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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.

33 comments:

Michael said...

Don't be so quick to write off the cooperative ownership concept. There are many advantages to either the market rate or subsidized cooperative models.

Taxes and other costs can be less than the fee simple ownership concept. The owner of the rights to a coop are readily financed and easily bought and sold. A housing co-op is a special type of business ccorporation wholey owned by the members i.e. resident owners. As a co-op owner you own a share of the whole property. Owner occupancy should be a core requirement any coop. It can provide a stability and responsibilty factor far better than fee simple arrangements since renters are usually severely limited or excluded in the terms of the Mutual Ownership Contract that a coop owner must agree to as a condition of sale.

Realtors and lenders that do not bother to understand how easy these things are and how little difference there is to fee simple or condominium transactions. They sometimes will discourage prospective cooperative owners due to their their own lack of professional expertise.

You might do well to look at another co-op in Greenbelt Homes Incorporated in Prince Georges County to see a very successful well run 1600 unit co-op from the same era.

GHI and Armistead were both converted to a privately owned cooperative under the Lanham act of 1954. The Federal government passed the law to free up a lot of the housing stock governments ended up owning after the depression era public housing and World War II era dependents housing.

A well run, well financed operation like GHI takes a lot of effort by the members and the operating company to sustain but many people find the benefits to be well worth it.

Spence said...

I have nothing against CoOps at all. I'm just not proposing it for this particular plan. One reason is because with Armistead Gardens the residents bought their homes from the city. With McCullloh Homes/Village the city, under my plan will simply give away the development to each resident currently occupying a unit. There will be no mortgage they simply own it. It creates instant cash for public housing residents, something that the Armistead Gardens CoOp didn't do. One reason I used Armistead Gardens as an example of public housing turned market rate home ownership was because it was so successful.

Anonymous said...

A clarification of the history:

Armistead Gardens was built by the Army Corps of Engineers for defense workers who migrated to Baltimore, mostly to work at Martin. After WWII ended, there was a great need for housing, so, instead of being torn down as originally intended, it was taken over by the Baltimore City Housing Authority. And then was bought by a co-op formed by residents, as the original poster stated.

The actual name of the "group known as the Armistead Gardens Co-Op" is Armistead Homes Corporation.

Spence said...

Armistead Homes Corp? In all countless hours of research I never knew that was their official name. Thanks for the info I love learning from readers.

Anonymous said...

I've lived in AHC three times since 1964. Very interesting info you have on Armistead, thanks for sharing. Shirley

Anonymous said...

What is great about Armistead is this. AHC will tell you don't actually "own" the house, but you do; if you sell your home, you get the money for it. But it gives people a chance to own their homes who might otherwise not be able to afford to buy their own home. I know of no other place in Baltimore (city ot county) where you can rent for less than what it costs to own in Armistead. And your monthly maintenance fee includes water, electric & property taxes. Not the best of neighborhoods, but no where near the worst either. I give AHC a 10 out of 10. Following Armistead's example, yes, it could be done today if properly palnned and managed. SHIRLEY C.

a resident said...

I live in armistead gardens also. and have for 23years we are a very close knit community that come together when needed. i would like to see it stay the way it is now without all the hispanics and mexicans and blacks. we have always comming in and stealing things its sad..

Kim said...

I have lived in Armistead my entire life, and I must agree it is a very interesting place. I just moved back after going away to school for sociology. Needless to say I really appreciated this article. I have a great interest in revitalizing the city without gentrifying it and I think you have some interesting points.

Armistead is it's very own bubble in many respects. Because it is privately owned, the corporation can decide, to some degree, who lives there. There are background checks done on everyone that moves in and a long history of racism (the corporation ACTIVELY denying people of color) as we can see in the post above mine.

My mother was raised in Armistead Gardens and never really moved out in her 50+ years. She knew most of the parents of the children I went to school with etc. When he says no one really moves out...he means it. While that does create a sense of community, it can also be very isolating. The community and the people have not changed. Very few people 'move up' if you will. You have 2-3 generations of a family living in the neighborhood. There is a sense of stability in that, no doubt about it. It is better than your traditional public housing, but there is no integration with Armistead Gardens with other communities and I think that is key.

Thank you again for the article. I really appreciated the history and the thoughts on thte future.

Anonymous said...

I am a product of Armistead Gardens and would not use the word "successful" to describe it. It is NOT a place to raise children. My mother moved us once we entered middle school. My grandparents still live there and I will agree with a previous poster, the people who live there are isolated. They never "move up". Drug use is rampant and the norm....especially in what is known as the "old section". When I look back on my own experience there I am not necessarily "proud" of where I came from, I am proud I ESCAPED! I look at other "poor" people in our dear City and think to myself, if I could do it, anyone can. The generational cycle of poverty and high school drop-outs ended with my generation.

