While we were focused on Miller’s Court and 30×13, the neighborhood of Remington was working hard to plan for their future – starting the work that would become an official Remington Neighborhood Master Plan to guide future development. The neighborhood envisioned the revitalization of many vacant and underutilized properties into walkable retail and mixed-use options for neighborhood residents. The community had identified three blocks of Remington Ave. – the central thoroughfare of the community – as a possible site for a “main street” per se. At the time, Remington Ave. was a mix of vacant, underutilized warehouses and open industrial yards – far from being the vibrant commercial and residential mix it had once been or that the neighborhood’s new plan called for. With the support of the community, we started to figure out how we might acquire many of these properties and work together to envision a new Remington Ave. Change is never easy, especially change at a neighborhood scale, so we made it a point to talk with everyone from legacy residents to families buying their first home in Remington. Through hundreds of conversations, a number of projects began to take shape that would thoroughly transform Remington Ave. When we started, there was only one business in operation on these three blocks, Baltimore Glass Company, so instead of displacing them, we worked with them to move their operations just up the street, paving the way for the Remington Row development to move forward. We were able to bring retail and commercial staples the neighborhood had been asking for to the building – like a bank, a dry cleaner, a multidisciplinary doctor’s office, and a pharmacy – along with more than 100 residential units priced for the workforce below market rate. On the 2800 block of Remington Ave., we worked with local chefs to dream up R. House, a food hall focused on launching chefs and creating community. And in the 2900 block, we took a couple of vacant warehouse buildings and turned them into offices and retail spaces for inspiring local businesses. Three blocks of development and more than $70 million of investment later, Remington Ave. is now a vibrant, exciting and inclusive main street – and the heart of this community we’ve come to love.
What was always engaging and exciting was the constancy of Seawall. It felt like there was always somebody listening.
When Seawall came around talking about what they were doing on Remington Ave., I was very hesitant at first. We were very clear that we wanted to stay in Remington, because many of our employees lived in the neighborhood. I really think that everything that has happened here is for the better.
John Bales has loved Remington for longer than any of us; he was born in the neighborhood and has lived here ever since. His memories of the community are some of the guideposts that we refer back to time and time again as we work in partnership with the neighborhood to realize their plans for the future and honor the legacy of everything that has come before.
Tell us about your history in the neighborhood of Remington. How long have you been here and where have you called home?
I’ve been here my whole life. I was born on Huntingdon Ave., and then we moved to Hampden Ave. I met my wife, and we shared an apartment on Huntingdon and then we bought this place [on 27th St.]. We’ve been married for 32 years, so we’ve had this place almost that whole time. I’m an original Remington guy.
What was it like growing up here?
Growing up on Hampden Ave., I remember running around, playing tag. There were a lot of big families here. I’m one of 11 kids. And we all knew each other. A lot of those people are still here, but over time, kids moved away and then the parents left too. The neighborhood got a little iffy for a while, but good people slowly brought it back.
Tell us more about that period when things went a little downhill. How did that make you feel about living here?
We had a few major problems, mainly related to drugs and abandoned buildings. Down the street, at the old tin can factory (Miller’s Court) the building was abandoned and really falling apart. My brother used to work there when it was a clothing operation, but the last time it was in use was in the ‘80s by the Census Bureau. After that, it was just vacant. I can remember one harsh winter in the ‘90s it froze out and the water was literally cascading out the window frozen. When they finally got in it, the old wooden floorboards had warped and cracked. I thought they condemned it, but then Seawall came around.
How did it make you feel to have a vacant and abandoned building just down the street for so long?
It was very annoying to have an abandoned building like that in your community. It’s like a decay; you think it’s going to keep creeping through. I thought they should just tear it down. But the change that came when Seawall started working here has been amazing.
Tell us about that; how do you feel about the change that has come to the neighborhood recently?
The change has been what I’ve welcomed most in all the time I’ve lived here. I remember having a special bus line to take us to Hampden to go to the grocery store because we didn’t have one here. Then Seawall came around and I was like, wow. Now we have ample parking; my doctor is down there [in Remington Row], and I use the pharmacy and the dry cleaners all the time. So yeah, I’m loving life.
So Remington is your home for the next 50 years, too?
I’ve stayed with other people in other cities and traveled all over the world. But when I think home, I’m here. I can walk everywhere. I know everybody. I know where I’m going, and I just like it here. It’s like putting on an old sweater.
Three blocks of Remington Ave transformed.