Monday, June 23, 2008

East Baltimore: What's Hot, What's Not

East Baltimore, just the twos words alone speak volumes about a struggling section of the city that for decades has dealt on a much grander scales with the ills of urban decay. Now, East Baltimore's sole anchor Johns Hopkins Hospital has taken on the roll of developer by transforming the entire east side of Baltimore from slums into a state of the art Biotech Park, 1500 new and rehabbed mixed income housing units, a Community School, and enhanced retail. Other community amenities include open space, a Day Care Center, and a Community School. Johns Hopkins has developed a sector called the East Baltimore Development Initiative or EBDI for short to sally forth on this ambitious plan.
East Baltimore always consisted of "cookie cutter" row homes with little architectural elements. Houses were built mainly for workers of Bethlehem Steel in Dundalk, The American Brewery, The Breweries and Canneries in Canton, and the shipyards of Fels Point. After the death of Johns Hopkins his will stated that he wanted a University and a Hospital built in his name. Johns Hopkins University is located at the Junction of the Remington, Charles North and Charles Village neighborhoods while Johns Hopkins Hospital is located in the Dunbar Broadway and Middle East neighborhoods near the now former Church Hospital.
As Johns Hopkins Hospital continued to grow two things happened East Baltimore saw an increase in Medical Staff among its residents and outside forces allowed Blacks to live in certain neighborhoods of East Baltimore. Said neighborhoods are what is known today known as Oliver, Broadway East, Berea, Biddle Street, Gay Street, the northern section of Middle East, and Johnston Square. Integration was still almost a century away so the white residents moved out. The demographic shift occurred right around the time the city limit was extended eastward in 1918. Residents moved into new neighborhoods with the "cookie cutter" row homes like Highlandtown, Greektown, Medford, Breoning Manor, and Graceland Park. Since many of these people worked in the factories near these new neighborhoods it worked out well because they lived closer to work.
As the 1940s and 50s rolled around drastic change came about in East Baltimore and Urban America as a whole. Older row homes and tenements became blighted and outdated an influx of poor residents were moving into older neighborhoods as the suburban dream became "affordable" for the middle class. The city, rather than rehab the existing housing stock decided to bulldoze and build Public Housing Complexes in their place. Oldtown, a previously Jewish neighborhood was rebuilt with public housing complexes such as Somerset Homes, Monument House, and LaTrobe Homes. Gay Street has the Section 8 housing complexes of Lester Morton Court and Clay Courts as well as the public housing complex of Somerset Homes Extension. Dunbar Broadway has Douglass Homes. Washington Hill has Broadway Homes and Perkins Homes. Jonestown got Lafayette Courts and Flag House Courts. Near Fort Holabird, Berricks used for Soldiers became the public housing complex known as O'Donnell Heights. The complexes varied in style from row homes, garden apartments, mid rise apartments, and high rise apartments.
Integration was still something of the future at the inception of these complexes, neighborhoods that were white before the complexes were built turned almost completely black over night as the public housing complexes went up. These once stable neighborhoods like Washington Hill, Oldtown, Dunbar Broadway, and Jonestown fell victim to crime, blight, population loss, drugs, and poverty just as soon as the last brick was laid. The new buildings that were supposed to cure the city of these problems only inflated.
The high rises, as everyone is well aware did not survive for very long. By the 1990s it was time for them to come down. First it was Lafayette Courts replaced with the town house and senior apartment building of Pleasant View Gardens, then it was Broadway Homes replaced with the apartment and town home development of Broadway Overlook which utilizes the former Church Hospital building for some of its apartments. Finally it was Flag House Courts which was replaced with Albemarle Square also with apartments and town homes. The new developments have fewer units than their predecessors and in some cases only a fraction of said units are public housing. Formerly stable communities like McElderry Park, Ellwood Park/Monument, and the Southern Portion of Middle East were negatively effected by the closings of the old high rise complexes with former residents moving into those neighborhoods through the "scattered site" program which caused additional white flight, crime, drugs, and blight.Today, East Baltimore is on the threshold for unprecedented change and gentrification fueled by the EBDI and some "Area Master Plans" put forth by the city there are some sections of East Baltimore that are "hot" and some that are "not" and some that will become "hot" in a few short years.

First what's hot
The world renowned Johns Hopkins Hospital is ever expanding its services and acreage.
"The Piano", Just north Hopkins this is the location of the new Biotech Park and the housing that goes with it. The shape of the land mass resembles a grand piano hence the nickname. All existing housing will be demolished.

McElderry Park, Just as soon as it went into decline the real estate market boomed and the housing stock of McElderry Park and Lower Middle East even up to Library Square is being rehabbed by the block. New housing here should be minimal. The EBDI helped the McElderry Park's marketability.Albemarle Square, HOPE VI hit a grand slam with this one. It provides just the right income mix and its location near the Inner Harbor, Little Italy, and Fels Point and in Historic Jonestown make this former slum into a 21st century urban oasis.
Orangeville/Berea, Orangeville is currently an industrial wasteland and the site for the East Baltimore MARC station and a transfer point on the Redline. Orangeville will become a mecca for TOD. Berea will feel the effects of Orangeville's transformation and will experience a mix of new "infill" development and rehabbed row homes.

