Station North Arts and Entertainment District
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Station North Arts and Entertainment District
Station North
Arts and Entertainment District

Charles North, Koreatown
Neighborhood of Baltimore
Historic rowhouses on Saint Paul Street in Station North
Historic rowhouses on Saint Paul Street in Station North
Country United States
State Maryland
City Baltimore
Named for Penn Station, North Avenue
Time zone Eastern (UTC-5)
 o Summer (DST) EDT (UTC)
ZIP code 21201, 21202[1]
Area code 410, 443, and 667

The Station North Arts and Entertainment District (often referred to as just Station North) is an area and official arts and entertainment district in the U.S. city of Baltimore, Maryland. The neighborhood is marked by a combination of artistically-leaning commercial ventures, such as theaters and museums, as well as formerly abandoned warehouses that have since been converted into loft-style living. It is roughly triangular, bounded on the north by 20th Street, on the east by Greenmount Avenue, and on the south and west by the tracks of Amtrak's Northeast Corridor, though the neighborhood's boundaries include a one-block wide extension over the tracks.


Station North is composed of portions of three Baltimore neighborhoods: Charles North, Greenmount West, and Barclay.[2] In recent decades, the area represented a relatively impoverished area between the wealthier neighborhoods of Mount Vernon, Bolton Hill, and Charles Village. However, in addition to its proximity to those neighborhoods, a number of factors made the area amenable to redevelopment and gentrification. Much of even the poorest sections of the neighborhood feature beautiful, three-story, early 20th-century rowhouses as the main housing stock; the Maryland Institute College of Art is within walking distance; and Penn Station lies at the south edge of the neighborhood, providing walking-distance access to Amtrak, Light Rail and MARC commuter rail service (the latter being of particular interest to those commuting to Washington, D.C.). The real estate bubble of the 2000s caused Baltimore's housing prices to skyrocket, and drove home buyers seeking out cheaper areas on the upswing to the neighborhood.

The Baltimore city government's 2002 designation of the area as an arts district has furthered the neighborhood's transformation. The earliest and most visible signs of change were the official conversion of several industrial and warehouse buildings to mixed-use housing. The Copycat Building is probably the best known, but two other buildings--the Oliver Street Studios Building (which also houses Area 405 and the Station North Tool Library) and the Cork Factory--are also occupied. These buildings have been in use recently as artist's studios and benefitted by the area winning the State of Maryland's first Arts and Entertainment District status under then-mayor Martin O'Malley. Such designation paved the way for these buildings to be rezoned for residential use, due to the collaboration between multiple building owners in The District.[3]

The neighborhood's commercial, residential, and artistic venues began to thrive. The commercial district on Charles Street is anchored by the Charles Theatre, a popular art house multiplex that also serves as the anchor venue for the annual Maryland Film Festival each May, as well as Scapescape (a music and arts festival) each Labor Day weekend,The Station North Arts Cafe Gallery, the Station North Arts Underground, The Metro Gallery, Tapas Teatro, Club Charles, The Yellow Sign Theater, The Strand Theater, Single Carrot Theater, and Sofi's Crepes; one block away is the Charm City Art Space which serves as a Music Venue, and Art Gallery. In recent years, the North Avenue corridor has become a hub of activity with Joe Squared Restaurant, The Wind Up Space (an arts venue and bar), Liam Flynn's Ale House, and The Chicken Box, a Station North Arts District sponsored multiuse arts space opened in mid-2013. The Chicken Box is also home to the Baltimore Annex Theater.[4]

By 2005, the neighborhood was seeing a definite boom, but areas of blight persisted, particularly at the northern and eastern edges. As of 2010, the northern and eastern edges of Station North, particularly near Greenmount Avenue, are still affected by vacant housing, drug dealing, and prostitution. This area stands in stark contrast to the environment only a few blocks west, where in 2007 the Station North Townhomes were completed. The proximity of these luxury $300,000 townhouses to the remaining areas of urban decay illustrates both the potential and the challenges that the neighborhood faces.

Maryland Arts and Entertainment District designation

Looking north on Charles Street, with the Charles Theatre on the right.

In Maryland, the State Department of Business and Economic Development designates certain neighborhoods "arts and entertainment districts", which confers three specific tax breaks. Artists who live and work in the district are offered property-tax credits on qualifying renovations, can apply for an income-tax credit when they make money on their art, and are given a waiver of the admissions and amusement tax charged by the city.[5] Artists who live or work in Station North may qualify for certain tax breaks by submitting Form 502AE (Subtraction For Income Derived Within An Arts and Entertainment District) with their Maryland Tax Returns. Major tax benefits concerning building usage are also in place, with assessment freezes and building rehab credits to encourage growth.[]

Criticism of gentrification

It has been argued that the Arts District designation confers little benefit to the artists who worked so tirelessly to rebuild the area and change the antiquated zoning laws which were heavy industrial, to mixed use - for studios, retail and living spaces. Many of the benefits promised residents and building owners when the District was formed have never materialized and the line of direct communication with the Mayor's office, which oversaw the transformation, is just a faded memory.

Although the city and state have developed preliminary plans to provide affordable housing and work space for local artists and residents,[6] many argue that the area provides few actual benefits to working artists. This has fostered the sentiment that the city has been exploiting the cachet of the artists in Station North, while rarely working with them in any meaningful way.

