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Heady mix heats up

Hotels, shops, restaurants, residences, and night life combine to develop a waterfront left fallow

the National Katyn Memorial In the center of Harbor East is the National Katyn Memorial to the thousands of Poles murdered by the Soviets in 1939. (Susana Raab for The Boston Globe)
By Beth D’Addono
Globe Correspondent / October 18, 2009

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BALTIMORE -- As recently as a decade ago, if you asked a Baltimore resident directions to Harbor East, you were likely to get a puzzled “where?’’

“Nobody came here,’’ said Tony Foreman, a native son who along with his wife, chef Cindy Wolf, has been a driver in the neighborhood’s development. “It was all industrial warehouses, parking lots, and biker bars.’’

Tracy Wise, who tends bar at the trendy tapas lounge Pazo, remembers it this way: “Seven years ago, you needed either a machete or a machine gun to walk around here,’’ she said.

No more. The neighborhood’s evolution, fueled by the opening of a 753-room Marriott Waterfront Hotel, restaurants like Foreman and Wolf’s Charleston, smart boutiques, and even a Whole Foods, is firmly progressing. Add in a Four Seasons, opening in 2011, and a new Legg Mason office tower, part of a $550 million mixed-use development project, and it’s clear why Harbor East is Baltimore’s fastest growing neighborhood.

“What we’ve purposely done is create an urban neighborhood with a strong mix of uses,’’ said Michael Beatty, president of Harbor East Development, which purchased 70 acres of fallow waterfront land in the 1980s. “Baltimore waterfront was about shipping, it wasn’t the center of town. So when shipping dried up, the entire waterfront suffered,’’ Beatty said.

While the Inner Harbor was the first reclamation project, it is an area primarily dedicated to tourism. Harbor East, on the other hand, incorporates residences, service businesses, shopping, corporate office space, and restaurants in a six-square-block swath bordered by water on two sides and Fleet Street and Central Avenue. “I think we’ve started achieving a critical mass in the past few years,’’ said Beatty. “There’s a quality of life factor that is starting to attract a lot of attention.’’

For the visitor, the neighborhood offers a geographical bridge between two of the city’s most popular waterfront destinations, the Inner Harbor and Fell’s Point, with Little Italy abutting to the north. Yet despite its central location, Harbor East feels tucked away, pleasingly off the beaten path of commercial attractions. Most sites are within a water taxi ride, or even better, walking distance, yet the hordes stay focused on the shopping malls, aquarium, and chain restaurants.

While the Visionary Arts Museum, a stroll through Fell’s Point, and a walk up Signal Hill are three of the best reasons to leave the neighborhood, Harbor East offers enough to keep you occupied for an overnight, or even two. Check out these attractions and hot spots in Baltimore’s swankiest new address.

What to see
FRESHFarm Market Rub elbows with the locals and munch your way through this small but lively farmer’s market featuring local farmers and producers, with special events like kids’ activities and cooking classes.

1000 Lancaster St. between South Exeter Street and Central Avenue. Saturdays 8 a.m.-noon through Nov. 21. www.freshfarmmarket.org/markets/harbor_east.html

National Katyn Memorial A dramatic focal point in the center of the main traffic circle at the end of President Street, this monument commemorates the execution of more than 20,000 Polish doctors, professors, teachers, lawyers, priests, and rabbis by the Soviets in 1939 at the start of World War II.

Baltimore Public Works Museum Located in the circa 1912 Eastern Avenue Pumping Station, this surprisingly interesting museum looks at how public works shapes an urban environment - and what life was like before niceties such as running water, trash removal, and the like. 410-396-5565, baltimorepublicworksmuseum.org

Baltimore Civil War Museum Housed in the 1849 President Street train station that played a pivotal transportation role during the Civil War, this tiny, free museum commemorates the story of the war’s first recorded bloodshed, an 1861 attack by a mob of Southern sympathizers on a regiment of Massachusetts soldiers passing through the city, with 16 left dead. 410-385-5188, www.mdhs.org

Where to shop
Benjamin Lovell Shoes Offerings marry comfort with high style and spotlight designers including Donald Pliner. 410-244-5359, 618 South Exeter St., www.benjaminlovell.com

Kashmir Imports A member of the fair trade federation, this shop offers hand-made jewelry, accessories, and home decor made by artisans in the Kashmir Valley of India and Pakistan. 830 Aliceanna St., 410-209-2700, www.kashmirimports.com

Urban Chic Swank fashion collections exclusive to Baltimore include Marc by Marc Jacobs, Milly, Nanette Lepore, Rebecca Taylor, and Trina Turk, as well as an edgy collection of denim.

