Thursday, September 20, 2018

Could School Construction Reduce Crime?

This is one of those posts that is a simple yes or no answer. I could say yes or no and we could move on our with our lives right? Wrong! The question on whether school construction reduces crime is a multi-layered one that requires that we delve into many of the issues surrounding our City and coming up with a position to support or deny the question. This yes or no answer isn't factual either, it's what your opinion on the matter is.
So now we must ask ourselves the burning question that's being asked Citywide; What's the biggest hurdle facing the City from growing? Crime? Disinvested Neighborhoods? Corrupt Police Force? Although there are many other hurdles working against the City, I'm going to focus on crime and disinvested Neighborhoods. The worst thing you can do to a Neighborhood is let its local school building fall behind on repairs and failing to upgrade the technology at the same rate as neighboring School Districts. I believe that School Buildings are the centers of their respective communities and when they go down so too do their surrounding communities.
If you're looking to buy into a Neighborhood whose local Schools are crumbling, would you want to live there? I think not. You don't have to have school age children to think this way either. The condition of the School(s) can make or brake the resale value of your home. Not only that, existing Residents upon learning of their Neighborhood's decaying School(s) are more apt to pack and leave so that their children can attend better Schools.
So that little example I described in the above paragraph is not little at all. This has happened hundreds of thousands of times from the 1960s until today. Granted the driving catalyst for most of the flight was blockbusting but the Schools in these Neighborhoods Citywide experienced the same devastating effects described above. So where does this leave the Neighborhoods that these decaying Schools experiencing flight are located in?
They're going to start resembling the Schools. As flight empties out Neighborhoods, there is no guarantee that these Neighborhoods will be refilled. They often aren't. This leaves decayed boarded up houses which then become a breeding ground for crime. If you live in this type of Neighborhood and attend one of these run-down Schools, your future is at an extreme disadvantage. As crime over takes these Neighborhoods, it can take hold of Students attending these run down Schools and dropping out seems like a better option. And the cycle continues for generations.
So does that mean that shiny new and renovated School Buildings are the end all be all to the crime problem plaguing the City? Of course not. I do however think that they can be the start of something good. A new School is built in a Neighborhood that's struggling with crime and decay. That one new building can eliminate anywhere from two to four existing decaying Schools by consolidating Districts. That new School can and should contain programs and assistance to members of the Community long after the School day is over. This encourages Students to stay off the streets and away from temptation into crime.
Outside the District of this new School, Parents looking for better opportunities for their kids may look into moving into the new School's District to afford them the better education that comes with it. This will provide population growth for the new School's District. Population growth will see for the number of vacants go down providing for a more welcoming community all around. A growing Community also attracts convenience Retailers bringing beleaguered Main Streets back to life.
What else can population growth bring to a Community? A higher tax base. More people equals more tax payers. What can more taxes provide? Funds to ensure the newly built School can be maintained properly for generations to come, infrastructure improvements throughout the Neighborhood, Tax payer funded redevelopment of still neglected parts of the District, and finally and most importantly, funds to bring new Schools to other parts of this City and start the whole renewal process over again all over the City.
So how does crime play into scenario of re-growing, reinvesting, and redeveloping in Communities    where new Schools have been built? Well, crime thrives on high vacancy and decaying Neighborhoods where the few remaining Residents are too scared to confront it. A New School, and the growth that accompanies it, instills a sense of Civic Pride in one Neighborhood and as vacant homes get rehabbed, rebuilt, and re-occupied, the conditions needed that crime feeds off of aren't there anymore.
So, Can School Construction Reduce Crime? Yes, I believe it can. And if it can't not all hope will be lost because at least the City will have new School Buildings.       

