Something about Highlandtown

Written by on December 5, 2012 in Featured, Neighborhood News - No comments

There’s something different about Highlandtown. People who live there or have lived there say so with pride and nostalgia. It’s an integral part of Baltimore that stands on its own: Rapper Hector Rivera, a.k.a. Mr. Highlandtown, once noted to the Guide that his mail says “Highlandtown, MD” on it.

We can’t explain it, so we left it to the people who live and work in Highlandtown.


Photographic artist Matthew Saindon contributed this photo of craft artist Allison Fomich wrapping the bust of Frank Zappa in front of the Southeast Anchor Library. (Sorry for the crop, Matt!). Photo by Matthew Saindon

The Highlandtown arts scene
The Guide spoke to Allison Fomich, a craft artist, and Matthew Saindon, a photographer, both of whom live in Highlandtown with their families.

Where is Highlandtown now, in terms of the arts?
Fomich: I see Highlandtown as a place for families with artists in them—artist parents who are choosing to live here with their children, for example. [Fomich has a 7-year-old daughter] There’s a growing community of people who are starting to have children, and we’re finding common ground in that… We’ve found community not only with ourselves and our art, but with our children.
Saindon: Highlandtown is the largest arts and entertainment district in Maryland; we’ve got a lot going on. With the Creative Alliance’s extensive arts programming, regular monthly art shows at Roman’s Place and the Laughing Pint, and events like the Lantern Parade and the All Ages Art Cart Derby, Highlandtown is rich with creativity.

Where would you like to see Highlandtown go?
Fomich: I would like to see more families move to Highlandtown, more artists who would like to stay here and raise their children in an urban environment.
Saindon: I’d like to see Highlandtown attract art venues, and public art projects.

Highlandtown’s spirituality
The Guide spoke to Pastor Paul Warren of Abbott Memorial Presbyterian Church. Warren has both lived in Highlandtown and pastored his church for the past 15 years.

Where is Highlandtown now?
Warren: Many of the residents have become much more committed to the health of the community overall.
I personally think it’s because of the mortgage crisis—some of them got into these huge mortgages and, with the crash, couldn’t get out of them. So they’re staying here. I’ve seen it in the churches—more and more people are looking for a spiritual home.
There are more young pastors living in the area, such as Pastor Mark [Walker, from Breath of God Lutheran Church], and that’s a good thing.
The Hispanic community is a new phenomenon, and with their arrival, more and more of our neighbors are people of faith.

Where would you like to see Highlandtown go?
Warren: One of the images I use in our church all the time is that the Bible begins in a garden and ends in a city. Let’s work for the things that are wrong to make them right, and the things that are incomplete to make them whole, so that the city of Baltimore looks more like the city of God.

Pleasant living in Highlandtown
The Guide spoke to Kevin Bernhard, president of the Highlandtown Community Association

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake visited Highlandtown last Friday for the neighborhood’s “Holidays in Highlandtown” festivities, which included the opening of the Train Garden and a visit from Santa. Photo by Matthew Saindon

Where is Highlandtown now?
Bernhard: Highlandtown is at a unique place right now. We are a very culturally diverse neighborhood, with affordable home prices in a safe, vibrant, and exciting neighborhood. Living in this neighborhood you should never not have something to do. Whether it is a trip to the Creative Alliance, a quick drink at your local corner pub, a picnic in the park, or a simple stroll through the neighborhood, Highlandtowners are lucky to have so many assets within easy reach.

Where would you like to see Highlandtown go?
Bernhard: I would like to see Highlandtown continue to grow, and I can envision that happening. We just need to be careful while we grow in a positive direction so that we don’t lose those things that make Highlandtown special. I, along with a lot of my neighbors, value the diversity of our neighborhood, and we have to be sure to work hard on making Highlandtown the best that it can be, while ensuring that we preserve the cultural diversity that this neighborhood promotes.

Highlandtown’s business climate
The Guide spoke to Amanda Smit-Peters, manager of the Highlandtown Main Streets program.

Where is Highlandtown now?
Smit-Peters: Highlandtown’s Main Street district (an area that includes a 10-block stretch of businesses, east-west from Robinson St. to Haven St., and north-south from Bank St. to Fleet St.) has a great mix of businesses and non-profit organizations. We have several anchors throughout the district including the Creative Alliance at the Patterson, Southeast Anchor Library, and Markets of Highlandtown. Our businesses include offices, specialty food grocers, discount stores, banks, specialty clothing shops, medical facilities, and a wide variety of other stores.

Where would  you like to see Highlandtown go?
Smit-Peters: We want to build on the strengths of our anchor locations…so that it encourages people to spend more time in an area they may already visit. We realize that 10 blocks can be a far span to travel, so encouraging complementary businesses near one another is one way to keep customers shopping, eating, and spending longer amounts of time in our business district.  We think this breakdown helps us think about the way people are using “the Avenue”, and how we might help it grow in the future.
Note: Look for more on Highlandtown Main Streets’ vision in an upcoming issue of the Baltimore Guide.

by Erik Zygmont

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