Looking at the "Armistead Experience" as a means to home ownership I think you have something there. I think the application to McCollough homes is spot on for sure.

Spence said...

I have since abandoned expanding Armistead Gardens to McCulloh Homes. But to those who think Armistead Gardens is both isolated and is failing generation after generation of the same families; what do you propose should be done to make Armistead Gardens a better to place to live for generations to come? Also, with Freedom Village and Claremont Homes hitting the wrecking in favor of The Townes at Orchard Ridge do you think this will a positive spillover on Armistead Gardens? Should Armistead Gardens think redevelopment for itself?

Anonymous said...

I was raised in "The Gardens" from 1971 to adulthood. It has changed alot over the years. The Corporation can pick and choose who lives there according to the background checks, but that can be overlooked for some cash!! It's all about the money!! Some people are left alone and others are harassed endlessly. Come together when needed? Hah! The corporation tortured my family for years because we were poor and couldn't paint our house. Where were the helpful neighbors then? It's all about who you know. Yes it's cheaper to live there, if you like people looking over your shoulder and telling you what you can and can not do(unless you line their pockets). My Armistead Gardens experience was very stressful and most of my childhood friends died of overdoses. I hope for the best for that neighbor. But expect the worse.

Anonymous said...

I am about to be 18 in a couple weeks and have grown up in armistead gardens my whole life. you are right when you say its a tight knit community because everyone knows eachother. I look back on my years there and i am very proud were i came from. armistead is surley not the best neighborhood but we was always for eachother. nowe that im gettin older its not the same armistead it was just a couple years ago. I could never put armistead down because its been my home for so many years. i currently dont live there i live in the county, but i have family and friends ive known my whole life there and im there all the time. i think if your in armistead youll always be here. Its in our blood, and these streets will never leave you....dont forget were you came from cause its probaly madfe half of you the people you are today. Living in the gardens has taught me life lessons i wouldnt of gotten anywere else. and ive made friendships that will last forever. AG ALL DAYY! :)

Anonymous said...

First I'd like to start on a positive note. I agree with many that the "cooperative cocept" as michael stated has very many benefits to it. But, there is certainly an issue I personally have come across and have just glanced thru comments and have not seen any similar experience. I believe the system of haveing a I guess what you would call THE manager Ive found recently has noone ahead of her directly (with the exception of the board of course) to which if you have a serious problem that needs to be dealt with and when u cant deal with the mgr for her unproffesional way of handeling things I feel that in this case its ran like the mafia. Shes it you cant go to someone above her unless you are willing to go to a "board meeting" amd air your personal problems in front of whomever may attend that day. Me myself am not comfortable with airing my dirty laundry to everyone because yes this is absolutely a close knit community and things spread around here like a wild fire. I keep to myself I cause no trouble I recently took this house over after my mother passed and abviously for that reason alone I want no problems.I never saw anyone say on here that they have been "black balled" nor am I accusing them outright of it but it sure is coincidental that since I have had unpleasant conversations with the mgr and me having to resort to calling the city (which actually came out before them, I did make one more call and gave it a week in June before calling the city) my so called "tickets" for maintenance can never be found...Is this just a coincidence?? Although last yr before any unpleasant conversations with the late Ms Ansa, when my floor was literally caving in they were here within days and stayed for a week doing work,I've called them about leaking faucets and they come pretty darn quick, now I have a much more MAJOR issue going on where I had to get the city of Baltimore involved because after 2months and 4 calls nothing has been done, Or do we have major issues with our maintence dept that needs to be looked in to. Do the people at our office realize they do in fact work for us becaue we do pay a monthly fee? Just wondering if anyone has had any recent experience with the same...Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated...

Anonymous said...

