A plan to bring back ‘Big Pink’; and more

A plan to bring back ‘Big Pink’; and more

Artist Randall Gornowich hopes to get the city’s permission to install his big pink flamingo

Artist Randall Gornowich hopes to get the city’s permission to install his big pink flamingo sculpture, which adorned the former Café Hon restaurant, at Roosevelt Park. Rendering courtesy of Randall Gornowich.

Hampden is a little more ordinary this month after the giant pink Flamingosaurus disappeared from in front of the former Café Hon restaurant on West 36th Street.

Artist Randall Gornowich said he and several others took down the last section of the 30-foot sculpture — its torso – around 6 a.m. on July 30. He had previously removed its head and legs.

Laying on the sidewalk the day it came down, the headless pink torso looked like “a big piece of silly putty,” he said.

The bird, known as Big Pink, had to come down because owner Denise Whiting closed Café Hon at 1002 W. 36th St. in April to make way for a new restaurant by the Foreman Wolf Restaurant Group, and the flamingo was part of Café Hon.

Gornowich, who created the sculpture in 2002 as a holiday decoration for the cafe, has put it in storage. Now he’s working to build support for a plan to bring it back as a three-dimensional work of art that could be a symbol not just for one business but for the entire community.

The artist has a Facebook page called “Give Baltimore the Bird,” in which he shows a rendering of the pink flamingo high above the entrance to Roosevelt Park, the city’s 18-acre recreational area at Falls Road and 36th Street.

Gornowich started the Facebook page in 2009, when city officials wanted to charge fees for a minor privilege permit because the sculpture was occupying ‘public air space’ over the sidewalk. That never happened, but the group still exists and has more than 400 members. Now, he wrote this month, “I’m rebooting this group with a new passion to raise the Pink Phoenix to new heights.”

Gornowich’s rendering shows the flamingo sculpture raised off the ground the same way Rodney Carroll’s pig-shaped weathervane sculpture rises above Carroll Park in Pigtown. It shows the flamingo surrounded by a metal frame in the shape of a dinosaur, with lights that glow at night.

“My goal is to have a quarter-inch metal [frame] in the shape of a T-Rex on the outside of it and then LED lights on that so by day it looks like a flamingo but by night it has a T-Rex glowing behind it, and that’s where it’s the Tyrann-amingo,” Gornowich said.

“It would not be the world’s largest” flamingo, he added. “I don’t even think it’d even be the largest flamingo in the United States. But as the T-Rex it would be the world’s largest, which makes it more of a destination sculpture, because who doesn’t’ want to see that, right?”

If it’s high enough, Gornowich reasons, the sculpture won’t be tagged with graffiti, and it would be visible from many directions, including Jones Falls Expressway to the west.

In its old location, the flamingosaurus couldn’t be seen from the back, because it was attached to a three-story building. For the new location, Gornowich said, he’d have to make it more of a three-dimensional object and be sure it’s structurally sound and well supported.

Gornowich said he’s confident the sculpture can make the move. He said he modified it once before, changing it from plywood, sheets and chicken wire to Fiberglass in 2009. He said the relocated sculpture would still be the same size and still be made of Fiberglass.

Gornowich said he made a presentation to members of the Hampden Village Merchants Association and plans to reach out to others. He knows he’ll need approval from city officials since Roosevelt Park is public property and wants to show that he has community backing.

The artist said he’s heard suggestions of other possible locations for the sculpture, but he prefers Roosevelt Park because he’d like it to stay in Hampden. He doesn’t know yet how much it would cost to bring back, but he’s putting together a team of construction experts and is hopeful support will grow as word gets out on social media. He’d like to create an on-site mock-up to know exactly what drivers would see from the Jones Falls Expressway.

“A movement starts with an idea,” he said in one recent posting on Facebook. “When others share the dream and move forward with enthusiasm, BIG (PINK) THINGS will happen. A roadside attraction of this magnitude will benefit the local community as well as the surrounding merchants. This is fun, quirky and quintessential Baltimore!”

Groundbreaking ceremony for Madison Park North

A groundbreaking ceremony for Madison Park North mixed-use development is set for Aug. 25 at 9:30 a.m. at 738 W. North Ave. Image via Google Maps.

After years of planning and meetings, MCB Real Estate has scheduled a groundbreaking ceremony for Madison Park North, the mixed-use development it plans to build with developer Mark Renbaum to replace a former public housing community along a three-block stretch of West North Avenue between Bolton Hill and Reservoir Hill.

The first phase includes 120 townhouses that will be priced at around $350,000, with Ryan Homes as the builder. Later phases will include rental apartments and commercial space. The groundbreaking ceremony is set for Aug. 25 at 9:30 a.m. at 738 W. North Ave.

UMB Research and technology project advances

Developers of an eight-story research and technology facility planned as part of the University of Maryland Baltimore’s “Bio-Park” cleared a key hurdle last week when Baltimore’s Planning Commission approved a request to subdivide land at 4 N. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. so the project can be built.

Bio-Park Fremont LLC, an affiliate of Wexford Science and Technology, is the developer that wants to construct a 330,977-square-foot building that will mark a new gateway to the UMB Research and Technology Campus. It’s the first phase of development for the site bounded roughly by West Baltimore Street; North Fremont Avenue; West Fayette Street and North Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

ZGF Architects is the architect and Mahan Rykiel Associates is the landscape architect. Addison Palmer of STV Inc. worked with city planner Matthew DeSantis and others on the subdivision. A former city firehouse at 760 West Baltimore Street will be renovated for a restaurant as an amenity for the research campus.

