Saturday, July 7, 2007

Say Goodbye to Pimlico and Park Heights as We Know Them

My Pictures Coming Soon

First a little bit of history of the Park Heights neighborhood. This neighborhood came up from the 1920s to the 1940s as Jews continued to migrate Northwest from East Baltimore. Park Heights just like Edmondson Village was a streetcar suburb. Park Heights thrived as a middle class Jewish community until the mid 1960s. As blacks migrated from the same slums as their Jewish cohort white flight in sued and by 1970 the neighborhood was almost entirely black. Edmondson Village has always been thought of as the poster child for block busting and complete racial turnover. In fact Park Heights did it in roughly half the time of Edmondson Village. Edmondson Village's turnover took 10 years (1955-1965) while Park Heights was 5 (1965-1970). Not only was Park Height's racial turnover quicker than Edmondson Village but it also decayed quicker. This my have little to do with the neighborhood itself. Since Edmondson Village changed earlier than Park Heights which gave it the ability to thrive as a black community. By the time Park Heights changed urban America was decaying faster than ever. The rise of the Black Panthers, The Building of interstate highways, public housing high rises, the MLK Jr. riots accelerated urban decay nationwide in the late 1960s through the 1970s. One thing that Park Heights always had in its favor was and is the Pimlico racecourse, home of the Preakness. But could the crown and jewel of the Park Heights community be holding it back? Read on and you may in for a shock.......
Photo From Google Earth
Park Heights has been a troubled neighborhood for close to 40 years now. Pimlico race course home of the famed Preakness and little else is easily its biggest attribute but it may be the biggest thing holding it back. There have been many proposals over the years to either build relocate or build more on the Pimlico site. I think that Pimlico should be relocated in a more desirable location for tourism. Some have said Pigtown for the new race course but I don't think it's a good idea to buy up Pigtown and destroy a neighborhood that has made so much progress in the past few years. People are right on the money when they say southwest of Downtown and the existing stadiums. I have four words to solve the issue: Carroll Camden Industrial Park. What better way to complement the new Gateway South development and the reconfigured Russel Street? The amount of vacant and underutilized land in that area is more than enough to build a new arena and services like hotels to go with it. It's near the blue line, the new Orange Line and MARC lines of mass transit as well.
Photo From Google Earth
Now back to Park Heights, like I said a minute ago the neighborhood is in bad shape. Violent Crime, Gangs, Drugs, AIDS lack of services on the public and private level and block after block of vacant dilapidated houses to name a few. However Park Heights has a lot that can and will be done to and it is poised to make a major come back in the not to distant future. As I mentioned before Pimlico racetrack would be moved and in its place would be a mix of offices and new housing. The Park Heights Master Plan created by the city says the site can accommodate 1,000,000 square feet of Office Space, 3000 to 5000 new jobs and 1,000 new housing units at the same time. Also the Park Heights Master Plan calls for a huge chuck of vacant housing to be redeveloped in the center of the neighborhood. This part of the neighborhood is in the worst shape 900 housing units 850 of which are vacant and rotting. In its place will be a brand new mixed income development with apartments, condos, town homes, and detached homes. The commercial nodes in the neighborhood will also be redeveloped with a full service grocery store, an Enoch Pratt Free Library, and better neighborhood services.

