Friday, February 9, 2018

Turning a Corner

In life when someone is looking to improve themselves when they're in a bad place, they have to symbolically "turn a corner" in the process. The same can be true for a beleaguered City such as Baltimore which is currently experiencing high levels of crime, failing schools, a crumbling infrastructure, high rates of addiction, eroding tax base, fleeing businesses, and a Police Department that seems to become more and more corrupt each passing day. Saying that Baltimore needs to turn a corner is an understatement, it needs to turn many corners and it needs to happen now.

There is one aspect where Baltimore appears to be turning a corner already. That is in the form of Police Commissioner Kevin Davis's firing. Not that he's personally responsible for almost 1,000 Homicides that have occurred during his 3 year tenure but in order for the outsider (and insider for that matter) to believe that the City is taking this spike in murders seriously, a change in the top brass would have to occur and Kevin Davis's firing will hopefully show that Baltimore's turning a corner and hopefully Darryl Desousa's tenure as commissioner will produce a drop in the murder rate.

Now I'm not a law enforcement expert by any stretch of the imagination. I write this blog to promote development and redevelopment in the City and County for betterment of its Residents and to attract population growth. I did however feel I had to mention the Police Department because it has become ingrained as a symbol of all that is wrong with Baltimore. Now that that's out of the way, lets see how the City can turn a corner using my areas of expertise.

First there's Mondawmin Mall. I had recently written a post on how to redevelop that Mall as mixed use similar to Canton Crossing to bring an influx of wider Retail options to West Baltimore. The only problem with that is now the Target that anchors the Mall is closing. This is a massive blow to not only the Neighborhoods surrounding Mondawmin Mall but the City as a whole. Mondawmin Mall also became famous because it was the start of the unrest in 2015. Mondawmin is also a transit hub and on the fateful day, the Cops shut down the transit hub making it impossible for students at nearby Frederick Douglas High School to commute home. With losing its Target anchor and its fame for all the wrong reasons, it's time to explore redevelopment of Mondawmin Mall on a much grander scale. That will show that Baltimore is turning a corner by making an area that symbolized all that was wrong with the City and turning it into a showcase for renewal.

Next and perhaps the symbolic redevelopment of Baltimore to help the City turn a corner is Gilmor Homes. Gilmor Homes is a sprawling public housing development that is concentrated with crime, drugs, poor living conditions, and a corrupt Maintenance Staff. Those familiar with Gilmor Homes know that this is where Freddie Gray grew up and where he was arrested, given a "hard ride" and ultimately died as a result of the injuries obtained in Police Custody. The day of his funeral in 2015 was the first of the 2015 civil unrest. 

The death of Freddie Gray was not the first or the last time Gilmor Homes was in the news. It had been known as a hot bed for drug and criminal activity whose buildings have been crumbling before our very eyes. More recently, Gilmor Homes made the news again in which Female Residents of Gilmor Homes are suing the Housing Department because Maintenance Workers allegedly would only do work orders if those Female Residents did them "sexual favors."

According to Mayor Catherine Pugh, the most crime in Gilmor Homes is contained to six buildings of the development. She has ordered that those six and only those buildings be demolished and all current Residents of those buildings move elsewhere. That's a good start, but I don't think Baltimore can turn a corner unless the entire development is demolished. In its place, there should still be public housing for Seniors and Disabled Residents but also low cost Home Ownership Town Homes that future Residents can build themselves. The Enterprise Foundation has done similar projects throughout some of West Baltimore's worst Neighborhoods and those blocks have held up very well.

 Another part of the City whose decay was brought to national attention during the riots was Pennsylvania Avenue. Once the crown and jewel to West Baltimore's African American Community lined with Jazz Clubs and Theaters, it is now host to vacant buildings and lots and the Retail that is there is poorly maintained in decaying buildings. The unrest in 2015 brought an ongoing problem of disinvestment in the area to the national spotlight. The whole Pennsylvania Avenue corridor needs to be redeveloped in order to turn a corner and should be done while preserving the facades of the remaining buildings similar to Marketplace at Fells Point.

