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Thursday, May 1, 2008

North Avenue:Narrowed Streets Row Homes and Sky Scrapers


North Avenue may be the one of the city's longest uninterrupted east west roadways stretching from Walbrook Junction in the west to Berea in the east. It got its name for the simple fact that for much of Baltimore's history it was the city's northern border. Today it separates Downtown from suburban North Baltimore. Dozens of neighborhoods, too many to name use North Avenue as their northern or southern border. The neighborhoods in question range from dilapidated rats nests to Baltimore's grandest and most celebrated and everything in between. One thing they all have in common is that they turn their back on North Avenue.It wasn't always this way. North Avenue was once integrated in every sense of the word. It was a thriving urban village filled with shops, boutiques, movie houses, apartments, row homes and streetcar lines meeting at major intersections. It was integrated racially because neighborhoods were both white and black that bordered on North Avenue. It was also integrated into the fabric of the urban landscape. The neighborhoods themselves were segregated but all of them whether white or black used North Avenue for their everyday shopping needs.
Well times have changed, streetcars lines were replaced with buses and cars, blockbusting resegregated most neighborhoods and the industry sector of the city's economy was all but eroded. North Avenue felt these "growing pains" or shrinking pains of the white flight to suburbia and the emptying out of Old West Baltimore and Old East Baltimore, Baltimore's only black neighborhoods at the time. They all encroached on North Avenue draining the tax and customer base from the neighborhood businesses along North Avenue.
The interstate building era was not kind to North Avenue either. One of the proposed routes for the "East West Expressway" these plans were scrapped as was the East West Expressway as a whole. North Avenue didn't get away scott free, it was widened from two lanes to six lanes destroying block after block of homes and businesses further distancing it from its neighborhoods. North Avenue went from an urban village to a suburban drag. The quality of the businesses went down. Businesses consist of Chinese Carry Out, Fried Chicken Joints, $.99 stores, check cashing, store front churches, and liquor stores. The MLK riots of 1968 were the final nail in the coffin for North Avenue with it having one of the heaviest numbers of incidents.
Today the central portion of North Avenue is showing signs of hope. By the central portion I mean from Pennsylvania Avenue to Greenmount Avenue. This includes but is not limited to the Station North Arts & Entertainment District. I'm going to dedicate an entire post to Station North so I won't go into detail about it, I will mention that it involves skyscrapers. Around Pennsylvania Avenue where the Green Line stop is located in the Penn North neighborhood there is a proposal for high density TOD on vacant industrial land.
Between Bolton Hill and Reservoir Hill there should be redevelopment of the Madison Park North Apartments and the relocation of Maritime Academy High School to the Walbrook Campus. The area should be redeveloped as a mixed use community with frontage on North Avenue. On the Bolton Hill side there was a new development of town homes but they turn their back on North Avenue. I think there should be an extension of that development with frontage on North Avenue. Now how can new town homes be built along North Avenue when they already back to it? That's easy narrow the road. Six lanes is way too wide for an urban street. It can easily be narrowed down to three lanes, one for through traffic in each direction and one turn lane. This should be done for the entire length of North Avenue to encourage redevelopment. The central portion of North Avenue and redevelopment of neighborhoods nearby should eventually lead to redevelopment of the eastern and western portions of North Avenue.You've heard of planes, trains, and automobiles but for North Avenue it's narrowed streets, row homes, and skyscrapers.

1 comment:

Scott Beyer said...

I'm curious about where you got this info on the history of North Avenue, because I'm looking for it myself and am having trouble. Are there paticular pdfs I could find?