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More than a market: Waverly maps out a new plan for its future

Casey Jenkins, owner of Darker Than Blue Café
Casey Jenkins, owner of Darker Than Blue Café - Steve Ruark
Waverly is best known as a place to buy fresh raspberries and yellow corn Saturday mornings.
But Main Street Hats Owner Clyde Davis-El reminds us that it’s also a neighborhood where customers come as far away as upstate New York and Atlanta to buy fedoras and Panamas. Davis-El is just one of the neighborhood’s business owners who are counting on leaders to revitalize the neighborhood so it is known as a place to shop and dine, and not just the 32nd St. Farmers Market.
Waverly Main Street plans to enliven the neighborhood’s commercial district on Greenmount Avenue between 28th and 35th streets with the goal of attracting new businesses. It has hired urban design and planning firm Mahan Rykiel Associates to create a master plan for Waverly, which includes a new slogan, streetscaping and the redevelopment of key properties. The firm devised the plan in collaboration with local business owners, neighborhood associations, John Hopkins University staff and Baltimore Main Streets.
The area is home to Davis-El’s business, Pete’s Grille, Greenmount Loan & Jewelry, Ace Hardware and popular Southern restaurant Darker Than Blue Cafe and Restaurant. Waverly’s makeover comes at a time when surrounding areas are getting a boost. Nearby, Johns Hopkins University is investing $10 million in 10 neighborhoods. Developers and business owners are rehabbing numerous buildings along North Avenue in the Station North Arts and Entertainment District. But Waverly still has its share of challenges, including crime.
Jermaine Johnson, manager of Waverly Main Street, says he is still optimistic.
“It’s an incredible place to invest,” he says of Waverly. “I know in my heart of hearts that from North Avenue all the way up to 33rd is going to be the hip area to live.”
Waverly Main Street is forming committees and working on partnerships to implement recommendations in the Master Plan, which Johnson says will take about five years to complete after it is launched in June.
Some of the short term-goals include new streetscaping, hanging baskets and other greenery along Greenmount Avenue this summer. New sidewalks, curbs, and traffic calming speed bumps are also part of the plan, whose budget hasn’t been finalized.
There’s also a new neighborhood slogan: “This is Waverly, come at it from a different angle.” The tagline “different angle” represents both the angle of the streets in the neighborhood and a new way of looking at the community. South Carolina branding firm Arnett Muldrow & Associates, a Mahan Rykiel partner, came up with it.
Waverly Main Street is launching a community membership program to raise money for ongoing promotions and advertising, though it hasn’t yet decided exactly how the slogan will be used to promote the area. Mahan Rykiel Principal Tom McGilloway emphasizes that they’re building on Waverly’s inherent strength as a down-to-earth Baltimore neighborhood.
“One of the things we talked about is Waverly is real. Waverly should not be a cutesy boutique district.”
McGilloway says Waverly can capitalize on some of the successful businesses already in the neighborhood to get new ones. Exisiting , such as Pete’s Grille, Greenmount Loan & Jewelry, Ace Hardware, and the Darker than Blue Café. To encourage more businesses to come to the area, Waverly Main Street needs to redevelop several vacant or underused neighborhood properties. They include the following:

• The long-vacant Uncle Lee’s building at 33rd and Greenmount;
• The 1,500-seat Boulevard Theatre, at 33rd and Greenmount;
• The old Waverly Town Hall on 31st and Greenmount; and,
• A trio of vacant buildings near the 32nd St. Farmers Market known as the Triangle Block of buildings.
Johnson says some developers have expressed interest in these buildings, though he declined to name them. Main Street is looking into public-private partnerships and foundation support to fund the redevelopments.
Getting developers and businesses to invest is a challenge when the area is still plagued by crime. There were eight shootings in Waverly last year.
Waverly Main Street is working with the Northern District police in identifying high crime areas and increasing patrols. Security from the Charles Village Benefits District conducts nighttime patrols. It is also working with Johns Hopkins to educate incoming undergraduates about staying safe in the city.
Darker Than Blue Owner Casey Jenkins says he is committed to the Waverly area, in spite of the crime. But it might take some time before the area gets a boost from Waverly Main Street's efforts. Jenkins is eyeing two major Baltimore developments, the Rotunda and a retail and residential project near Johns Hopkins, for a new Darker Than Blue location that will give his restaurant more visibility.
“This Greenmount corridor is not yet known for sit down restaurants,” Jenkins says
He will open either a Latin or West Indian restaurant at Darker than Blue’s current spot at 30th and Greenmount. He says he believes the neighborhood is poised to take off in a few years.
“I guarantee you,” he says. “This will be the hot spot.”

All photographs by STEVE RUARK.

Click photos to read captions.
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