In addition to new Retail offerings, the redeveloped buildings should have Apartments above them. Part of redeveloping Pennsylvania Avenue should include new housing in currently vacated blocks surrounding it. I'm designating the area between Pennsylvania Avenue, Fremont Avenue, Edmondson Avenue, and Mosher St. to be rebuilt from the ground up consisting primarily of town homes for varying levels of incomes and reignite the construction trade for Residents moving in like I'm proposing for Gilmor Homes.

The final step to show Baltimore is turning a corner lies in School Construction. City Schools made the news for their failing heat during the cold temperatures last month. The best way to do that is to replace Calverton Elementary/Middle School. That was the school that had the frozen pipes and had the picture of the side of the building covered in ice. The City is owed about $66 Million in School Construction from the State due to loopholes that favor local jurisdictions. That alone can build a brand new Calverton Elementary/Middle and another Replacement School elsewhere in the City. The new Calverton Elementary/Middle will absorb the populations of James Mosher Elementary and Alexander Hamilton Elementary thereby reducing the number of Schools the City must operate as well as empty seats.

The $66 Million that is owed to the City is a mere drop in the bucket compared to maintenance/renovation/replacement of schools' needs. There is a program in place called "Schools for the Future" that is renovating and replacing schools over time and is costing between $900 Million-$1 Billion. The State may need to fork over at least that much immediately for emergency construction to help the City turn a corner.

As Baltimore tries to shake off the events of the past several years that have put the City in a negative light, the City must turn a corner. If all of these events I have suggested to happen actually do happen, the City will not be out of the woods by any means. It will however show that the City has turned a corner and it will give hope that many more corners will be turned in the distant future.   

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

The Convention Center & Arena: One Site

As Downtown and the Inner Harbor continue to redevelop, there are still things that are old and dated and need to be either modernized or redeveloped to make Baltimore a world class showcase City. This time it's the Convention Center and the Royal Farms Arena. The Royal Farms Arena (nee Civic Center) was a product of the Charles Center redevelopment in which many of the Office Buildings have since been modernized in favor of a more mixed use approach. Now it's the Arena's turn.
Also in need of a complete do over is the Convention Center. The Convention Center was built shortly after Harbor Place but has since been expanded multiple times. Although the expansions have helped attract more conventions, the age, layout, overall unattractiveness of the building, and Baltimore's reputation as being crime ridden has hurt the number of conventions annually. This post will not be addressing the crime aspect (although it has to stop) just the viability and the appearance of the building. Similar buildings and structures have been demolished to make way for more attractive replacements such as the Mechanic Opera House and the McKeldin fountain to name a couple.
It would be a massive yet worthwhile undertaking to redevelop just one of these buildings but to redevelop both? And yet I'm suggesting that it be done. Although that undertaking is as massive as it is, I think if the project were thought of just one undertaking, it make it seem less daunting and the end game is one building instead of two. Does this mean that one of the buildings won't be redeveloped on its original site? Yes, in this case it's the Royal Farms Arena. Although it's close to the Harbor, many agree that isn't close enough. Some have called relocating it to Pier VI but I agree building a building that houses both the Convention Center and the Arena will not only keep the site viable, but also bust year round.
So the new Arena won't be at its current location nor will it be at Pier VI which has also been a suggested location, so where will it go? It will share the site of the current Convention Center. I think the site can fit the two considering its size and the fact that much of the Convention Center is located below ground while the Arena can be above ground. The new Convention Center will be contained to part of the site that's west of Sharp St. The two floors above ground will be Convention Space as will several floors underground. The parking garage will be above the Convention Center and the northwest side of the building will be a high rise Office Building facing Howard St. and Pratt St. while ground floor Retail will face the Pratt St. side of the building. The roof of the parking garage section of the building will be a park with green space.
The part of the site east of Sharp St. will be the Arena. This time the parking garage will be underground and the Arena will be completely above ground. Like the Convention Center parking garage, the roof of the Arena will also be a park with green space. The Arena section of  the site will contain a high rise Apartment Building and ground floor Retail on both Pratt St. and Charles St.
I actually want to take this time in the post to discuss the 200 block of S. Charles which the eastern end of the Convention Center/Royal Farms Arena will abut to. It appears to be an outback to the buildings it serves including the Hyatt, Sheraton, and the PNC Bank Building in addition to the Convention Center/Arena. I would suggest that the Hyatt either adds more and/or relocates its restaurant(s) to have a ground floor entrance facing Charles St. and the PNC Bank building adds Charles St. facing Retail space next to Kona Grill, and the Sheraton enhances its entrance to Morton's the Steakhouse in order to provide a more welcoming and Pedestrian friendly environment to the 200 block of S. Charles St.
In order to redevelop both the Concvention Center and the Royal Farms Arena, a massive commitment of public, private, local and state funds will be required to make this a reality. Now, I haven't forgotten about the site that the current Arena sits on and what to do with it. I'll save my plans for that for another post. 

