EBDI’s mo­men­tum

Our view: The long-stalled re­de­vel­op­ment area north of Hop­kins Hos­pi­tal can fi­nally be called an ‘up-and-com­ing,’ mixed-use, mixed-in­come neigh­bor­hood

Baltimore Sun - - FROM PAGE ONE -

The ques­tion of whether Sag­amore De­vel­op­ment’s re­cently an­nounced com­mu­nity ben­e­fits agree­ment for its mas­sive Port Cov­ing­ton project would help bring an end to the “two Bal­ti­mores” phe­nom­e­non sucked up most of the at­ten­tion this week­end. Mean­while, far from the water­front, an­other at­tempt at cre­at­ing an eco­nom­i­cally in­clu­sive com­mu­nity got a sud­den jump-start when one-day-only in­cen­tives prompted the sale of more than 50 homes in a mat­ter of hours in what was once one of Bal­ti­more’s most seg­re­gated neigh­bor­hoods.

East Bal­ti­more De­vel­op­ment Inc., known as EBDI, was long con­sid­ered some­thing of a fail­ure in its prom­ise to trans­form an 88-acre swath of land north of Johns Hop­kins Hos­pi­tal into a new em­ploy­ment hub and mixed-in­come com­mu­nity. It started with grand am­bi­tions and the back­ing of some of Bal­ti­more’s most pow­er­ful in­sti­tu­tions — Hop­kins, the An­nie E. Casey Foun­da­tion and oth­ers — on the prom­ise that the spillover from the na­tion’s premier re­search hos­pi­tal could re­place de­cay with op­por­tu­nity. But the project ran head­long into the fi­nan­cial cri­sis, and for years its legacy seemed to be one of com­mu­nity an­guish over the re­lo­ca­tion of ex­ist­ing res­i­dents with­out the pay­off.

But now things are fi­nally start­ing to move in the area, for­merly known as Mid­dle East and now called Ea­ger Park.

The Hen­der­son-Hop­kins school — a pub­lic K-8 school plus early child­hood learn­ing cen­ter op­er­ated by Hop­kins and Mor­gan State Uni­ver­sity — is an ar­chi­tec­tural crown jewel of the neigh­bor­hood. Its classes (lim­ited to just 20 stu­dents) mix those who live in the EBDI foot­print with chil­dren of Hop­kins em­ploy­ees and those who live in sur­round­ing ar­eas. A new ho­tel, de­signed to serve the fam­i­lies of Hop­kins pa­tients, broke ground in De­cem­ber. Ten­ants are about to move into new lab and of­fice space, a park is due to open by the end of the year, and hun­dreds of new, mar­ket-rate rental units are in the pipe­line. The area has a Wal­greens, a 7-Eleven, a branch of Har­bor Bank and an At­wa­ter’s restau­rant. Two new restau­rants from the Karzai group (in­clud­ing a fast-ca­sual Afghan con­cept) are due to open soon.

The home­buy­ing frenzy Satur­day was un­usual for any new hous­ing de­vel­op­ment, much less one in East Bal­ti­more. Hop­kins of­fered up $36,000 Live Near Your Work grants ($19,000 more than the pro­gram typ­i­cally pro­vides) for a bloc of mostly new but also some ren­o­vated town­homes in the area. Those who showed up be­tween 8:30 and 9 a.m. on Satur­day and were able to pro­vide proof of Hop­kins em­ploy­ment, home­own­er­ship coun­sel­ing and fi­nanc­ing pre-qual­i­fi­ca­tion, plus $1,000 in earnest money, were en­tered into a lot­tery for the chance to buy one of the homes. Hop­kins’ ef­fort to cre­ate “in­stant com­mu­nity,” as one of­fi­cial put it, paid off, with the equiv­a­lent of two years’ worth of sales ac­tiv­ity in a mat­ter of hours.

EBDI has been con­tro­ver­sial from the start, with some look­ing on it as a forced gen­tri­fi­ca­tion project straight from the bad old days of ur­ban re­newal. It in­volved the re­lo­ca­tion of hun­dreds of fam­i­lies — some within the area but many to other com­mu­ni­ties. And de­mands that more of the jobs cre­ated by the ini­tia­tive go to the area’s ex­ist­ing res­i­dents have per­sisted. Some of the early re­de­vel­op­ment projects in par­tic­u­lar were fo­cused on af­ford­able hous­ing, and EBDI used a “house for a house” model to move fam­i­lies to newly re­ha­bil­i­tated homes within the project’s foot­print. More re­cent mar­ket-rate con­struc­tion — in­clud­ing the homes sold last week­end, which ranged in price from about $235,000 to $300,000 — is draw­ing peo­ple from around the re­gion, but if the dream of an eco­nom­i­cally in­clu­sive neigh­bor­hood has fal­tered to some de­gree, it’s from the lack of in­comes on the high end, not the low one.

The orig­i­nal idea was for a third of hous­ing units on site to be af­ford­able, a third to be work­force hous­ing and a third to be mar­ket rate, but the EBDI board even­tu­ally wound up merg­ing the last two cat­e­gories in recog­ni­tion of mar­ket forces that, at present, don’t sup­port high-end hous­ing in East Bal­ti­more. Ac­cord­ing to pre-reg­is­tra­tion in­for­ma­tion Hop­kins col­lected be­fore Satur­day’s event, most prospec­tive home­buy­ers earned be­tween $50,000 and $70,000 a year. (And most, for what it’s worth, were African-Amer­i­can.) The school hasn’t proved as so­cioe­co­nom­i­cally in­te­grated as plan­ners hoped ei­ther; more than 90 per­cent of stu­dents there have his­tor­i­cally qual­i­fied for free or re­duced-price meals, though the num­ber has dipped re­cently.

But Satur­day’s event shows that many wrote EBDI off as a fail­ure too soon. One of the home­buy­ers who spoke with The Sun’s Na­talie Sher­man on Satur­day said he was ea­ger to buy into what he saw as an “up-and-com­ing com­mu­nity.” No­body was call­ing it that be­fore EBDI. Within the next few months, 51 new home­own­ers will move into the neigh­bor­hood, and their pres­ence will only en­cour­age oth­ers to fol­low. EBDI still has a long way to go to live up to its am­bi­tious prom­ise, but it clearly has mo­men­tum.

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