Downtown Cambridge is booming at Ironman 2015!

Cambridge Seal

IRONMAN Maryland triathletes know downtown Cambridge as the turnaround point in their 26.2-mile run. Locals have known it for generations as a place to go for shopping, dining, and catching up with friends and neighbors. Whether you’re visiting here or living here full time, there’s no question that the heart of Cambridge continues to evolve and improve. Here are a few highlights of what’s been happening since the 2014 IRONMAN Maryland:

• In the can: RAR Brewing expanded, rehabbing an old DeSoto car showroom and transforming the space into a new canning facility. That means that craft beer drinkers can now enjoy their RAR brews in cans, in addition to the refillable growlers, on tap in the taproom (504 Race St.), and at a growing number of restaurants and bars in the region.

• The new Art Bar: Liv Again bills itself as much more than a furniture store. And true to their word, they opened the “Art Bar” this summer at 317 High St. The second-floor space — in a meticulously restored historic building that was once a furniture showroom — is now a sophisticated spot for wine or craft beer, plus a wide range of entertainment.

• New dining options: Coffee lovers can now find multiple places to get that caffeine fix. Black Water opened this spring at 429 Race St., with locally roasted coffee, house-made pastries, breads, sandwiches, and more. (The name is a nod not only to the color of coffee, but also to the local Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge.) Coffee is also being roasted right in downtown Cambridge at Night Kitchen Coffee, part of the Shops at Magnolia Grove at 410 Race St. This microbatch coffee roastery offers cold brewed and whole bean coffee to enjoy in the shop or carry out, as well as spice blends and gluten-free pastries. In addition, Carmela’s Cucina relocated to downtown and now serves up pizza and Italian classics at 400 Academy St. Katie Mae’s Country Shoppe opened last summer as a shop with Amish décor and baked goods, and now serves down-home breakfast, lunch, and dinner at 516 Poplar St. Surfside Sally’s opened earlier this month at 420 Race St. with bar food, drink specials, and plenty of football games on the TVs.

• New shops: Downtown welcomed two new shops just in the past month: Calista Boutique offers stylish and affordable apparel and accessories for women at 406 Race St. Butterfly Boutique has a wide range of giftable items, such as crab-themed products, eco-friendly bath and beauty products, jewelry, children’s toys and books, and items made by local artisans.

• Community radio: Cambridge is on the forefront of a new movement in nonprofit, community radio. Because of recent changes in federal law, these small, low-power stations are starting to pop up in communities around the country. Cambridge’s new WHCP Radio went on the air this summer at 101.5 FM, with local folks producing a mix of music shows, from blues to big band, local news, and more. The studio is in a storefront at 512 Poplar St., and welcomes visitors.

• Green, eco-friendly street: Cambridge installed its first “green street” on Maryland Avenue, stretching from US Route 50 and leading toward downtown. The street now features pervious paving, rain gardens, and bike lanes.

“There is a lot of great energy around downtown Cambridge right now and it isn’t just from people already in our community,” said Brandon Hesson, executive director of Cambridge Main Street, a nonprofit whose volunteers help propel the continuing downtown revitalization. “We are fortunate to have some great local entrepreneurs building new businesses or expanding existing business here, but we’ve also started hearing from prominent investors from other areas of the Eastern Shore and around the state.”
Mr. Hesson pointed out that other businesses have set up shop, too, including Resource Asset Management Group, Jonas Flycuts, and Black Anchor Tattoo.

In another year there’s likely to be even more transformation in downtown Cambridge. Work is happening on the historic “Four Corners” building at Race and High streets. The Pascal Group, which owns Mason’s restaurant in Easton, plans to open a steakhouse there. Another building, at the corner of Race and Gay streets, will be undergoing a historically accurate renovation, helping to bring back the beauty of the downtown district. Also in the works is a performing arts and restaurant space at 447 Race St., a distinctive building that was once a hardware store.

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