Monday, January 8, 2018

Old Goucher Neighborhood Association's Amazon Sites

So it has come to my attention that there has been more than one pitch to Amazon to relocate their east coast headquarters to Baltimore City. The main one that has been discussed in great length has been for it be at Port Covington which is the largest uninterrupted plat of land in the City slated for development. Well, it turns out that the Old Goucher Neighborhood Association, whose Neighborhood is located around Charles North and Penn Station has its own Amazon ideas. The ideas are not bad ideas by any stretch of the imagination, but Port Covington is the best choice.
A big reason for these two alternate sites is because they're in parts of the City that hug Downtown and that the City and State may have to spend less money preparing new infrastructure for as compared to Port Covington because the infrastructure is already there. The problem with that argument is the City's existing infrastructure is crumbling more and more by the day. The amount of repairs needed at either site would be astronomical and the costs would supersede the starting from scratch approach used at Port Covington. Another problem is Historic Districts. Both alternate sites border on them and if Amazon decided they needed to expand, they may decide to do it into historic housing stock that will destroy Neighborhoods. In Port Covington, they can always expand to Westport.
So I'm sure the questions that you're asking yourselves by now is; where are these alternate sites? The first one is the Edison Lots. If you don't know where the Edison Lots are, take a ride down the JFX and look east. Notice how there are lot of surface parking lots opposite Downtown? Those are the Edison Lots. Although that's a vast amount of surface parking, I don't think it's enough to absorb 8 million square feet worth of Office Buildings. When looking at what borders the Edison Lots, there are many red flags as to what would have to be torn down in order to accommodate the extra space.
First there's Old Town Mall. Although these buildings are crumbling they are an historic districts and there are plans to painstakingly rehab them and make the Community thrive again. A big plan for Old Town Mall includes attracting a Full Service Grocer. Although the Amazon Headquarters would make it easier to attract such a Grocer, it would most likely involve tearing down Old Town Mall.
Next there's LaTrobe Homes. East Baltimore has experienced a lot of redevelopment of its public housing stock in the past 20 years with more to come. This has left existing Residents feeling as if they have no control over the community they live in. Although it would be nice to revitalize the entire area in between Downtown and Johns Hopkins Hospital, I don't believe that tearing down the entire existing community of LaTrobe Homes and surrounding areas is the way to do it. I would much rather see existing housing stock rehabbed and reinvested in and restrict new building to vacant lots.
In addition to the Edison Lots, the Old Goucher Neighborhood Association would alternately like to see Amazon located at the State Center Site. The State Center site has been in the news since 2005 when the State and local Developers decided to join forces and redevelop the site which currently houses many State agencies in aging Office Buildings as well as surface parking lots. The economy has stalled this redevelopment project which would rehab and/or replace existing Office Buildings and would add mixed use development on the surface parking lots.
 This project gained and lost steam as the economy stopped and started up again, then Larry unilaterally pulled the plug on it. He thinks the area would benefit from having sports arena there instead of the all the existing full time workers in addition to the influx of new workers and residents brought in by redevelopment. Right now nothing can really happen at that site until a multitude of law suits are settled so even if Amazon chose that site, they might have to jump thorough hoops for it.
Now lets say by some miracle of miracles, Amazon not only chooses Baltimore, but more specifically, the State Center Site to house its new headquarters. Let me tell you why that site wouldn't work. The Site, bordered by Howard St., MLK Boulevard, Dolphin St. and Madison St. Again, this property is not large enough to house 8 million square feet of office space. Unlike the Edison Lots, this site is even more contained and can't be expanded upon. It borders even more historic Neighborhoods such as Mount Vernon, Bolton Hill, Seton Hill, and Upton. How much of these Neighborhoods would have to be torn down?
What's great about the now scrapped plan to redevelop State Center (unless law suits go in a specific direction) is that it contains itself to the land already there. It's not meant to tear down its surroundings rather it's meant to enhance them and encourage investment into them. I'm aware that West Baltimore borders this land and the area is suffering from a multitude of urban decay, Amazon will do nothing to combat the underlying problems causing it. Although they will add jobs to the City, they will have to bulldoze large sections of homes some which are occupied and move the decay somewhere else. West Baltimore needs investment in existing Neighborhoods and Residents and if Amazon does in fact choose Baltimore, I would like to see them partner with the City and State to provide those needed funds from the headquarters in Port Covington and Westport.   

