Monday, May 19, 2008

Station North: A Victim of its Own Sucess

Cities have an ace up their sleeve when it comes to gentrifying blighted neighborhoods without putting forth large amount of cash out of their own pockets to do so. It's called an "Arts and Entertainment District." This provides subsidies for artists to live and work and use sweat equity to gentrify a neighborhood by themselves and provide places to sell and display their work. However, they can work too well. The artists who have worked so hard to gentrify their neighborhood will eventually become priced out and it will be another over priced yuppie district.
Station North covers two neighborhoods; Charles North and Greenmount West. The Charles North side has received almost all the attention and investment both on the public and private sector. In fact a "Charles North Master Plan" has been inked which calls for major redevelopment north of and including Penn Station. A Boutique Hotel will be built either across from (with a walkway) or on the three unused floors above Penn Station. Six skyscrapers are on the books as well as a Concert Hall, close to a million square feet of retail, office, and studio spaces as well as residences. There will also be green space and Art Gallereies. A few blocks north in Charles Village there is a burgeoning Korean Community. Charles North is looking to become Baltimore's "Chinatown." Community activists are attracting Chinese Business owners to open upscale restaurants and boutique shops in Charles North.
Now that Charles North is slated to become the next Fels Point and price out the artists who attracted the big development in the first place, what's to become of them? Well as I stated before Station North consists of two neighborhoods;
Charles North on the west and GreenmountWest on the east which does have a Master Plan in the works but it hasn't been presented to the public as of the writing of this post. Greenmount West was in much worse shape than Charles North when the Station North Arts & Entertainment District was iniated so it's no surprise that it hasn't received the same investment that Charles North has.
As of right now Greenmount isn't as transit friendly as Charles North is. The Yellow Line will eventually run right through it in about 40 years. On Calvert St., the western border of Greenmount West "Station North" have been built from Lafayette Avenue to Lanvale St. The 1500 of Greenmount Avenue on the Eastern end of the Station North is a vacant lot and has been an eyesore on the community for decades. Both the Station North Town homes development and what has been proposed for the 1500 of Greenmount Avenue are very contemporary and don't fit in with the surrounding community architecture.
Greenmount West should be able to absorb the displaced residents and they will do the same thing in West that they did in Charles North. The end result in Right now it's just a waiting game for Charles North to be built and current artists to be priced out which despite the economic slow down is approaching quickly. The plan for Greenmount West will actually be different than in Charles North. New development will not be huge sky scraper projects and Boutique Hotels rather than infill development of town homes and warehouse loft type spaces that look like that in the existing community. Demolition will be minimal, only to be done if the structure is rendered unlivable. Mildred Monroe Elementary will be converted into a museum for Artists to show their work. Perhaps the biggest improvement in Greenmount West will be its retail component. Similar to Charles North, it will cater to the arts and feature a better selection of restaurants and bars.
Now that all of Station North has been gentrified where will the artists go? Well luckily in Baltimore there are plenty of communities that can benefit from the Arts and Entertainment District designation. It could cross Greenmount Cemetery into Oliver and Broadway East(The American Brewery Building would be an ideal location for artist lofts), Head south into Johnston Square and Gay Street, or head across North Avenue into Barclay and East Baltimore Midway. Maybe it will go to all those places, it's a long shot but with the economic slow down and the stalling of large development projects it could be a possibility. Luckily Station North being a victim of its own success means that it can be easily expanded.

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