Library Square, This is poised for enhanced retail, new educational/institutional space, rehabbed housing, and lots more open space and streetspace enchancements. The realignment of Pulaski Highway, Fayette St. and Monument St. should be considered.
Bayview, This will be the Redline's third and final MARC transfer point. Bayview will also benefit from TOD.Greektown, an older row house neighborhood has "Athena Square a new town home development under construction and as many as 1,000 high rise condos and town homes are in the planning stages.Washington Hill, very nice housing stock of older homes with more architectural details than most of East Baltimore. This mixed with co-op housing and the new Broadway Overlook, Washington Hill has something for everyone. There is even a little room for new housing.
Photo From
Preston Place, This new development in the all but abandoned neighborhood of Oliver is bringing hope to residents that their neighborhood can turn around. The development is coming up before their very eyes. Preston Place may be the catalyst needed for Oliver.
Patterson Park, Reinvestment is inching its way north of Patterson Park block by block.
Butchers Hill, Great Housing existing housing stock complemented by "Duncan St. Mews" and "The Townes at Butchers Hill"

What's Not
Perkins Homes, The only public housing development left near the harbor. Demolition and redevelopment is required.
Oldtown, Just like in the 1940s and 50s it's time to completely tear down and rebuild this neighborhood once again. Somerset Homes will definitely hit the wrecking ball and there is talk of LaTrobe Homes demolition. This is all part of a Master Plan in the works for Oldtown Mall, a desolate pedestrian mall that can't be revived. Also in the master plan is talk of demolishing Douglass Homes, Forest St. Apartments, and developing the surface parking lots of Penn Fallsway.
The JFX/I-83 Between Fayette St. and Preston St. has got to come down. The only way the Oldtown Master Plan can be done right (which is to make it an extension of Downtown) would be to separate the barrier between the two which is no doubt the JFX/I-83.
Broadway East/American Brewery, This may be the one part of East Baltimore that can't be revived. Maybe way down the line but it's too desolate and surrounded by urban decay and blight. The entire neighborhood would have to be torn down accept for the Brewery and rebuilt from the ground up, even then will people move back after all these years?
Johnston Square, Many false starts and uncompleted public housing/section 8 developments here. The demolition of the JFX/I-83 will, like in the Oldtown/Penn Fallsway instance will spur new high density development that will push Downtown eastward.

Up & Coming
Highlandtown, the final neighborhood to gentrify with Patterson Park frontage. There is an improving housing stock and old industrial land that's ripe for redevelopment. Highlandtown is also an "Arts and Entertainment District" The Redline will only add interest to this up & comer.
Pleasant View Gardens, Baltimore's first HOPE VI development didn't take off like we would have hoped. Its location near Somerset Homes and Douglass Homes didn't help. It also has way too many public housing units. It needs to broaden its income mix by introducing market rate rentals, subsidized homeownership, and additional market rate homeownership as the new developments replacing Somerset Homes and Douglass homes are built with the same even mix Pleasant View Gardens won't be seen as a life raft in a sea of urban decay.

Kresson, this little known neighborhood serparates Greektown/Bayview from Canton and Highlandtown. It's a thin north south stretch that's mostly industrial with little residential. This is prime for TOD as the Redline will run right through it.
Gay Street, this neighborhood located directly west of Middle East may be a bench mark in how a poor neighborhood should work. It features Somerset Homes Extension which unlike the other development that bares its name is in good shape. Some mild modernization


Anonymous said...

Hi- I just found your blog and think it's incredible! I'm a transplant to Baltimore and love learning more about the city. I'll have to spend some time here.

Spence Lean said...

Let me be the first to welcome you to Baltimore.

Anonymous said...

Hello, What is the purpose for this blog? are you against Gentrification or for it.

Spence Lean said...

I'm very much pro gentrification. That being said it's a bumpy ride to get there. I also like to explore different ways of achieving it. I also explore reasons why a certain neighborhood went into decline in the first place. I try to eliminate or improve the factors that bring down a neighborhood both physically and socially. As for the purpose of this blog it's to promote Baltimore City and all the progress it's made and all its potential.

Anonymous said...

REALLY! we must tear down EVERYTHING!


Spence Lean said...

I can see why you would say that judging from East Baltimore's night of bloodshed this past Saturday Night. The neighborhoods that those shootings took place in are in my "What's Not Category" but I do think East Baltimore along with West Baltimore can recover. One block away from the worst shooting, the houses were completely rehabbed with flower beds gracing the exteriors.

Anonymous said...

My parents were born in Baltimore city. My mom on Dallas St. My Dad on Milton Ave. I went to St. Katherines for three years and we moved to the suburbs in '57. I didn't look back until the Inner Harbor but I love to look at pics of Mom and Dad shopping on North Ave. dressed to the hilt!I have very good childhood memories of Grogan Ave. We deserted the city. and it fell apart. I am proud to see it come back so beautifully. I just wish we could solve the crime instead of relocating it.

Cockamamie sandwich said...

What a shame you people want to destroy your own city even further. Let's hope for your sake these bubbles take longer to burst than their predecessors.