Sunday, December 31, 2017

What's New in the Few Blocks Around the Harbor Part II North and East

This post wasn't meant to be a two parter. However, when I began writing the first one I realized that I had enough material for two posts. So here we are at part II. Part I dealt solely with the areas south and west of the Harbor. This time we will be focusing on the areas north and east of it. I will omit the large developments that are making all the big headlines such as Inner Harbor East and Harbor Point. That being said, lets get started.
First there's Della Notte. This shuttered Restaurant at the entrance of Little Italy at the corner of President St. and Eastern Avenue has been slated for redevelopment for a couple of years now. Little Italy has been and continues to be a tight knit community of historic row homes and independently owned restaurants. Fortunately, the Della Notte building is not in one of the blocks of historic row homes. That's why it's OK that the building is being torn down in favor of a mixed use high rise. The latest version of this high rise is 23 stories tall with 380 units and 8,000 square feet of ground floor Retail.
There have been rumors of another high rise coming to an unnamed block of Little Italy. I hope it's the northeastern block of President St. since that block is an unsightly surface lot which gives President St. a less welcoming environment. President St. needs to be more pedestrian friendly and be used an attractive connecting point between Pratt St. and its more southern Neighbors of Little Italy and Inner Harbor East.
Next there's Piers V and VI. There had been and may still be rumors that the First Mariner Arena would build its venue right at these Piers. It's true that the First Mariner Arena needs to be redeveloped and that its location in Downtown's Westside has made it less competitive as so much new development in Baltimore has been by the Harbor and you can't get much closer to the Harbor than Piers V and VI. I personally think the site is too small for a venue and that the City should look elsewhere when redeveloping First Mariner Arena. Stay tuned for futures posts regarding this subject as I have ideas floating around. 
Next we come to 400 E. Pratt. St. This building is the first in the beginning of the revitalization of Pratt St. Pratt St. along the Inner Harbor had up until now been mostly Office Buildings and Hotels. In addition, the sidewalks are very wide and makes what little Retail offerings there were seem inaccessible. 400 E. Pratt St. remedied this by doing a Retail "bump out" in which a two story addition to the existing was built out of the original building towards Prat St. and was very successful in attracting new Retail tenants such as Shake Shack, CVS, and Chick Fillet among others. I hope this concept will be used for the TransAmerica building a few blocks over.
Next there's the surface parking that makes up 300 E. Pratt St. This block has had many proposals for high rises to replace the very out of place surface lot. Given that the rent on Pratt St. is among the highest in the Country hasn't helped in getting tenants to pre-sign leases. That being said, the current pan is to build a 48-50 story high rise on the site that's a mixture of Residential and Hotel Space with Ground Floor Retail. Residential has been virtually unused in this stretch of Pratt St. so it's interesting that this component is being introduced and I hope to see it built.
Next there's the Gallery sometimes known as the Galleria at 200 E. Pratt St. The part that faces Pratt St. is a mid rise whose first four floors are an indoor shopping mall while upper floors are part of the Renaissance Inner Harbor Hotel. In the back of the building is a sky scraper with Office Space. The fourth floor of the shopping mall portion of the Gallery is being transformed from Retail to Office Space. It is unknown at this time what changes if any will take place on the remaining three floors of the Mall.
Next we come to the Bank of America Center (not to be confused with the Historic Bank of America Building) located at 100 W. Pratt St. This Office Building will be following the example of 400 E. Pratt St. by getting a Retail "bump out" of its own. I remember parking at this building's underground garage and getting off the elevator in the lobby and I couldn't help notice how sparse it was. It had a small interior food court with a couple open eateries and a couple vacant one along with a newsstand. There was no way to entice outsiders to come in and patronize these businesses. I had been hoping that a Retail bump out would come to this building and hopefully by doing so it will encourage similar projects.
Next we come to  the McKeldin Fountain which is located between Light St. and Calvert St. and their intersection with Pratt St. This fountain to say the least was ugly. It was made of pure concrete and was hardly ever turned on. It had the same brutalist design as the Convention Center and the now demolished Mechanic Opera House. The McKeldin fountain, which will be demolished like the Mechanic Opera House. It will be replaced with a pocket park with lush green landscape as part of a larger project that will add more greenery to the Inner Harbor.
Last but not least we come to Harborplace. These two pavilion Shopping Malls are the epitome of the rebirth of the Inner Harbor in 1980. Had it not been for Harborplace, the widespread redevelopment on all sides of the Harbor may not have been so quick and/or dramatic. However, like any building it can be grow old and begin to look tired. This is why the Pratt St. pavilion is undergoing a major renovation. The renovation will include turning the first floor from a Shopping Mall to four large Retail spaces while the second floor will keep its Shopping Mall Routes. Banana Republic will move from the Gallery to fill one of these spaces. The Light St. Pavilion is also undergoing major renovations but it is less clear as to what the finished product will be.
As more development continues away from the Inner Harbor there's the always the possibility that those very developments are draining the vitality of the Inner Harbor itself. That's why it is crucial to make sure that development around the Harbor continues to keep the core of it just as modern and sought after as development hot spots in the City.   