My grandparents, parents, myself and children have grew up in Armistead and let me tell you thank god I got my kids out of there!!!!! That place is now scum!!if they would have kept the neighborhood white and not mixed in the races it would be as good as it used to be!! There is nothing but junkies everywhere,drugdealers and almost everyone i knew growing up overdosed on drugs!!!!And as for the co-op they are a bunch of old people who dont want to improve the neighborhood!! And if your Mexican or black you can own a house because they are afraid of being sued if thay turn them down!!! thats why Armistead is a shity place to now live, The old saying is once an armsteader always an armsteader, yall need to try and move out, youll never go back to that shithole, Johns Hopkins should buy the place,so yall can say goodbye to little havana forever!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

I grew up in Armistead Gardens from 1941 to 1956. It was a safe place for kids and had people from North Carolina, West Virginia, Pennslyvania and other states who had come to work at Martins, Sparrows Point and the other defense industries. We had Jewish , Russian, Irish, Polish, Italian,etc, neighbors. Most of them looked out for the kids as did the police who knew most of the families. During the war, there were many stars in the windows, including gold ones for men who had been killed. As a kid who loved sports, it was heaven for me. Just walk out the door and hold up a ball and you had a game. No umpires or refs and no parents telling us how to play. I took the number six bus to Monument and Kresson where I transferred to the six streetcar to get to PS83 on Lakewood Ave. And I was only in the third grade. Try doing that today.

Anonymous said...

I presently live in Armistead Gardens. It is a lousy place to live. Sure-- the houses are cheap but then you get smacked with a fee of $376.00 upward for what the board calls "mainenance" which is paid every month or you are evicted. That's a steep price to pay for maintenance when maintenance is never performed. If you're lucky enough to get a plumber -- most things can't be fixed because the maintenance department will only repair pipes, etc. or anything for that matter that existed originally! What kind of crap is that? When you buy a house you usually don't ask are these original items? As for privacy, forget it. They can and do come into your home when they want to check on your "housekeeping practices" and advise you they have the articles of incorporation in hand to do so. Not to mention the drug dealing and drug addicts here. It is infested.
Armistead Gardens is nothing more than a star chamber.

Anonymous said...

Where do I even begin? Lets start with how an uppermiddle class Loudoun County Va girl ended up here. I moved to AG about a year ago to be with my fiance. My fiance, a recovering heroin addict, is a very lucky strong product of this neighborhood, though i think growing up here was his undoing. He "got out" in his mid twenties, and was brought back to this crap hole because of drugs. He is clean and we reside with an ailing family member who we take care of day in, day out. We both work, and will be out of armstead within months.

Now, to discuss what i have witnessed.

1)Almost all of the people here have definitely lived here their entire lives. Most lack any ambition, and education further than the 6th grade seems null.

2)The neighborhood is quickly becoming cultured with all types of different races moving in, which i think is a positive thing. It seems that 95% of the white population in armstead is racist, nosey, and would rather be on disability, or sell their prescriptions than work.

3)The most commonly traded and abused substance in this neighborhood is surely presriptions, age is not a factor. Ive seen really young kids to grandmas and grandpas all bragging, using, or buying.

4)As a testament to the neighborhood, you will find very few nice yards. The ones with the nice yards are usually the best neighbors, quiet, respectful, and honest.

5)Police presence is STRONG, but it seems to no avail. Where were they when my fiance got shaken down and robbed in the middle of the street? Where were they when a bad drug deal resorted to gun violence just a few streets over from my home?


In short, armstead as a whole has deteriorated from its working class warrior days of the past. I can not WAIT to get out of here.

david babb said...

to all of u who bad mouth the gardens opinions are like assholes we all have 1.back 50yrs. ago the gardens was a great place to live & was 23yrs ago when i moved, drugs are every where u dumbasses it's only because people won't stand up & fight together to get rid of bad eggs is why it is what is today but all of united states will be that way in time.quit bad mouthing & take a stand!!!! david babb

Anonymous said...

hispanic people wont stop from coming to ahc, i see more and more of them every time i turn around.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know how to find a place in Armistead Gardens to rent? Do you talk to this corporation or would you have to rent from individuals? My fiance and I are looking to move in, because it's the halfway pont between both our jobs, we have some friends in the neighborhood, and know it's very afordable. Any info would be appreciated! Thanks, Jen

Anonymous said...

Jen, you can call the AHC office for info on renting.

Anonymous said...

Guess its ok for whites to steal. Such intrest in redeveloping " black ghettos" if you want to keep things white & separate gentrification is not the answer. People should have the right to live where they can afford. If you don't like diversity then kill your self.

Anonymous said...

My mother currently lives in armistead and has for 4 years. I have tried for last 4 years to "buy" a house in there. I have no criminal background. I have decent credit. And I am white. It's a joke. They don't give a shit about their community. I am a college student and was trying to live there because of the cheap cost of living. I think it's all a joke. Sharon Vick the president is the biggest asshole there is. She lies through her teeth when she tells you that she and Darlene will help you even if you don't have the full down payment. Well at first I didn't, then I gathered much more money than the down payment they wanted, chose a house, was first to put my name on the list. Completed a background check and everything and turned it all in on time (4 business days) and they gave the house to someone else who didn't have all the down payment. THe process is really screwed up and they are really awful people. I grew up there and hoped to one day own my own house there for atleast a few years and then sell to buy a house in baltimore county but obviously that isn't happening when they don't give a shit about anyone or even the money they couldve had.