Thursday, July 5, 2018

A Gold Line of Spurs

Very few people know or talk about the 2002 Baltimore Regional Rail Plan let alone refer to it as a inspiration for future lines. I roughly use it as a blue print for building the Red Line, Yellow Line, and implementing the Orange and Purple Lines using existing MARC tracks. However, I have also endorsed the Charles St. Trolley Line (Brown Line), the Silver Line that I have thought up, and the consolidation of MARC Stations in the Halethorpe Area.  Today, I'm writing about spurs both existing and proposed and connecting those stops into a line of their own; the Gold Line.
The 2002 Baltimore Regional Rail Plan renames the existing Light Rail as the Blue Line, I will refer to it as that from here on out. The Blue Line began running from Cromwell Station to Timonium running through the City. It eventually expanded northbound to Hunt Valley. The Cromwell Station to Hunt Valley is what I consider to be the "core" of the Blue Line. Anything else, I refer to as "spurs."
The spurs in question are the spur that leads to Penn Station and the spur that instead of going to Cromwell Station as its southern Terminus, it goes through Linthicum Heights, the BWI Business District while ending at the Airport Terminal. This spur I refer to as the Yellow Line since it is from this spur along with sharing tracks with the Blue Line from the spur split to Camden Yards, the Yellow Line has been birthed in my opinion. The completed Yellow Line will run from Towson to Columbia.
The final stop of this spur (Airport Terminal) will not be part of the finished Yellow Line. The finished Yellow Line will go from the BWI Business District westward to the BWI MARC/Amtrak Station through Arundel Mills on its way to Columbia. But worry not, I have plans for this lone spur.
Whoops, I almost forgot that there's another spur that's being proposed to be added to the Blue Line. It would be in Port Covington which is ground zero for some of the largest scale redevelopment in the City. So, lets review the three spurs we have now, Penn Station, Port Covington, and the Airport Terminal. There must be a more direct way to connect these places while providing Rail Transit service to areas that aren't covered by the Regional Rail Plan. This is where my proposed Gold Line comes to fruition.
With that being said, lets take a ride on the Gold Line! We'll start at its northern terminus; Penn Station. It is there that it will connect to the Blue Line going through Mount Royal, State Center, Downtown, and the Stadiums. At the Westport stop, the Gold Line will part ways with the Blue Line crossing a bridge into Port Covington. The new proposed stop(s) will be at their proposed location(s) and at that point, the Gold Line will run parallel to the Hanover St. Bridge. South of the bridge, the Gold Line will turn east for a stop at the District Court House in Brooklyn. From here on out, the line will be tunneled.
The Gold Line will continue south through Farring Bay Brook Park and will have a stop in Brooklyn Park at Church St. and Richie Highway. At this point the Line will continue down Richie Highway across I-695 for a stop at the MVA which is a major employer for the region. While traveling down Richie Highway it will stop at B&A Boulevard at Glen Burnie Town Centre. When plan to extend the Blue Line to Annapolis occurs this will be transfer point between the two lines. Just up B&A Boulevard will be a transfer point to the existing Blue Line at Cromwell Station.
Past Cromwell Station, the Line will make a sharp left to travel under Dorsey Road. I'm unsure of what path it will take whether or not it will travel along Telegraph Road or Aviation Boulevard to reach the Airport. Obviously it will be the path of least resistance but I'm unsure as to what or where that that is. What I do know is that the Gold Line's southern terminus will be at the Airport Terminal stop where there's already an existing stop.
By differentiating between the existing Light Rail Line and its spurs, we can look to the future and expand those lines and have them become their own lines and cover areas currently without Rail Transit. 