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

What's New In the Few Blocks Around the Harbor Part I South and West

For redevelopment in Baltimore, almost all of it has been made possible by the Inner Harbor and its revitalization in 1980 by the opening of Harbor Place followed by the homesteading in Otterbein, Federal Hill, and eventually water front redevelopment in Canton, Inner Harbor East, and Locust Point. Although the Inner Harbor redevelopment has spread like wildfire, it's always good to check up on the area immediately surrounding the Harbor itself to keep it as current as the new developments it inspired. This post new will examine new developments that are taking place within a block or two of the Harbor itself.
First there's the biggest or should I say tallest project; 414 Light St. this new glass skyscraper located at the very visible Light St. and Conway St. intersection has always been a gateway in and out of the City. It originally was part of the McCormick spice plant which moved to Hunt Valley. Between then and now, it has served as a very expensive surface parking lot. Developers have had plans for years to construct a skyscraper on this property but the economy hasn't allowed for it. Developers have waited patiently until they could secure the necessary funds and the development climate was such that development could commence.
Next there's Banner Hill Apartments. This is being built on the grounds where the University of Maryland Specialty Hospital had stood on S. Charles St. This hospital had been shut down long ago and its building sat vacant ever since. It was torn down in favor of Banner Hill Apartments in order to bring life to S. Charles St., Otterbein, and a link between Conway St. and South Baltimore. At the moment, Otterbein has relatively few Apartments consisting mostly of the old $1 row houses and some newer infill town homes. The new Banner Hill Apartments will certainly be easier on the eye as compared to the shuttered Hospital.
Next there's the redevelopment of rash field. A big hurdle that rash field has faced has been its popularity and the fact that there's very little parking for it. The solution, has been a multi level parking garage under the field. Although I believe this will solve the problem, this has brought the price tag up to $40 million. Obtaining funds for this has proven difficult but I believe it is necessary as the Harbor Promenade needs as much functional green recreational space as possible.   
Next there's the project known as Bainbridge Federal Hill. This will be located on a narrow on Key Highway just in front of Digital Harbor High School. Although this will mostly be Apartments, developers have opted to include town homes for the ground units facing Key Highway. This project has been controversial to say the least given the lot's size and the intrusion the building will have on the surrounding Neighborhood.
Next there's the ongoing development of Harborview built on the land that was originally the Bethlehem Steel Shipyard. The lone high rise of Harborview known as Harborview Towers has been joined by other components of the development including low rise Condos, Town homes, and "Pier Homes." These additional pieces of the development are not the entire development. There are still buildings of varying heights that have yet to be built. The two buildings that will be built first are Pinnacle I & II both located at the intersection of Key Highway and Pierside Drive. Pinnacle I will be considered a high rise though not as tall as Harborview Towers while Pinnacle II will be a low to mid rise building. The buildings will be narrow offering panoramic views in all directions. There are still more buildings proposed for Harborview each located on surface parking lots on either side of Little Havana. The new buildings have promised not to obstruct the views of the Harbor from Federal Hill Residents.
Next we come to what has been known as Federal Hill Town Homes. This development has become the epitome of the economic downturn of the mid to late 2000s. About half of the four level town homes were built then and were slow selling making the rest of the development stall. Finally in the last couple of years, the remaining home have begun to be built. However instead of four level town homes in order to make them more affordable have become two over two town homes of two levels each. This should make the last few units sell quicker.