Now for the fun stuff the Park Heights Master Plan doesn't cover.
Photo From Google Earth
First lets talk public housing. There are two public housing developments in the Park Heights Neighborhood. Oswego Mall, a small row house development near Park Circle has got to go, the violence and drug activity has gotten out of control that redevelopment is the only alternative. In its place will be new market rate home ownership town homes. The homes surrounding Oswego Mall will instantly be stabilized a more desirable address.
Photo From Google Earth
The second public housing development is BelPark Towers, a 274 unit high rise located in the middle of a row house neighborhood. Although not nearly as violent as the previous HOPE VI developments this will be redeveloped in the same manor. In its place will be brand new town homes that are two levels stacked over top of one another making the structures four levels. They will be a mix of subsidized home ownership and public housing a 50-50 split to be exact. Traffic conditions may slightly improve with the new development as well. Nelson Avenue and Cordelia Avenue will now connect with each other which they don't as of right now when BelPark Towers was built. With town homes instead of a high rise apartment building the neighborhood will be back to scale.
Photo From Google Earth
Now lets talk Northern Parkway and transit oriented development(TOD). The Park Heights Master Plan suggests that there is limited TOD opportunities in the Park Heights neighborhood. I strongly disagree with this because I don't believe the Wabash Avenue corridor should remain industrial. I go into much further detail on my Wabash Avenue post. The Northern Parkway corridor in the Park Heights and Howard Park neighborhoods leaves something to the imagination. The road itself will be narrowed to two lanes to provide room for sidewalks and a bike lane. Streetscape enhancements will include asphalt pavement instead of cement, brick crosswalk, landscaped medians with neatly manicured plantings and flowers, and additional lighting both on either side of the street and in the medians. Back to TOD, Park Heights has the advantage of being served very nicely by both the Blue Line and the Green Line. Like I've said in almost all of my posts, I believe that these existing transit lines should be barried underground to improve the flow of traffic, higher rail speeds, and the freeing up of land at ground level for development. There is ample land for development in addition to Wabash Avenue, there is space on Northern Parkway throughout Park Heights and Howard Park.
Photo From Google Earth
The new development on the former Pimilico will have Northern Parkway frontage. Opposite what is currently the Pimlico racetrack is the Glen/Mount Washington neighborhood. There is very little development in Glen and Mount Washington that actually faces Northern Parkway but for very good reason. During the interstate planning and building era neighborhoods used limited access parkways to try to distance themselves from decaying neighborhoods. But with the new mixed use development I'm proposing I would like to see this swath of land developed as another mixed use development to compliment its counterpart to the south. One thing that is one the other side of Northern Parkway is the soon to be former Pimlico Middle School. This represents even more available land on this side of Northern Parkway.
Photo From Google Earth
Further down Northern Parkway is the Seton Business Park. It's all to obvious that this was built in the 1970s and today it's one of the ugliest Business Parks in Central Maryland. Redevelopment will transform this eyesore to an Office Park that will give Canton Crossing a run for its money.
Photo From the Barclay Master Plan
Lastly I'd like to focus on social issues. Until now all I've talked about is physical redevelopment. Most importantly Park Heights has the one of the highest occurance of HIV and AIDS in the country, a large contributer to this is not sexual but dirty needles. It's no secret that drug addiction including herion is a major problem. One solution that I'm advocating is the needle exchange program. This is very controversial because critics say that it encourages drug use. I personally do not encourgae drug use and neither do the majority of politicians who are in favor of this. Needle exchange is the lesser ofd two evils,although it does nothing for the drug epidemic it does a lot to slow down the AIDS epidemic. It's the same people who turn their noses at the needle exchange program who try to stop condom give aways at high schools because it encourages teen sex. Condoms just like clean needles stop the spread of AIDS and teen pregnancy. Now that I've got babies on the brain I'd like to talk about the infant mortality rate. Park Heights has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the country. This has a lot to do with the environment their mothers are exposed to. Mothers don't have access to health care, fresh healthy food and are more likely to addicts which in turn makes their baby an addict. With the exception of addiction the health of the mother and the rest of the population can be solved almost exclusively by the physical redevelopment aspect. Physical redevelopment can usher better services like better grocery stores, free clinics, and WIC centers. Now lets talk education, the elementary schools score relatively well considering their city schools but are still pretty terrible. I did a post a while back on school construction so refer to that when it comes the school buildings themselves. When it comes to test scores and the high drop out rate I got nothing.
Education woes aside I think we can say goodbye to Pimlico and Park Heights as we know them and they won't be missed.


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Anonymous said...

Thanks for the comment. I love hearing feedback.

rachelmonster said...

I know this post is way old, but if you're by any chance still around on this blog, could you tell me where you got your info? I'm doing a research project on the area and it would really help me out (if it isn't just general knowledge for you). Thanks!

retired4me said...

The problem with Pimlico was created a long time ago with all the social programs the left politicians of Md love.YOu give away money and homes to the poor and they stay poor and will not take care of the homes.sadly Pimlico was taken away from me while I was serving in Vietnam. Our parent sold us out to the block busters. Yes maybe it is time ot move the racetrack for health and safety but if the state just keeps on giving those freebies away then nothing will change there and it will be another slum after the reconstruction efforts,but something definitely need to be done .

Jenine said...

Man oh man, my mom told us the wildest stories about Park Heights. She grew up on Elmer Ave, which is just off of Belvedere. She said when they first moved around there in the early '70s their block was mostly white (maybe even a little Jewish), they even had flowers, fruit trees and bushes. She said it was country living in the city. According to her, a lot of that changed around the early '80s. She told me about how all these natural plants started dying out most likely because people stopped taking care of their properties and how part of the reason there's a drug epidemic in Park Heights has to do with the Jamaicans bringing it to the area.

My mom said the area became a saddle town by the mid to late '80s. A lot of people including one of my uncles died because of the illegal drug trade (he was killed in 1990) and even more were wiped out by the AIDS epidemic because of heroin (as you mentioned), unprotected sex or both. All I can say is, "Tales from the Ghetto," whenever I think about all the stories my mom told me about different people she knew. There are some people who are trying to improve the area. One of my mom's childhood friends moved back there with her brother to try to do something (they own a barbershop together), but a lot more can be done by the city and the state.

BTW, you showed a picture from Google earth of some boarded up apartments. I may have seen them before riding through Park Heights. There's a lot of bad pockets between Belvedere Ave and Reisterstown Road closer to Mondawmin.

Carla said...

You told nothing but the truth! It was a time in the late 80s where the police didnt like going up in the park heights area because of the Jamaicans.