Friday, June 15, 2018

Crossing Greenmount

If you were to open the dictionary and look up the term "redlining", you will see Greenmount Avenue as the definition. To the west, are the sprawling mansions built by the Roland Park Company in Guilford and Homeland. To the east are the cookie cutter row homes and small detached homes of Waverly, Penn Lucy, and Govans. Over the years, Greenmount has become a dividing line between rich and poor, black and white, and blight and upkeep. So now I'm going to talk about how to cross Greenmount Avenue and redevelop it into a Main Street for Communities on either side of it.
This has proven to be a tremendous undertaking as the York Road/Greenmount Avenue Corridor has multiple renewal plans in effect that have produced very little in terms of results. This post will focus on two Neighborhoods on either side of Greenmount which when this far into the City, the redlining has stopped but is rearing its ugly head again; Barclay and East Baltimore Midway or "Midway" from here on out. This stretch of Greenmount runs from North Avenue to 25th St. with Barclay to the west and Midway to the east.
Both of these Neighborhoods have seen massive neglect, blight, and crime up until the early 2010s. Midway continues to see to this decay today but Barclay lately has seen very large amount of redevelopment with mixed income Apartments, Town Homes, both for rent and purchase as well as both new construction and rehabbing of existing homes. There has also been a focus on green space. Like its wealthier neighbors to the north, the Renaissance if Barclay stops at Greenmount and doesn't head east into Midway.
First, we must look into the future and assume there will be an Administration that favors Rail Transit again. The Yellow Line was meant to run from Towson to Columbia and its northern route was to run along Greenmount Avenue and York Road. The Yellow Line Stop I'm proposing for Barclay/Midway will be at its southern border at Greenmount and North Avenue. The Yellow Line will be tunneled and all development must adhere to this being a future stop.

One way Barclay has improved recently has been redeveloping 20th and 21st St with Town Homes and Apartments that face Greenmount. However, when crossing Greenmount into Midway on these streets, it returns to blight. That is why I would like to mirror 20th and 21st in Midway to what they have become in Barclay by redeveloping 20th to 22nd in Midway with an almost identical layout. This area has an existing urban farm that will not be impacted.
Although new construction will play a large role in the redevelopment of Greenmount, it won't be all of it. In fact, homesteading and rehabbing existing houses in more stable parts of the Neighborhood will make up larger portion of the area than new construction. The "preservation area" as I'm calling will start at Greenmount between 22nd and 23rd Sts., before dipping down Boone St. and up Kirk Avenue to Bartlett St., then up Kenwood Avenue to 25th St. dropping down Loch Raven Boulevard to Cookesbury Avenue meeting 23rd St. Although new construction will be necessary to infill vacant lots, the goal here is to not to tear down existing houses. This is also a great place to implement to the $1 Row House Program.
A big part of redevelopment for the Midway area is recreation, education, and food. As Schools fight for construction dollars to rebuilt, I'm proposing consolidating Dallas F. Nicholas Elementary, Cecil Elementary, and Harford Heights Elementary into one new building on North Avenue between Kennedy Avenue and Aisquith St. By combining Schools in nearby ailing buildings, into one new building, it lowers the deficit between open seats and declining overall enrollment citywide.
On the recreation side of things, I plan on building a large indoor/outdoor swimming pool(s) at the site of Cecil Elementary School. In addition, Greenmount Recreation Center between 23rd and 24th St. on the Barclay side of Greenmount will be redeveloped along with the building next door into a new 21st Century state of the Community Center with a gym, theater space, computer lab, meeting rooms, and tutoring spaces. Across the street, Mund Park will be renovated to remove Boone St. from the middle of it and add a Baseball Diamond, Tennis Courts, and Basketball Courts.
Although the Barclay Midway area qualifies as a food desert, there are many larger ones with even fewer Grocery options. That being said, the area can still benefit from an additional Grocery Store. Which is why I'm proposing rehabbing the large building on the west side of Greenmount between 24th and 25th St. into a locally owned Farmer's Market Co-Op with the second floor to be used as Apartments. Although this is just a few blocks from the famous Waverly Farmer's Market, this new Grocery Store will be indoors and open everyday.
The last and perhaps the most dramatic part of this plans includes building new Apartments on both sides of the eastern intersection of 25th St. and Greenmount Avenue. These new buildings will be amenity filled market rate buildings that will show the area is turning a corner. This will also be the Retail Hub for the Barclay Midway area as the ground floor will serve as Neighborhood Retail. The industrial land uses currently occupying that space will be moved to Loch Raven Boulevard above 25th St. where there is vacant industrial buildings and land available already. If these Apartment Buildings are successful, I will implement a similar redevelopment initiative at Greenmount and 29th St. the current site of Waverly Towers Shopping Center.
Barclay has made tremendous strides in redevelopment and crime reduction the past few years. Unfortunately the historic idea that such changes can only occur west of Greenmount has reared its ugly head yet again. This time, we must cross Greenmount in the midst of the Barclay changes so that Midway can benefit at the same time. If successful, perhaps other communities will try crossing Greenmount.             