Next we come to the General Shipyard Repair Corporation. This is one of the last remaining vestiges of the once industrial Key Highway but the owners have sold their land to a developer who plans to build an Apartment Building with ground floor Retail. Whether the building will be low or high rise is still to be determined. General Shipyard Repair Corporation is currently shopping for a new location and is hoping to stay at the Port of Baltimore.
Finally we come to Key Highway in between Woodall and Stevenson St. This thin swath of land currently has a few small vacant industrial buildings with row homes behind them. The plan is to put an Office Building at this site. Personally, I find an Office Building to be intrusive for that small site and would rather add town homes to it that fit into scale with the older row homes that are already there. These plans are still in their infancy so I'm unsure what will come to fruition.
As the gentrification caused by the Inner Harbor continues to spread across the City, we mustn't allow the Inner Harbor itself to become dated. Fortunately, there are many new development projects right at  the front door of the Inner Harbor which should keep it viable for years to come.     

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Building Asia Town

There is one part of the old Charles North Master Plan that has intrigued me but I've never had an angle on which to write about it. In fact, I still don't know whether or not I have one but I'm going for it anyway. That part is the proposed "Asia Town" I can see why planners want to do it, but I don't know how they can do it. How do you force only certain types of Businesses to build there? Better yet, how do you force only people of Asian decent to live there? The answer to both those questions is, you can't. But I'm going to explore building Asia Town Anyway.
Baltimore has many ethnic enclaves within its borders so with a burgeoning Asian (mostly of Chinese and Korean ancestry) population, it makes sense that a planner would want to centralize it with Residences and Businesses from that population. So why Charles North? More specifically, why the four blocks surrounding Charles St. and 20th St.? The answer is, that's in close proximity to much of the City's current and expanding Asian population. The biggest concentrations are in Bolton Hill, Mount Vernon and Charles Village housing Students and Faculty of nearby Johns Hopkins University and MICA.
The blocks surrounding Charles St. and 20th St. have lots of vacant land and many of the existing buildings are vacant as well. There appears to be land banking going on here and the status of it is unknown. Could this be for Asia Town? Could it be smaller projects on a building by building lot by lot scale? Do the Land Bankers have a plan at all? Is it the same company owning this land? These are questions nobody seems to know the answer to. In fact, that very question is being asked on a billboard located not far from the Asia Town Site.
As far as what to do with the blocks of Asia Town Site, I prefer actually building it as Asia Town. Why? Because it has the potential to be unique to the City. As I look at new and proposed development around the City, I see that much of it is the same high rise glass Apartments and four story garage town homes. When building Asia Town, developers and architects alike can be encouraged to think outside and use influences in both modern and ancient Asian architecture.
As I had asked earlier in the post, how do force people of Asian decent to move to and open businesses in this area. As I had said earlier, you simply can't. But there is a way to authenticate the development by selecting local development, architectural, and real estate firms owned by people of Asian Decent. That may help bring additional Asian run businesses and services to the area as well as Residents. Although Asia Town can never be a "sure thing" on paper, without Building Asia Town, there's no point in trying.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Upper Howard St. The Next Development Magnet