811 Aliceanna St., 410-685-1601, www.urbanchiconline.com

Arhaus A massive furniture showroom that also carries accessories created by artisans exclusively for the store. 660 South Exeter St., 410-244-6376, www.arhaus.com

Glarus Chocolatier Traditional Swiss chocolates including hand-made fresh-cream truffles. 644 South Exeter St., 410-727-6601, www.glaruschocolatier.com

Handbags in the City An emporium for the committed bag lady, this boutique stocks high-end hobos by the likes of Isabella Fiore and BCBG. 612 South Exeter St., 410-528-1443, www.handbagsinthecity.com

Bin 604 This accessible wine shop specializes in little known bargain wines, collectible wines, and low-yield vintners. 604 South Exeter St., 410-576-0444, www.bin604.com

Where to eat
Charleston Cindy Wolf’s pioneering Low Country restaurant was the first reason to come to Harbor East a dozen years ago, and it remains one of Baltimore’s finest eateries. Seasonal selections offered in three-, four-, and five-course meals, $74-$109. Also known for its more than 600-bottle wine list. 1000 Lancaster St., 410-332-7373, charlestonrestaurant.com

Cinghiale Also from the Wolf-Foreman team, this charming Northern Italian spot features peerless service, inspired cuisine, and imported and housemade charcuterie, cheeses, and antipasti. Dine in the more casual Enoteca or the elegant Osteria. There are 40 wines by the glass and a cellar of 400 northern and central Italian wines. Appetizers $9-$17, entrees $19-$29.

822 Lancaster St., 410-547-8282, cgeno.com

Pazo A hipster scene that morphs into a late night lounge, Pazo offers Mediterranean cuisine and tapas in a rustic setting. Terrific pizza, house-made breads, and grilled seafood. Tapas $5-$9, entrees $19-$64.

1425 Aliceanna St., 410-534-7296, www.pazorestaurant.com

Lebanese Taverna Inexpensive Lebanese cuisine along the waterfront draws a crowd. Mezze $5-$11, entrees $14-$21.

719 South President St., 410-244-5533

Teavolve Café & Lounge Sunni Gilliam owns this artsy breakfast, lunch, and dinner meeting place on the ground floor of a condo building. Fresh salads, wraps, panini, and tofu dishes, extensive tea list, live music, and an outstanding weekend brunch draw locals in droves. $5-$12. 1401 Aliceanna St., 410-27-4832, www.teavolve.com

After dark
James Joyce Irish Pub Work on a pint of Guinness at this friendly watering hole featuring American and Irish fare, plenty of beer on tap, and live music. The bar was built in Ireland and shipped over in 2002. A good spot to watch what the rest of the world calls football. 616 South President St., 410-727-5107 www.thejamesjoycepub.com Landmark Theatres Offering art and commercial movies, this new multiplex features stadium seating, a bar, and real food (crab cakes!) beyond popcorn.

645 South President St., 410-244-6636, www.landmarktheatres.com

Mustang Alley’s Great name for a cool take on the average bowling alley, complete with a bar, flat screens to watch the game, and a gastro-pub menu. 1300 Bank St., 410-522-2695, mustangalleys.com

Where to stay
Marriott Waterfront Hotel Full service 32-story hotel with such amenities as a health club, indoor pool, and comfortable rooms, some with harbor views, from $289. 700 Aliceanna St., 410-385-3000, www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/bwiwf-baltimore-marriott-waterfront

Homewood Suites by Hilton All suite hotel with kitchen, fitness club, pool, ideal for families, $139-$199. 625-A South President St., 410-234-0999, www.homewoodsuites1.hilton.com

For more information about Harbor East, visit www.harboreast.com, and for all things Baltimore, visit www.baltimore.org.

Beth D’Addono can be reached at bethdaddono@comcast.net.

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