Sunday, June 3, 2018


It was bound to happen, I wrote warning posts, I wrote posts on how and where Developers should revert funds to keep this happening. That being said, here we are. The new construction market for Apartments in Baltimore is officially oversaturated. As the Market recovered from late 2000s recession, the market for Condos did not. This is why many proposed Condo projects switched to rental Apartments. And then a frenzy of luxury mid to high rise Apartments began popping up throughout the gentrified parts of Baltimore at a break neck pace.
The number of Apartments that have been completed or in the pipe line or proposed is staggering; Stadium Square, The Rotunda, McHenry Point, Harbor Point, Inner Harbor East, Wells St., the Pepsi Building, Canton Crossing, 414 Light St., Harborview, various buildings being re-purposed Downtown, multiple proposed high rises in Little Italy, Anthem House, Anthem House II, and Port Covington. When will it end? Also keep in mind I'm sure I've left out many other projects that didn't come to mind.
Although the number of Apartments is high, the rent is much higher and that is what concerns me. As rents go up, the number of people who can afford those rents goes down. How often do you happen by an Apartment Building under construction, see what the rent is and go "Who can afford to live here?" Especially since a lot of these new Apartment Buildings are targeted at Millennials, a generation entering an awful job market already saddled with Student Loan debts and are lucky to find a job that pays a living wage let alone the ability to afford $2,000 a month for an Apartment the size of a closet.
I have feared this oversaturation for a few years now and now, according to the Baltimore Business Journal, the median rents for Baltimore and Towson have gone down. When something like this occurs it means the supply outweighs the demand. In this instance, it means that it's been tough finding tenants for these Apartments. This makes sense since Baltimore's crime rate has been in the news ever since the unrest of April 2015. Additionally, the overall population has gone down by 6,700 Residents in the past year. These statistics don't bode well for builders of high end Apartments trying to fill units.

So now what? Well, the only way to make these new Apartments successful is to fill them. That might mean lowering the rent for projects that have begun construction. This might not mean lowering the amount of the rent check tenants have to write each month but it include free parking, free dry cleaning at a nearby location, free gym membership, or free utilities. These expenses all add up so having them taken care of by your landlord will make the high rents worth it. I don't think the actual rents will go down by much if at all since doing so would make investors think twice before pumping anymore into the Baltimore Market.
Now I'm sure you're wondering why investors should continue investing large amounts of money into a shrinking City with an already oversaturated Apartment Market? Well, the Baltimore real estate market is more than just high end Apartments in showcase Neighborhoods. It may surprise you to know that despite the population loss, there is a robust market in other parts of the City for new low to moderate income housing both for rent and for purchase. In this case, the supply and demand factor is the opposite of the high end Apartment Market; high demand low supply.
How do I know this? In the few instances in which affordable housing be it for rent or for purchase has gone up in struggling Neighborhoods, they're or sold at a record pace. If anything were to fall through with financing for buyers or renters, the developers have long wait lists they can fall back on. Now, does this mean I'm advocating for abandoning any and all high end Apartment projects being built in the City and focus solely? Not at all. However, I do think Developers are milking one segment of the market dry while ignoring another cash cow.
So imagine if you will, if Developers of the proposed additional high rises in Harborview, Canton Crossing, 300 E. Pratt, and Port Covington diverted those dollars into areas like Sandtown, Druid Heights, Upton, Park Heights, and Broadway East, I believe the population loss in Baltimore would
reverse and growth would occur as would the job market for Residents in those areas. Crime would go down, the tax base would go up, as would overall investments infrastructure and School Construction.
Now lets fast forward 10-15 years into the future. After all this investment in poorer Neighborhoods has been beneficial to the City and its crime rate, what do you think the demand will then be for higher end Apartments? If you said higher, you're right. As more vulnerable citizens are the focus of investment dollars be they public or private, everybody benefits, if the small percentage of people in the City who can afford these $2,000 are the focus of investment dollars, only they benefit in the short term, the rest of the City gets left behind, and we have the oversaturation we see today.

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.