were reassigned to other parts of the city. The fire-suppression vehicle that had been used by the squad remains on reserve status at the station.

Until the disbandment of Squad 11 and two other fire companies citywide, the Baltimore Fire Department had been operating on a “rotational closure” system, temporarily closing three companies in different parts of the city every day.

In Fell’s Point, work began on the Broadway Market buildings. Renovations had been planned since at least 2006, but were delayed due to the recession, according to developer David Holmes of South Broadway Properties. Holmes’ firm partnered with the Dolben Company of Boston, which would develop the buildings on either side of the 600 block of S. Broadway. The market would remain “food-oriented,” Holmes said, and the other buildings would have a ground-floor retail component with residential units above.

Near Patterson Park, the former Highlandtown Middle School building, known to some residents as Hampstead Hill, was being renovated to house approximately 170 apartments. The building is located at Pratt and S. Robinson streets.

Bernie Eckert, known by many as the “Mayor of Highlandtown,” died on July 27. Friends, family, and colleagues remembered him for his wise counsel, his love of fun, and his leadership. Eckert was the de facto leader for area State Farm agents until his 1997 retirement; after that, he remained active at the Exchange Club of Highlandtown and Canton.

Fell’s Point restaurants, especially along Thames St., faced scrutiny for their outdoor seating. Several restaurants received warning letters of violation notices following inspection by the Office of the Zoning Administrator. The Fell’s Point Task Force, a group with members from various community organizations in and near Fell’s Point, had focused on outdoor seating after “some complaints that you couldn’t walk down the street,” according to member Victor Corbin.

Restaurant owners pointed out that they pay the city a “minor privilege” fee to put their tables on the sidewalk.

The community lost another well-loved member on Saturday, Aug. 25, when restauranteur Patrick “Scunny” McCusker died following a collision between his bicycle and a bus in Ocean City. McCusker owned Nacho Mama’s, Mama’s on the Half Shell, and the Pizza and Wing Factory, all in Canton’s O’Donnell Square. His colleagues and friends remembered a man that provided 16,000 meals to families with sick children at Johns Hopkins and who threw a Halloween party for local kids every year in Canton Square.

An architectural drawing showing 93 new parking spaces in Patterson Park became known to the public; a firestorm ensued. The drawing was apparently a proposal by the Recreation and Parks Department meant to accomodate the Health Department’s decision to close the John Booth Senior Center and relocate its services to the park’s “casino” building.

Three public meetings on parking in Patterson Park were scheduled by Councilman Jim Kraft, who stated that he was against more paving, parking, or cars in the park. After 500 residents with the same stance showed up to the first meeting and soundly rejected then-acting Rec and Parks Director Bill Vondrasek’s explanations for the plan, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake relented and ordered the formation of a Patterson Park Working Group to determine the park’s future in conjunction with the needs of its different user-groups.

Kraft established an informal planning group that meets a week after the official Working Group, and sends a representative to report to the Working Group. Currently, both groups are reviewing the park’s 1998 Master Plan, and looking for focus areas that need renewed attention.

John Booth Senior Center remains open for now, but the seniors who use it report that they feel unsettled and unsure of the future of their social activities.

Harry Tsakalos, the “H” of H & S Bakery, passed away at 93. H & S employees remembered a man who was a tough boss, but completely down to earth.

“When his uniform was on, he was ready to roll. This was business. But outside of business, he treated  you like gold,” said longtime employee Mike Boggs.


Filling sandbags for Hurricane Sandy, which hit at the end of October.

Lakewood Re-Upholstering, a Canton furniture restoration business owned and operated by Ron Markiewicz, closed its doors after 75 years. The Fait Ave. shop was started in Markiewicz’s grandfather’s garage on Lakewood Ave., hence the name.

Fell’s Point was officially recognized by the American Planning Association as one of the country’s 10 Great Neighborhoods for 2012. A press release noted Fell’s Point’s “historic maritime role, character and charm, architecture, and preservation efforts.”

Fell’s Point Liquor and Bar, 1709 Fleet St., burned in a three-alarm fire on the morning of Thursday, Oct. 4. The building was condemned after the blaze, which resulted in the roof falling into the third floor.

The first of a series of public meetings on parking in Canton, and permit parking in general, was held on Monday, Oct. 22. The meeting focused on Area 43, the permit-parking area surrounding Canton’s Can Company. While some residents said that the permit area was necessary to ensure that they had a place to park, others said that it just “kicked the can down the road,” and made parking more difficult for residents outside of Area 43.

517 S. Broadway burns again.

Three public hearings were held, and the City Council has held several work sessions. No decisions have been made to date; the next work session on Area 43, with a possible vote, is scheduled for Wednesday, Jan. 16, 1:15 p.m., at City Hall.

Work began on the Canton Crossing development, located in the large open area adjacent to the Merritt Athletic Club on Boston St. Harris Teeter and Target are the planned anchor stores for the retail development; a leasing plan obtained by the Guide also showed Michael’s Arts and Crafts, Old Navy, DSW, and LOFT.

Hurricane Sandy hit, peaking on Monday, Oct. 29. Residents suffered some power outages, but overall, Charm City was spared the destruction faced by coastal New Jersey.

Following Hurricane Sandy, Baltimore residents coordinated multiple relief efforts through social media sites such as Facebook and NextDoor for those hit hardest by the storm.

On Nov. 2, a woman reported to police that she had been sexually assaulted in Fell’s Point while jogging along the waterfront. Later in the month, the case remained unsolved. November seemed a bad month for Fell’s Point in terms of crime; in addition to the sexual assault, several business were robbed at gunpoint during open hours. About 100 residents voiced their concerns at a meeting held by Councilman Jim Kraft later in the month. Major William Davis of the Southeastern Police District revealed that two evening foot-patrol officers had been added to Upper Fell’s Point,

On Tuesday, Nov. 6, 517 S. Broadway, the Fell’s Point building that had housed the Fresh Foods market burned for the second time in 2012. For weeks after the four-alarm fire, the east side of the 500 block of S. Broadway was closed due to fears that the historic building’s facade would fall. It remains standing.

Two major Patterson Park construction projects were completed. The Utz Twardowicz Field got artificial turf, and the Patterson Park Dog Park was finished. The dog park officially opened the following month.

At the end of November, prompted by a petition signed by 137 nearby residents, the Liquor Board revoked the liquor license for La Raza Cantina, a bar at the corner of Eastern Ave. and East St. Residents reported that violent incidents near the bar had made them fear for their safety. La Raza Cantina has appealed the Liquor Board’s decision, and remains open pending a hearing.

Residents began learning about the city’s plan to overhaul its zoning code for the first time since 1971. According to Laurie Feinberg, the city’s Division Chief for Comprehensive Planning, the plan is, among other things, a shift away from the “auto-oriented development” of the 1970s, toward “walkable, livable neighborhoods that promote transit use.” The zoning overhaul also includes a provision established with the Health Department that would eliminate all liquor stores in residential zones, including stores that are currently grandfathered. The stores would have two years to stop selling liquor and start selling something else, or close.

City officials pushed residents to apply for the Homestead Tax Credit, which limits property value assessment increases to 4 percent per year.

by Erik Zygmont

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