Remington vs. Business: Why?
Columnist Mike Moran looks at what he feels are his neighborhood's anti-business stances.
Just across the street from our long struggling North Baltimore community of Remington, there now exists two conjoined businesses that are simultaneously bringing new life to the area—and excess fat to my gut.
Sweet 27, formally Sweet Sin, and Meet 27, are a locally owned bakery and fine dining restaurant, respectively. Both locations are enjoying stellar reviews and are the only all-gluten-free eateries in Baltimore, which means I don’t need to take a nap after I gorge myself on their sesame chicken and house made cupcakes.
“Part of the reason we decided to settle in Remington last year, was Sweet 27 being down the street," said Michael Colligan, a gluten allergic customer.
Unique, independent, trendy—Sweet 27 and Meet 27 are the type of businesses a struggling community like Remington would give its first born son for, right?
Well, apparently not.
At least not in the eyes of the Remington Neighborhood Alliance, who, through Vice President Joan Floyd, have been battling the businesses in court since 2010 citing a fear that a fine dining restaurant could conceivably pass their license to a less savory establishment at a later date in time.
Geez, if we’re going to structure our neighborhood around what might happen in the future, perhaps we should start accounting for jet pack traffic.
"Every day we don’t have a liquor license, we lose money, because people come in and leave," owner Richard D'Souza said. "I could (still) go out of business from the lawyer fees."
D'Souza said he is confident they will win the fight for the license, and currently the restaurant is a bring-your-own-beer establishment.
Ah, American Rule for attorney’s fees, what will we do with you?
It’s not just liquor licenses and Wal-Monsters the Remington Neighborhood Alliance opposes.
Cresmont Lofts had the audacity to try and attract Hopkins students to the area by building a seven story apartment complex. The RNA pursued them through every legal means possible before it was built, and fought in court to have it demolished after it was constructed.
Why? Apparently it was "too big and out of character" for the neighborhood. So I guess the decaying garages and dirty, vacant lot preceding it, had more of that "classic" Remington feel.
Years before that, that area was kept from becoming an upscale lounge called Inferno, aimed at folks 30 and over. Floyd insisted that the result would be the whole neighborhood becoming an all-night party spot.
Well, if you haven’t noticed, much of Remington already is, only the party drugs of choice aren’t regulated by law and the partyers aren’t checked for ID.
Floyd said the reasons for her group's legal actions are for "maintaining the community's character." A drive through the neighborhood, however, may force one to question what character she’s referring to.
Is it the littered streets, the boarded-up houses, the open air drug markets?
While many neighboring North Baltimore communities, such as Hampden and Charles Village, are continuing to enjoy a growing renaissance among the artistic and scholastic community, the Gentrification Fairy seems to have skipped over Remington. In my opinion, even a big, ugly Wal-Mart could spruce things up (relatively speaking).
In Floyd’s defense, many Baltimoreans have applauded her efforts. She was praised for her part in barring the reopening of rowdy Remington dive Hard Times in 2002, and the City Paper named her “do gooder of the year” in 2007, citing her "government watch dog" efforts.
I couldn’t get a comment from Floyd regarding the RNA's legal battles against local businesses, though she pointed out to me in an email that Remington's housing market is on the upswing, highlighting the recent rehabbing of vacant houses by the Sewall Development corp, the purchase of the formerly vacant houses in the 300 block of W. 28th Street, and the fact that "we (of Remington) no longer meet the qualifications for an Enterprise Zone Focus Area."
Not everyone in Remington stands behind Floyd and the RNA. The often rivaling Greater Remington Improvement Association focuses more on things like planting attractive greenery and organizing neighborhood festivals, than forcing entrepreneurs to spend money in court. Of businesses moving into the area, GRIA founder Eric Imhoff has stated in The Baltimore Sun, "We think an active corner is safer than an inactive one."
I challenge anyone to drive through Remington one day and disagree with that statement.
Now, I’m going to go shut down these kid’s lemonade stand before they are forced to lawyer up.