Monday, July 7, 2008
Could the Armistead Gardens Experience Be Applied Today?
Everybody knows about Armistead Gardens right? A working class neighborhood on the far eastside of the city. It really whethered the storm of urban decay despite being near the industrial wasteland of Orangeville, Freedom Village and Claremont Homes public housing and Hollander Ridge another public housing development. Now I'm sure you're wondering how did Armistead Gardens wedge itself in between two public housing developments when it's privately owned market rate condos?Well that's simple Armistead Gardens was once itself public housing. It was built in the late 1930s and early 1940s and ended it life as a public housing development in 1956. So it got HOPE VI funds, was demolished and rebuilt right? Wrong, the transformation of Armistead Gardens took place decades before HOPE VI. At the time the city wanted to shed excess public housing developments (sound familair?) and Armistead Gardens which aged much better than its public housing counterparts was at the top of the list. Residents made an unprecedented move by forming a group known as the Armistead Gardens Co-Op and "bought" the development from the city. The 1500 units that make up Armistead Gardens are "owned" by the Co-Op but residents have 99 year leases on their property. They pretty much own the homes seeing as homes stay in the family for generations. What I call the "Armistead Gardens Experiment" was deemed a success, however it wasn't really duplicated. There's Co-Op housing in Washington Hill that came about in the late 1970s but it wasn't to my knowledge public housing originally.
For Baltimore, a City that wants to shed public housing units with or without the help of HOPE VI as part of its massive blight removal initiative couldn't the city try to readapt some of the methods used in the Armistead Gardens Experiment to try to minimize displacement and turn public housing residents into homeowners without displacement and at the same time shedding public housing units thus saving the city money because of the constant maintenance required for the aging developments? It seems like a no brainier.
Now in order to make this endeavor as successful the city would have to choose a development where its surroundings are up and coming and have had successful new developments nearby. Crime at this particular development should be relatively low as well. There have been successful pre World War II public housing developments in other cities that have been reused as other uses, this is something Baltimore has missed out on, it has demolished its blighted public housing and rebuilt. Lets try reusing some pre war public housing and applying some of the principals from the Armistead Gardens Experiment.
My development of choice? McCulloh Homes. It's located near so much past present and future new development that it should get some attention as well. Its location rather than acting as a Donut hole between new development will tie it all together and in some cases encourgae future development and investment. It's located between the Westside redevelopment, the State Center redevelopment aka the Eutaw District (McCulloh Homes was originally supposed to be part of the State Center), Heritage Crossing, Bolton Hill, Mount Vernon, and the UMB Biotech Park.
Now there will be some differences in the Armistead Gardens Experiment. First of all, there will be no CoOp each residents will own their homes free and clear. They can continue to live in it or sell it and get instant cash for a down payment on a house. Second of all residents will not have to "buy" their homes from the city. They will be given away giving residents instant equity and they will no longer be public housing residents, this help get rid of poverty in the city Third of all, residents will have their units renovated before the city wipes its hands clean of McCulloh.
There will be some demolition and redevelopment at McCulloh. The high rise of McCulloh Homes Extension will be demolished and rebuilt to match the garden apartments that make up the majority of McCulloh Homes. Also the schools around McCulloh Homes will be demolished and relocated to other under utilized schools, mainly Fredrick Douglass High. The schools with frontage to MLK Boulevard will be condos with ground floor retail that matches the existing garden apartments and the retail will front MLK Boulevard. The courtyards in between buildings will be converted into "pocket parks" each with a theme like ball fields, nature oriented, fountains, statues, a swimming pool, and a playground. Also within McCulloh Village as it will now be called will have a community center run by the community and a daycare center run by an outside party. McCulloh Village is what the demolished McCulloh Homes would be called if it were part of the State Center redevelopment.
If McCulloh Village is as successful as I project it to be (with residents as homeowners upkeep and crime deterance will be a major priority) it can be duplictated in other public housing developments that are pre World War II like the original 600 units of Cherry Hill Homes (the other 794 would be demolished and redeveloped into mixed income housing) and Poe Homes in Poppleton.