Anonymous said...

I have family & friends who live in the AG's & have done so for many, many years. Change is inevitable & if you can't accept change, then you will live a miserable life. I won't tolerate uncaring, rude, ignorant people of any race. If you make my life miserable, I will, within the law, take action against you & you will pay the consequences--IT WORKS IF DONE THE RIGHT WAY. People, stand up for your rights. If management isn't doing what they need to be doing--OUST management, LEGALLY--it can be done. I have had my share of dealing w/uncaring people of those races mentioned in previous comments, & also w/lying, uncaring management folks--they will all answer to a higher judge when their life ends. Stand up for your rights, but do it the right way--ACCORDING TO THE LAW.

Anonymous said...

The problem with trying to oust the current management (including the board of directors) costs money. I haven't found a lawyer yet that is willing to take on AHC because of all the by-laws and re-written by-laws and re-re-written by-laws. AHC is a corporation for goodness sakes. No one on the board of directors is qualified to run around the block let alone run a corporation. You have a President, who's son was hired at $30.00 an hour to consult. When questioned she claims she didn't know how much money he was making. That's a great President. She should run for President of the United State. I could go on forever, but the biggest problem is that a lot of people do not have the education to know that the need to stand up for their rights. They surely don't have the money to contribute for lawyer fees if such a lawyer was ever found. The last thing I will say is that while Armistead will tell you that they will not fix something in your house because it is not original is just another way of them getting over on the people who don't know any better. At the end of the day, AHC owns your house and they HAVE to fix whatever the problem is. No lawyer required. Just call the city!

Anonymous said...

Armistead gardens is full of s***... I bought/ or leased what ever you choose to say, my home from $20,000 cash... Thinking that I would save money to move my family up eventually... Yeah right, you pay a maintenance fee for nothing to ever get fixed pretty much duct taped. They hire the lowest bidder to do all their jobs without making sure they are qualified to do the job, tell you your are able to do one thing and then turn around and deny you the right to make the changes to your property that you were told in the beginning you were able to do. The office look out for their own, meaning they ensure that the other properties in the neighborhood are paying to fix the homes of those who work in that office..I know a woman who lived on the neighborhood for many many years... Se had a falling out with Sharon at a private birthday party and the result was Sharon going back to her files and causing this woman to lose her house for a background check that was not processed.. A background check that Sharon was aware of when the home was purchased so many years before... In other words " don't piss off who works in the office or you could lose your home. I paid thousands and thousand of dollars to renovate the inside of my home and made sure I got the proper contracts while the ones who run the office use materials that were not purchased with their money but the money of the leaseholders to renovate their home and not have one permit.. Favoritism, racism, and ignorance runs the neighborhood... Not the people.

Anonymous said...

Amen

Anonymous said...

The practices of AHC are illegal and in many cases against the housing code of Baltimore City. They get around a lot of rules because you technically "own" your house, but they can evict a "homeowner" for a variety of offenses. Harassment is common place. Enforcement of the rules is inconsistent as a yard filled with trash and dog feces is ignored, while another "homeowner" is targeted for an unpainted fence. A house will fall down around your ears before they will fix things that are their responsibility per the bylaws. Its ridiculous, immoral, unethical, and illegal. Someone has to do something, but no one that lives there has enough money to stand up to their bullying.

John Doe said...

Dude you're broke... What can anyone steal from you?. Your sister who's your recent wife?.
Go kill yourself you give us white folks a bad name.

John Doe said...

The gardens suck balls

Anonymous said...

Yes they are a bunch of crooks. I hear the guy that prints out your fines and placed in the mail gets paid $85,000 a year!! For printing papers!! I say a class action law suit needs to be in the works ASAP

Anonymous said...

Amen Sharon Dick The THEIF WHO WAS PAYING HER SON $90,000 A YEAR FOR WHAT??? WE PAY MAINTENANCE AND GET NO MAINTENANCE DONE ITS LIKE YOU GOTTA BEG THEM TO FIX ANYTHING THE CITY NEEDS TO TAKE OVER THAT SCUMBAG OFFICE OF LIARS AND THEIFS !!!!

Unknown said...

I loved growing up in ag...like my mom raised us. its not where you live its how you live