First off, I want to make clear the exact area I'm referring to when I say "Upper Howard St." I'm referring to the blocks between North Avenue and 26th St. The upper blocks of the area won't be discussed since that's the old Anderson Automotive Site which had been slated to be an Upper Big Box Center known as 25th St. Station complete with a Wal-Mart. Since that project is dead and the future of the sight is in limbo and its use is unknown, I won't discuss it in this post.
The area surrounding Upper Howard St. is in the midst of a development boom. It's located in between Mount Vernon, Reservoir Hill, Bolton Hill, MICA, Remington, Station North, Charles North, and Charles Village. Also nearby are John's Hopkins University, Hampden, and Woodberry. This area is among the most up & coming in only behind Downtown, the Inner Harbor, and the Southeast. Given the proximity Upper Howard St. has to all these areas, you'd think it would have the hottest pieces of Real Estate in the City right?
Wrong! It appears that this area is still in the olden times where cities tried to emulate the suburbs by widening roads and building nothing but auto oriented businesses. It makes sense as Howard St. was a major thoroughfare through Downtown into northern neighborhoods and into the suburbs. It also provides easy access to and from the JFX especially northbound considering the de-centralization of Downtown to the south in the latter half of the 20th Century.   
So today Upper Howard St. is a hodgepodge of auto-oriented uses and a suburban style shopping center. The road itself is a rather wide boulevard thoroughfare which encourages high speeds that can cause lots of accidents. In the area surrounding Upper Howard St., especially west of it, there are shuttered industrial remains and even further to the west are some tidy row homes that were most likely meant for the workers of these industries.
It seems that these few blocks of Howard St. have been surpassed by developers and need a master plan to jump start redevelopment efforts. I would like this area to be more Neighborhood oriented rather than a mere thoroughfare as it appears to be now. First, I would lower the speed limit, add bike lanes, new mast arm traffic signals, repave and re-stripe the road, and re-cement the sidewalks. Then, I would rezone the area from Commercial/Industrial to a more attractive Residential with Neighborhood Retail type of zoning. I would move the current auto oriented businesses on Howard St. and move them to E. 25th St.
Once the old businesses have been cleared away, I would redevelop Howard St. with town homes featuring basement Retail. Behind Howard St. along 23rd and 24th St. I would build three Apartment Buildings similar to the new Stadium Square Development under construction in South Baltimore. This development, although similar in appearance to Stadium Square would be primarily Residential. The existing industrial buildings sprinkled throughout this area would be rehabbed as lofts. I would also redevelop the decidedly suburban Midtown Market Place and the surface lot behind it with a mixed use development similar to Locust Point's McHenry Row.
Although Upper Howard St. is located in the middle of a development boom in between Bolton Hill, Reservoir Hill, MICA, UMB, Johns Hopkins University, Remington, Charles Village, Station North, and Charles North, it hasn't seen the level of investment that its Neighbors has. By re-zoning it to a use more conducive to its surroundings, I believe Upper Howard St. will be the next development magnet.