Core city neigh­bor­hoods trans­formed

Baltimore Sun - - COMMENTARY - By Karen Stokes and Con­nie Ross Karen Stokes is CEO of Strong City Bal­ti­more and vice chair of the Cen­tral Bal­ti­more Part­ner­ship. Her email is kstokes@strongc­i­ty­bal­ti­more.org. Con­nie Ross is chair of the Bar­clay-Mid­way-Old Goucher Coali­tion.

In the heart of this city, a quiet trans­for­ma­tion is tak­ing place. As lead­ers who have long worked to im­prove liv­ing and work­ing con­di­tions in Cen­tral Bal­ti­more, the two of us — a non­profit ex­ec­u­tive and a long­time neigh­bor­hood leader — have had front-row seats to the re­birth of the city’s core over the past decade. Be­cause most of these changes have been grad­ual, they haven’t re­ceived a lot of news cov­er­age. Many Bal­ti­more-area res­i­dents may not even be aware of them.

That’s why the Cen­tral Bal­ti­more Part­ner­ship is launch­ing the “Ex­plore the Core” cam­paign (ex­plorethecore.org). Our vi­sion, de­vel­oped with com­mu­nity lead­ers, is to build on this area’s strengths — hous­ing for all in­come lev­els, vi­brant re­tail, cul­tural at­trac­tions, trans­porta­tion op­tions, ris­ing schools — and bring them to the next level.

The 10 neigh­bor­hoods of Cen­tral Bal­ti­more rep­re­sent ur­ban liv­ing at its most re­ward­ing and most di­verse. Take a few min­utes to ex­plore the core with us, and see what we mean.

Let’s start just north of North Av­enue and west of Green­mount. Here, the third phase of a ma­jor neigh­bor­hood re­de­vel­op­ment by Te­le­sis Bal­ti­more Corp., in close co­or­di­na­tion with the Bar­clay-Mid­wayOld Goucher Coali­tion of res­i­dents, is un­der­way. Around the city, ad­vo­cates have pointed out prob­lems with the city’s weak in­clu­sion­ary-hous­ing law and are push­ing for devel­op­ers to in­clude more units for low-in­come res­i­dents. But here, with very lit­tle at­ten­tion, 200 affordable homes for low- and mod­er­ate-in­come house­holds have been added over the past sev­eral years. An ad­di­tional 200 affordable and mar­ke­trate homes and 10,000 square feet of com­mu­nity and re­tail space are ei­ther un­der con­struc­tion or in the im­me­di­ate pipe­line.

Afew blocks south, the hous­ing sit­u­a­tion is also more pos­i­tive than the city­wide nar­ra­tive would sug­gest. Ju­bilee Bal­ti­more’s con­struc­tion of City Arts and City Arts 2, with mod­estly priced units tar­get­ing artists, has brought new en­ergy into Green­mount West, a neigh­bor­hood com­mit­ted to grow­ing with­out push­ing out long­time res­i­dents. This neigh­bor­hood also boasts two in­no­va­tive pub­lic schools: Bal­ti­more Montes­sori Pub­lic Char­ter School and the Bal­ti­more De­sign School.

Nearby on North Av­enue, a re­mark­able come­back is hap­pen­ing in Sta­tion North. The Cen­tre The­atre, Park­way The­atre, Windup Space, Red Emma’s, Mo­tor House, MICA’s Lazarus Cen­ter, the Ynot Lot and many other at­trac­tions are bring­ing in a steady flow of jobs, stu­dents and vis­i­tors.

Head­ing up Howard Street into Rem­ing­ton, it is easy to for­get that just over a decade ago, this long­time blue-col­lar neigh­bor­hood was los­ing pop­u­la­tion and plagued by drugs and crime. Then res­i­dents, with an as­sist from Strong City Bal­ti­more, got or­ga­nized and be­gan the slow process of turn­ing their com­mu­nity into what it has be­come — a mixed-in­come des­ti­na­tion where home­own­ers want to buy, restau­ra­teurs want to set up shop and devel­op­ers want to build (wit­ness the rise of the mixed-use Rem­ing­ton Row project or Miller’s Court, which of­fers affordable hous­ing for teach­ers and of­fice space for non­prof­its).

A few blocks to the east, we find neigh­bor­hoods re­bound­ing: Bar­clay and Har­wood, once mid­dle-class AfricanAmer­i­can com­mu­ni­ties that were hit hard by decades of dis­in­vest­ment and de­cay. The cat­a­lyst for Bar­clay’s resur­gence was a com­mu­nity de­vel­op­ment vi­sion plan cre­ated by well-or­ga­nized res­i­dents in 2005. Har­wood’s come­back story be­gan with res­i­dents push­ing out drug deal­ers and Strong City’s strate­gic code en­force­ment ap­proach to get rid of va­cant and blighted prop­er­ties. There are now two up-and­com­ing com­mu­nity schools — Bar­clay and Mar­garet Brent — where Strong City is work­ing with lo­cal part­ners like the Johns Hop­kins Uni­ver­sity and Sin­gle Car­rot The­atre to bring ex­cit­ing pro­gram­ming that is en­cour­ag­ing young fam­i­lies to stay in the city and en­roll their chil­dren.

Ex­plore the core, and you’ll find at­trac­tive, sta­ble neigh­bor­hoods that are as racially, eco­nom­i­cally, and cul­tur­ally di­verse as any in Bal­ti­more. You’ll find a hous­ing mar­ket that’s grow­ing (devel­op­ers com­pleted 777 net new units in just the past three years), with res­i­den­tial op­tions to suit any need. You’ll find one of the few ar­eas of Bal­ti­more where it’s easy to get around with­out a car, thanks to sev­eral bus lines, bike­able streets, good walk­ing neigh­bor­hoods and easy ac­cess to Penn Sta­tion. You’ll find strong an­chors in the lo­cal col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties, and no short­age of ex­cit­ing din­ing op­tions and cul­tural at­trac­tions.

Now we are build­ing on those strengths with an an­tic­i­pated $60 mil­lion worth of in­vest­ments in a va­ri­ety of eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment pro­jects, school im­prove­ments and great hous­ing op­tions to en­tice 3,000 new res­i­dents into these neigh­bor­hoods over 10 years.

These are ex­cit­ing times for Cen­tral Bal­ti­more. But don’t take our word for it. Come ex­plore the core — from the lively campus at­mos­phere of Charles Vil­lage, to the com­mu­nity gar­dens of Bar­clay, to the ed­u­ca­tional in­no­va­tions tak­ing root in Green­mount West — and see for your­self.

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