An In-the-Know Real Estate Pro Gives Us Her Restaurant Picks


I have a secret weapon in Nicky Keelty. She’s a dear friend who knows more about Baltimore restaurants (and hotels, shops and salons) than anyone I know. Nicky can conjure up the perfect restaurant for any occasion on cue, and follow it up with an impsossible-to-get Saturday night reservation, all with one swift call. Nicky is connected.

Why is the mother of two on the inside track? It’s her job. As a Senior Vice President, Principal at Cassidy Turley, she leases space downtown. It’s her business to know what, where, when and why.

She’s so genuinely likable and fun, it’s easy to see why any restaurant would happily move her name to the top of the resevations list.

Home cook assessment: Do you consider Durkee onions and Campbell’s mushroom soup legitimate ingredients or cheating?
Cheating, you need to start from scratch. And how would you make those onion things or that soup? I just avoid those ingredients all together.

Saturday night with the husband: Where do you book? What do you order?

Ambassador. Patio table. Chicken tikka masala.
The Ambassador Dining Room

If Morris Mechanic Theatre Goes, Expect More Than One Dry Eye

A few days ago, Baltimore’s Morris Mechanic Theatre came one step closer to being reduced to rubble, after developer OneWest LLC filed for a permit to demolish the space and replace it with two 30-story mixed use developments.

For many in the city, that’s not a big step to take. Since its construction in 1967, the harsh, brutalist modernism of the building has inspired cracks and smirks from architectural critics, real and wannabe, across the city. Planted in the middle of the inner city, its unvarnished concrete cubism has cheerfully defied what most urban downtowns demand of modern art: feel good atmospherics, and sleek, shiny magnets for commerce.

It’s been compared to a concrete bunker, and, most famously, to a poached egg on toast, by Hecht Company executive J. Jefferson Miller in 1967.

Actors themselves, at least those old enough to remember the building in its heyday, when it was the stopping place for traveling Broadway shows, don’t seem to be sad to see it go. A cramped backstage was among complaints I have heard registered over the years. Bruce Nelson, a Baltimore actor, told me that when he heard of the latest developments, he had to confess to mixed feelings. For awhile, the Morris Mechanic was Baltimore’s only link to the professional theater world.

The Difference A Mentor Makes: My Sister’s Circle


A Baltimore mentoring group called My Sister’s Circle is among those celebrating a graduation this spring. Four years ago, their first class of high-school graduates –numbering exactly two young women — started along the road to higher education, having managed to avoid many of the risks of growing up poor in Baltimore City.

“Teen pregnancy, drug and alcohol addiction, incarceration, neglect and dropping out of school” – those are the main ones”, says Heather Harvison, a local educator and businesswoman who founded My Sister’s Circle in 2000.  New in town, Ms. Harvison approached the principal of her local elementary school with an offer to volunteer for whatever they needed. “What she needed was mentors. She told me how her bright, confident fifth grade girls would make a dramatic turn for the worse by the seventh grade. She asked for mentors for these girls.”

From this first class of fifth graders, My Sister’s Circle is now honoring six high school graduates and the two young women who have just completed college.

Shaniqua joined the first class of My Sister’s Circle in 2000. She was living with her bed-ridden, severely demented grandmother, because her drug-addicted parents had failed her. There were years of hard work ahead, and she needed someone to count on.  Today, Shaniqua is graduating from Stevenson with a Paralegal Studies degree.

Many  success stories later, over 120 middle and high school girls have been matched with mentors who organize cultural, educational and recreational events for the girls.  Mentors organize trips, elicit summer camp scholarships, become friends, and work with the girls and their families along the way to young womanhood. My Sister’s Circle has a schools and college counselor to help younger girls with the school selection process, and with the financial aid process when applying to college. Mentors look forward taking a college visiting trip with their mentee. “It’s a goal,” says Harvison, “but not the only goal.”

Women who are interested in volunteering to become a mentor are encouraged to call My Sister’s Circle at 410-303-5806 or email [email protected].



Want to Live in the City? “Live Baltimore” Neighborhood Tours Show the Way


This month, Live Baltimore will host a series of free pop-up events to introduce potential homebuyers to untapped areas of the city while preparing them for the home-buying process. The casual gatherings lead up to Buying into Baltimore West on Saturday, May 12, an event to give homebuyers a chance to connect with neighborhood residents and see each neighborhood from a local’s point-of-view.

St. Frances Academy: Success In The Shadow Of The City Jail

Camille and Bill Cosby

St. Frances Academy sits squarely in the shadow of the Baltimore City Detention Center, and the irony is lost on no one.  With just over 200 high school students, mostly black and mostly poor, St. Frances can seem like the last chance for many.  Established in 1828, by a Haitian nun of the Oblate order, St. Frances has been educating the children of Baltimore African-Americans for nearly 200 years now, on a budget that sometimes seems little more than a wing and a prayer.

