One thing I find so interesting in Baltimore is the juxtaposition of crummy with not crummy. For instance, this picture is of China Doll Restaurant, Jimmy’s Chinese Food Carry Out, Park Ave Sports Bar, and George’s Tailor. Of these, I think China Doll Restaurant is the only one that’s still open (I have only walked by), but this is a very Baltimore thing to have happen: a row of vacant stuff with one thing that’s inhabited.
I’m always surprised when I see a row of boarded up rowhomes and then find a beautifully taken care of rowhouse in the middle with perfect paint, a cute porchlight, impeccable paint on the exterior and the stoop, and nice big house numbers. I used to come up with wild stories as to why, this happened, but now I’m pretty sure it’s just that everything got boarded up around these homes and the occupants already owned it outright, so why move? All you have to do is take care of the outside of your home and it looks just like any other home, minus all the vacants surrounding it.
Anyway, Baltimore has a lot of vacant space for businesses. Walking along some of the non-major streets downtown, there will be a bar or restaurant, then three or four empty store fronts, then a few more shops, and then more empty storefronts. It surprises me—is the rent or taxes just too high? Is there really just not enough demand to support more businesses? Some of the most hole-in-the-wall places I’ve seen have survived in Baltimore for years, yet these well-placed shops with nice big glass fronts can’t? I don’t get it.
(Park Ave & Franklin St.)