Furthermore, as the neighborhood undergoes gentrification, there is the concern that, like SoHo in Manhattan before it, local artists and entertainers will be forced out of the neighborhood if a proper balance is not struck between redevelopment and the needs of artists and lower income residents.[7]


Station North's namesake comes from its placement of being north of Penn Station, which houses Amtrak and MARC trains. The Baltimore Light Rail has two stations that are within proximity to the district; Penn Station and North Avenue. MTA Maryland bus lines 3, 8, 11, 13, 27, 36, 61, and 64 also service the area.[8]

Future plans

A 2006 Action Plan Report, prepared by Randall Gross / Development Economics, the Baltimore Neighborhood Collaborative, and Station North Arts & Entertainment, Inc., focuses on four key strategies: To strengthen positive image and identity, to establish commercial corridors, to provide housing options to attract new residents while preventing displacement of existing residents, and to encourage economic development.[9]

In early 2008, Baltimore's development arm, the Baltimore Development Corporation (BDC), released a preview of their master plan for the area. In the near term, the master plan includes converting the top three floors of Penn Station into a botique hotel, with long-term goals including construction of high-rise residential buildings.[10]

On October 30, 2008, Mayor Sheila Dixon unveiled the Charles North Vision Plan,[11][12] a multi-phased development initiative. This plan identified four areas to focus revitalization on: Charles Gateway/Penn Station, the corner of Charles Street and North Avenue, the creation of an "Asia Town" at 20th Street and Charles Street, and the "Creative/Design Zone".[13][14] The plan's ultimate goal is to transform the arts and entertainment district north of Pennsylvania Station into a $1 billion "cultural crossroads" for Baltimore.[15] The plan calls for over $100 million in subsidies to aid in the development of the area.[16]

An agreement with Hospitality Partners of Bethesda to construct the hotel in Penn Station was reached in 2009, with completion of the $9 million project scheduled for late 2010.[17]

In early 2010, construction began on City Arts, a $15 million housing development for artists. Consisting of 69 apartments for rent and eight town houses for sale, City Arts will be the first all-new housing project in the 100-acre (0.40 km2) arts district since a $1 billion "vision plan" was unveiled for the area in 2008.[18] The building will consist of four stories of apartments, a multipurpose first-floor space provided for artistic use by the residents, and thirty-five off-street parking spaces. Key to the project's plans are financing regulations that will ensure the space remains affordable to artists even as the neighborhood changes.[19] The project was featured on CNN as an example of how federal Recovery Act money has restarted development that stalled during the economic downturn.[20]


  1. ^
  2. ^ "Station North: About". Retrieved 2012.  |first1= missing |last1= in Authors list (help)
  3. ^ "For Industry to Easels - Arts District Designation Easing Conversion of Factories to Studios". Baltimore City Paper. May 8, 2002. Archived from the original on July 8, 2011. Retrieved 2010.  |first1= missing |last1= in Authors list (help)
  4. ^ "Station North Arts and Entertainment, Annex Theater begin work on new space". 
  5. ^ "The SoHo Effect: In a creative-class economy, cities are increasingly banking on artists to save neighborhoods. Can Station North cash in without selling out?". Urbanite Magazine. July 2007. Archived from the original on November 18, 2007. Retrieved 2010.  |first1= missing |last1= in Authors list (help)
  6. ^ "Preserving Affordable Housing in Greenmount West". Baltimore Sun. unknown, 2007?. Archived from the original on 2012-07-21. Retrieved 2010.  |first1= missing |last1= in Authors list (help); Check date values in: |date= (help)
  7. ^ "The SoHo Effect: In a creative-class economy, cities are increasingly banking on artists to save neighborhoods. Can Station North cash in without selling out?". Urbanite Magazine. July 2007. Archived from the original on November 18, 2007. Retrieved 2010.  |first1= missing |last1= in Authors list (help)
  8. ^,-76.6175071,17z/data=!4m2!3m1!1s0x89c80494e6848cf5:0x603d8ba26f401b10?hl=en
  9. ^ "Action Plan Report: Station North Strategic Plan" (PDF). August 2006. Retrieved 2010. [permanent dead link]
  10. ^ "Master Plan for Charles North". January 29, 2008. Retrieved 2010. 
  11. ^ "Press Release: Vision Plan for Charles North" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on November 23, 2009. Retrieved 2010. 
  12. ^ "Charles North Vision Plan" (PDF). Retrieved 2010. [dead link]
  13. ^ "Mayor Dixon and Central Baltimore Community Announce Charles North Vision Plan". October 30, 2008. Retrieved 2010. [permanent dead link]
  14. ^ "Charles North: The Operations Manual" (PDF). June 18, 2008. Retrieved 2010. [dead link]
  15. ^ "City unveils 30-year plan to transform 100-acre north pf Penn Station into a regional crossroads of culture". The Baltimore Sun. October 30, 2008. Retrieved 2010.  |first1= missing |last1= in Authors list (help)
  16. ^ "Charles North Vision Plan" (PDF). Retrieved 2010. [dead link]
  17. ^ "Inn Pulls Into Station: Amtrak Plans Hotel In Area Tagged For Revitalization". Baltimore Sun. May 29, 2009. Retrieved 2010.  |first1= missing |last1= in Authors list (help)
  18. ^ "InConstruction begins on City Arts housing for artists". Baltimore Sun. January 8, 2010. Retrieved 2010.  |first1= missing |last1= in Authors list (help)
  19. ^ "Development Spotlight: City Arts". Urban Discoveries Baltimore. June 25, 2009. Retrieved 2010.  |first1= missing |last1= in Authors list (help)[permanent dead link]
  20. ^ "Neighborhood Gets A Makeover". CNN. September 22, 2009. Retrieved 2010.  |first1= missing |last1= in Authors list (help)

External links

Coordinates: 39°18?33.5?N 76°36?59?W / 39.309306°N 76.61639°W / 39.309306; -76.61639

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