John Waters Restrooms get national recognition

Baltimore filmmaker John Waters and Philadelphia transgender activist Elizabeth Coffey in October 2021 helped unveil the Baltimore Museum of Art’s first all-gender restrooms, named after Waters. Photo credit: Erika Nizborski.

John Waters’ movies make all kinds of cinema lists, including a recent ranking by FinanceRepublic.com of Pink Flamingos as The Most Controversial Movie of 1972. Now The John Waters Restrooms at the Baltimore Museum of Art have made a list, too.

In a poll conducted by the American Alliance of Museums of “Best Museum Bathrooms, According to Museum People,” the BMA’s “all gender” John Waters Restrooms placed Number 8 in the country. The alliance had asked members to nominate their favorite museum bathrooms and based its rankings on the responses it received. The restrooms were part of a larger renovation designed by Quinn Evans Architects and completed last fall.

“In exchange for donating his private art collection to the BMA, filmmaker and writer John Waters made the unusual request that the museum’s bathrooms be renamed in his honor,” the alliance noted in announcing the poll results on July 29.

“The museum used the opportunity to build its first-ever gender-neutral facilities, featuring four floor-to-ceiling stalls and a communal sink area. ‘Public restrooms make all people nervous,” Waters said at the unveiling. “They’re unpredictable. They’re also fueled by accidents, just like my favorite contemporary art.’”

Bolton Hill’s “dragon stairwell” house finds a buyer

Entrepreneur and designer Bradford Shellhammer has purchased the townhouse at 1421 Park Ave. in Bolton Hill, known for its colorful mural of a fire-breathing dragon in the main staircase. Photo via Zillow listing.

The townhouse at 1421 Park Ave. in Bolton Hill was impressive when Robert and Penny Catzen lived there in the 1970s and 1980s. It got significant upgrades when Henry and Sarah Fenno Lord moved in, including a colorful mural of a fire-breathing dragon in the main staircase.

Now it has a new owner. Bradford Shellhammer introduced himself on Facebook this week as the purchaser of the “dragon stairwell” house, saying he closed on Monday.

According to his blog, bradfordshellhammer.com, Bolton Hill’s newest resident is an entrepreneur and designer who founded three companies: “Bezar, an online marketplace that was sold, Fab.com, which was ahead of its time and once valued at over $1B, and Queerty, the iconic gay news blog.”

In the biography section of his blog, Shellhammer says he is currently the Chief Product Officer of Reverb and that he “previously worked for eBay (Chief Curator, VP of Buyer Experience, GM of eBay NYC), Backcountry (Chief Design Officer), Blu Dot (Sales Manager) and Design Within Reach (Studio Proprietor).”

Entrepreneur and designer Bradford Shellhammer has purchased the townhouse at 1421 Park Ave. in Bolton Hill, known for its colorful mural of a fire-breathing dragon in the main staircase. Photo courtesy of Bradford Shellhammer/Instagram.

The move to Bolton Hill marks a return to Maryland for Shellhammer, who was born in 1976 to Peg Kendall of Pasadena, Maryland, and the late Richard Shellhammer of Baltimore, and attended high school in Anne Arundel County. He has a bachelor’s degree in communications and media studies from Goucher College, which named him a distinguished alumnus, and an associate degree in fashion design from Parsons School of Design/The New School.

Shellhammer describes himself as “a collector, product leader, Gemini, singer, designer and writer.” In 2013, according to The New York Times, he married investment banker Georgi Dimitrov Balinov at Manhattan’s Marriage Bureau, with a second ceremony at New York’s Russian Tea Room led by actress and comedian Sandra Bernhard, a Universal Life minister.

Fast Company named him to its list of the “100 Most Creative People in Business.” Forbes dubbed him the “King of Quirk,” and USA Today called him the “Eames of E-Commerce.” A noted art collector, he’s been interviewed by the late Marcus Fairs of Dezeen.com, and his past home design projects have been featured in WWD.com and The Telegraph of London.

Shellhammer wrote on Facebook that he plans to divide his time between upstate New York, New York City, and Baltimore, where his mother lives. In a recent blog post, he reminisced about living in Baltimore in the 1990s: “I often escaped to downtown Baltimore, reading copies of The Village Voice, obsessing over Michael Musto’s column, and imagining living with those people. I’d sit in Louie’s Bookstore Café on Charles, sometimes indulging myself with their infamous brownie sundae.”

Heidi Krauss of Krauss Real Property Brokerage was the listing agent for the Bolton Hill property, which sold for $825,000. Shellhammer apparently knows a good deal when he sees one: For buying in Bolton Hill, he qualifies for a free one-year membership in the Bolton Hill Community Association, as soon as he signs up.

Cheryl Casciani retires

Cheryl Casciani has retired as Director of Community Planning and Revitalization for the Baltimore City Department of Planning, effective this month.

Casciani’s nearly three-year stint with city government was the latest in a long career of community service in Baltimore. Before joining the planning department, she worked for the Baltimore Community Foundation, where she was Director of Neighborhood Sustainability.

From 1996 to 1999, Casciani was Executive Director of the Citizens Planning and Housing Association. She came to the CPHA after more than seven years with the Annie E. Casey Foundation, where she developed and managed the Children and Family Fellowship. A Mount Vernon resident, she’s also a past chair of Baltimore City Board of School Commissioners and a current trustee of Creative Alliance.

Baltimore Black Sox memorial planned

Parks & People is seeking a consultant to help establish a memorial to honor the Baltimore Black Sox baseball team on the Middle Branch of the Patapsco River in south Baltimore.

The memorial is being planned as part of the Reimagine Middle Branch initiative led by Parks & People, the South Baltimore Gateway Partnership, the city of Baltimore and others. For more information and to apply, email [email protected], with RFP Baltimore Black Sox in the subject line.

Ed Gunts