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A New Canvas for Baltimore: Dressed For Success! Storefront Improvements on Baltimore’s Pennsylvania Avenue Corridor
Pennsylvania Avenue is a bustling commercial corridor on Baltimore’s west side, historically known as a cultural and entertainment district for the African American community. It is home to a diverse range of businesses, including the Avenue Market, Shake and Bake (a bowling alley and roller rink that serves as an important anchor to the community) and other retailers, such as convenience stores, beauty shops, cell phone stores, appliance stores and carry-out food establishments.
Thanks to Governor Larry Hogan and his approval of a $650,000 allocation from the Rainy Day Fund, the exterior of several of the businesses throughout the city are being enhanced through the Maryland Business Recovery Storefront Improvement Program. The improvements in the 1600, 1700 and 1800 block of Pennsylvania are the first of 26 storefront improvement projects to be completed in the near future.
Through the Art@Work Program, spearheaded by the Baltimore Office for the Promotion of the Arts (BOPA) and Jubilee Arts, the Maryland Business Recovery Storefront Improvement Program provided funds to help spruce up approximately 13 businesses along Pennsylvania Avenue, a historic Main Street in the city’s Upton neighborhood.
The department partnered with the Civic Works Youth Build Program to repair, replace and prime the metal security gates that cover the shop entrances when they are closed. A mural inspired by the businesses on the block now covers these gates and adds color to the streetscape. Approximately 20 youth from Civic Works assisted in the beautification of Pennsylvania Avenue.
With program funds, Civic Works also installed new exterior lights to brighten both the mural and sidewalk after dark. Businesses that participated in the initiative included Penn Mart, Cricket, Appliance R US, Mel’s Liquors, Luck Shop, Urban Jewelers, Panda Carry Out, Sissy’s Seafood, Lafayette Market, B-Wireless and the Discount Store.
In addition to the security gate mural, Civic Works also assisted with installing painted wooden panels above the Crazy Beauty Mart. Reflected on these panels are notable African Americans and neighborhood patrons and residents.
Finally, Civic Works was hired to freshen up the exterior of the Corridor’s recreational anchor, the Shake and Bake. Youth with the Art@Work initiative painted a unique mural along the base of the front of the building, while Civic Works youth gave the almost 75,000-square foot building a paint job.
This program doesn’t just benefit the business owners whose storefronts were improved; it has benefited Baltimore’s youth by providing them with employment and workforce development opportunities. Both the Civic Works Youth Build Program and the Art@Work Program are committed to hiring and training Baltimore’s youth so they are better prepared for the workforce.
Like many of the other areas of Baltimore receiving state investment under the Hogan administration, Pennsylvania Avenue was the site of heavy civil unrest in 2015. Efforts like the Storefront Improvement Program aim to keep local businesses successful while highlighting the opportunities for future investment, such as the historic and vacant Sphinx Club and other vacant buildings that were once used as doctor’s offices, theaters and jazz clubs. Continued stabilization of this corridor will help the Old West Baltimore Historic District thrive once again.
The Storefront Improvement Program is supporting work elsewhere in the city, including projects along the Main Street corridors in Highlandtown and Waverly. The program funds up to $10,000 of exterior improvements for businesses across Baltimore to enhance the aesthetic quality of the storefronts and business districts.
The department thanks Preservation Maryland for their photographic contributions.
“A New Canvas for Baltimore” is a regular series covering Project C.O.R.E. (Creating Opportunities for Renewal and Enterprise). Project C.O.R.E. will clear the way for new green space, new affordable and mixed use housing, and new opportunities for small business owners in Baltimore City. The initiative will generate jobs, strengthen the partnership between the City of Baltimore and the State of Maryland and lead to safer, healthier and more attractive communities. For more information on Project C.O.R.E., visit http://dhcd.maryland.gov/ProjectCORE/.