Founded as The Baltimore School For Colored Girls, the school’s original mission was to “teach the children of color to read the Bible” – an illegal act in the slave-state of Maryland. Its founder, Mother Mary Lange, is currently a candidate for sainthood in the Catholic Church, although at the time of the school’s founding, her efforts were not embraced among Catholic leadership, many of whom were slave owners themselves. St. Frances persevered, times changed, and the tiny East Baltimore school continued to meet a growing need. In the 1970s it went co-ed, and its role expanded to become a neighborhood gathering place, a community and health center.

Today, there are many success stories here.  Almost 100 percent of St. Frances graduates go on to college, despite a small sports program and no academic admission standard.  What is required — according to Sister John Francis Schilling, director of the school since 1993, who personally interviews every candidate — is a sincere desire to come, and that their parent or guardian promise to support them. Tuition is charged for nearly every student, although the school strives to accommodate families in difficult circumstances. With a purposefully small enrollment, and classes of less than 15 students, St. Frances is able to provide individual attention and, when needed, counseling to each of its students.

Among St. Frances’s notable sponsors are Camille Cosby, who in 2005, donated $2 million, which the school used to endow 16 scholarship chairs.  In three weeks, on April 20th, Drs. Bill and Camille Cosby will visit St. Frances to be honored at a fund-raising gala, organized to help the school continue its mission. Soledad O’Brien, popular CNN anchor, will also attend — on behalf of her mother Estella, a St. Frances graduate.

For tickets to the gala on April 20th, contact Melissa D’Adamo at St. Frances, [email protected]. or call 410-539-7030.

Gestalt and Pepper: Hometown Girl Rebecca Murphy Gives Her Favorite Food Picks


Baltimore, I think I have found your biggest fan. Her name is Rebecca Murphy and she describes her devotion to the city as “bordering on the weird.”

“I love every last bit of it, I mean, I am still a die hard Orioles fan.”  Enough said.

Rebecca’s passion for the city is not all lip service either, she works as director of special projects in the Mayors’s office (“it means I can be doing a different job every day”) and counts being engaged in improving the city as one of her greatest joys.

When you get to know Rebecca it is easy to see where all that passion for her hometown comes from. Her Baltimore roots run deep. The mother of two and Bryn Mawr and Western alum is a fourth-generation Baltimorean (her father is acclaimed attorney Billy Murphy) with a rich family tradition, a tradition where food took center stage. “My grandmother would ‘bring it’ for family dinners every Sunday,” she says. So it’s no surprise that when Rebecca talks about her restaurant picks, her focus is simple: good food and good people.

No Vacancy in Downtown Baltimore


The Baltimore Business Journal is reporting that 111 new apartment rentals are planned for the city. But what really surprised me was that the new apartments are in response to a 97 percent rental occupancy rate in the city.  Downtown is the fastest growing residential neighborhood in Baltimore, says the Downtown Partnership spokesman Michael Evitts.

Developers are so eager to satisfy the need for residential rental space they are converting office buildings into apartments. Small conversions of office space make up the combined 111 apartments.

Read the whole story at the BBJ.

Former Oriole to Open Restaurant at Power Plant Live!


Kettle Hill, a new restaurant concept from Keystone Hospitality, is opening at Power Plant Live!, which is now at 100 percent capacity following a $10 million renovation, expansion and grand relaunch of the district.

Baltimore Oriole Rick Dempsey is a partner on the concept, which follows Leinenkugel’s Beer Garden, Joe Squared, Luckie’s Liquors, PBR Baltimore, the Baltimore Comedy Factory, TATU Asian Grill, and the Live! concert venue in a string of openings at the downtown spot.

Occupying approximately 6,000 square feet, plus an additional 2,000 square feet of patio space, Kettle Hill is an American bistro & tavern offering exceptional seasonal grill fare. The restaurant’s official opening date will be April of 2012. 

Situated at the corner of Water St and Market Place, Kettle Hill will have seating for approximately 250, spanning the dining room, bar and outdoor patio.

Designer Brian Swanson, who’s list of clients include Neiman Marcus, Rolex and Steve Wynn, has created a warm space with exposed brick and wood beams, enhanced with tufted leather, reclaimed wood, and rich canvas. The storefront will open up to an expansive outdoor patio, which will feature an open air pergola that will cover the outdoor bar and grill area.


