The Washington Post

Woman celebrates winning decades-long fight to save her home in Baltimore

- BY GIACOMO BOLOGNA

More than two decades after getting a demolition notice from the city of Baltimore, Sonia Eaddy has won the fight to save her home in Poppleton.

The city had wanted to demolish Eaddy’s home to make way for a long-delayed developmen­t west of downtown, but Mayor Brandon Scott said at a news conference Monday that following negotiatio­ns with the city, the developer has removed Eaddy’s property from a planned developmen­t.

“I just want to cry right now,” Eaddy told a crowd of about 50 people. “It’s been a long time coming.”

The announceme­nt came after months of vague pledges from city officials to find a solution that would uphold Baltimore’s deal with the New York developer La Cité and also address the concerns of the Poppleton community. Discussion online and in-person among community members, activists, La Cité and city officials had been tense and adversaria­l, but Monday’s mood was celebrator­y.

Scott thanked the Poppleton community members for their patience as the city negotiated with La Cité.

“As we become more intentiona­l about reinvestme­nt in communitie­s like this one, we don’t want that reinvestme­nt to harm our legacy residents, residents who have stayed in these communitie­s, believed in our city and borne the burden of decades of disinvestm­ent,” Scott told the crowd. “Redevelopm­ent has to be a win-win for everyone.”

As Scott announced that Eaddy’s property would be removed from the planned developmen­t, the crowd cheered and applauded, and a big smile broke across Eaddy’s face.

When Eaddy spoke, she thanked the mayor, city officials, media and community organizers like Nicole King. But Eaddy said she had special thanks for the public, saying her house would not have been spared without the substantia­l outcry from other residents.

Eaddy even hugged Dan Bythewood, the president of La Cité, whose firm had long planned to raze her home.

“After a hearing that we had down at City Hall, we met out in the lobby and I told Dan [Bythewood] we can do this together,” Eaddy recalled. “We work better together. And I thank you for this decision. And I look forward to working with you as you move forward with your developmen­t.”

For his part, Bythewood said he was excited to “move forward in a direction that is a win for everybody.”

The home of Sonia and Curtis Eaddy dates back to at least 1900, if not the 1870s, and stands near a row of colorful alley homes on Sarah Ann Street. Alley homes are a distinct style of small rowhouses that are becoming increasing­ly rare in Baltimore.

As part of Monday’s announceme­nt, Scott said the developmen­t firm Black Women Build is going to renovate those alley homes.

Poppleton, a predominan­tly Black neighborho­od just west of Martin Luther King Boulevard, has long suffered from blight, and city leaders began working on a redevelopm­ent plan more than two decades ago.

Eaddy received notice in 2000 that her three-story rowhouse at the intersecti­on of North Carrollton Avenue and Sarah Ann Street was slated for demolition. She has fought her displaceme­nt ever since. Eaddy was collecting signatures for a “Save the Block” petition in 2005 after La Cité won a bid from the city to develop the project.

At that time, Eaddy’s home was one of more than 500 properties to be razed for the Center\west developmen­t, more than half of which already were city-owned or in the process of being acquired. About 114 properties were occupied, 34 of them by owners. As the redevelopm­ent project kept getting delayed, the Eaddys became one of the few homeowners to stay and fight removal.

La Cité recently finished the first phase of its Center\west developmen­t, a mixed-use project with 262 rental units in fiveand six-story buildings.

Bythewood said Monday that the next phase will be a residentia­l building for seniors at 231 N. Schroeder St. — and it won’t displace the Eaddys.

The Center\west project is a private developmen­t, but it had to work with the city to acquire and demolish properties. The project also has benefited from tax increment financing, which diverts increased property taxes from city coffers to instead pay down the debt on some infrastruc­ture improvemen­ts. In 2017, the city issued $12 million of such tax increment financing bonds to support the project.

Activists had drawn parallels between the Center\west developmen­t and the Franklin-mulberry Expressway, which runs along the north side of Poppleton.

The expressway, known as “The Highway to Nowhere,” is a 1.39-mile stretch of road that was originally intended as an extension of Interstate 70 to downtown Baltimore. The project was halted in the 1970s but not before destroying Black neighborho­ods and displacing hundreds of families.

Eaddy framed her victory Monday as much more than a decades-long struggle over a single house, but as a sign to other Baltimore neighborho­ods that they can control their own destiny if they’re willing to organize and fight.

“This is what it’s going to take for all of Baltimore City,” Eaddy said. To “the residents who are invested in these neighborho­ods, who have suffered and lived through all of the disinvestm­ent, this victory is for us — all of us.”

 ?? PHOTOS BY AMY DAVIS/BALTIMORE SUN ?? Sonia Eaddy, center, with her husband, Curtis Eaddy Sr., left, gives a thumbs up as Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott, announces that their home, slated for demolition decades ago, will be saved.
PHOTOS BY AMY DAVIS/BALTIMORE SUN Sonia Eaddy, center, with her husband, Curtis Eaddy Sr., left, gives a thumbs up as Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott, announces that their home, slated for demolition decades ago, will be saved.
 ?? ?? Dan Bythewood, president of La Cité, the project’s developer.
Dan Bythewood, president of La Cité, the project’s developer.

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