Read more at Citybizlist

Diamond In The Rough: 8,000 Square Foot, Unfinished Loft On Hollins Street


HOT HOUSE: 1008 Hollins Street, Baltimore 21223

Circa 1871 New York style loft building, former livery stable, then fruit warehouse in SoWeBo (Southwest Baltimore). Zoned commercial/industrial. Partly heated, rudimentary kitchen and bathroom. 8,000 sq. ft. with skylights, rope-operated freight elevator, remote control door: $575,000

What: A jaw-dropping, raw, Tribecca brand of loft space, one of the few left here in Baltimore. Originally a livery stable for a large undertaking operation on Baltimore Street, some of the interior wood has had a former life as caskets. The owner, an artist in the film industry, is half-hearted about selling. He has great plans (and materials) for a sweeping staircase, a reading loft and more. It was “very raw” space when he acquired it, 15 years ago, and served as party/performance space through the 90’s.

Still unfinished by most standards, he’s installed plumbing, new windows, and a giant triple-insulated skylight with a prism that attracts light to the interior in winter and refracts it in the summer. There are just enough amenities to support life, (stove, bathtub and toilet) if you’re pretty relaxed. Also “the roof is bad.” But there is real beauty in the giant scale of the place – 30 foot ceilings and exposed surfaces that reveal an ancient industrial past. Light that streams through clerestory windows, turning floating particles into hypnotic fairy dust. In the right hands, this would surpass the Woodberry Kitchen as a successful architectural renovation. Any takers?   

Where: Hollins Street is on the other side of Martin Luther King Boulevard, the bad side. Gentrification, however, is well underway.  The sleek new buildings of University of Maryland are just 100 yards away, across MLK, and coming this way. There are funky shops, cute restaurants and interestingly, many beauty salons already here. Not to mention the bustling Hollins Market right on the corner. Follow MLK Boulevard south to West Baltimore Street, take a right and then a left onto S. Schroeder Street, and a quick right onto Hollins. 

Why: Because you have either the eye of an artist or the head of a real-estate investor.You need one or both of those to realize the potential here.

Would Suit: Andy Warhol. This could be the Factory of Baltimore.

NB:  See “bad side” above, so no kids. Also, obviously, tons of work needed. It would be a labor of love.  

Donate Your Pennies: Poe House in Poorhouse


The historic Poe House at 203 Amity Street lost $85,000 in city funding last year–they’ve been told to expect no further support–and is temporarily closed while EAP-loving local volunteers scramble to assemble funds to reopen the museum building to the public.

Enthusiastic Poe-studying students in Mr. Zimmerman’s history class at the Crossroads School in Fells Point have raised about $500 to save the house from closure. Local writer Rafael Alvarez, a former Sun reporter, now president of the Poe Society of Baltimore, encouraged the middle schoolers to take up a down-home drive, Pennies for Poe, inspired by historic events.

More than 150 years ago, local schoolchildren began collecting pennies to purchase a marker for Poe’s grave–you may recall, the author died scary broke and alone in 1849, at (gasp) 40. Finally, back then, a few businessmen got word and pitched in, bringing the grand tombstone total to $1200 and ensuring that the author’s grave would include a legit headstone to praise his name.

Alvarez has extended “Pennies” by enlisting several local establishments to feature a Poe House donation fishbowl or coffee can (see bar/restaurant list below). He’ll visit more city schools this fall to talk Poe facts and invite kids to fund-raise.

“Not everyone who comes to Baltimore confines their adventures to the Inner Harbor. Many tourists–along with locals–wander to see the more obscure gems of Crabtown, like the house on Amity Street where Edgar Allan Poe lived for a time with his wife and mother-in-law and is said to have written the ever-fabulous ‘MS. Found in a Bottle,’” Alvarez says. “We are collecting so many pennies that a search is on for a well-hidden, secure and empty swimming pool to fill with pennies. Pennies will save the Poe House as sure as William Donald Schaefer still knows where an abandoned and burned out car waits to be towed away by the Department of Public Works.”

A sizable swimming pool of change might just do it. There’s still a long way to go to reach the foundation’s $85,000-deep goal, so dig beneath your sofa cushions, pat under your car floor mats, and break the piggy bank. Help keep the horror master’s doors from creaking creepily shut for evermore.

Make checks payable to:
DIRECTOR OF FINANCE, City of Baltimore
put the words POE HOUSE in memo line.

Mail donations to:
Jeff Jerome (Poe House curator)
c/o Baltimore City Department of Planning, 8th Floor
417 East Fayette Street Baltimore, MD 21202

Or drop your spare change in collection jars at:

G&A Hot Dogs at 3802 Eastern Avenue

The Laughing Pint at 3531 Gough

Pub 1919 at 1919 Fleet Street