Thursday, August 28, 2008

Charles Village: Take It to the Streets

Charles Village has always been a College neighborhood. Formerly known as Peabody Heights it's been over time neighbors to Goucher College, Peabody University, Loyola and Notre Dome, and Johns Hopkins Homewood Campus.
The housing stock in Charles Village consists mainly of large frame row houses built in the late 1800s and early 1900s some of which due to overcrowding were converted into smaller apartments. Charles Village was often considered part of the northern suburbs but due to its row house architecture and urban grid infrastructure always played second fiddle to neighborhoods above University Parkway.Charles Village, unlike its neighbors to the south and east never experienced much in the way of urban decline. Today Charles Village is a mix of college students and couples young and old. Besides being in close proximity to numerous colleges, Charles Villages has another claim to fame, the Painted Ladies.
Today Charles Village is divided into three distinct sections; the northern section which goes from University Parkway to 28t St. the middle section from 28th to 25th St. and finally Old Goucher which makes Charles Village's southern border which runs from 25th to 22nd St.
Northern Charles Village is built like a College Town with apartments geared towards students and has ground floor retail. Recent projects of note here include Charles Commons, Charles Village Lofts, and ill fated Olmstead at Charles Village. Olmstead was supposed to be $700,000 condos in the middle of student housing. I don't think this project would have taken off in a good economy let alone this one. Streuver Bros. Eccles and Rouse have scaled this back from $700,000 condos to market rate rental apartments and is seeking financial assistance from the city. The site remains vacant to this day.The middle section of Charles Village loses much of its College Town appearance. It contains large stately row homes most of which have been converted into apartments. Some people have bought a row house and reconverted it into single occupancy but most of them remain apartments. The tenants are a mix of young adults some of whom are grad students and empty nesters. This section of Charles Village is home to the Painted Ladies. For those who don't know the Painted Ladies as far as Charles Village is concerned means painted the exterior of your house the craziest and tackiest color combinations, the crazier the better. This has been a great help in restoring a community fabric in Charles Village.
Finally there is South Charles Village also known as "Old Goucher." Below 25th St. Charles Village ia a more urban enviornment. The streets become busier and less walkable, there is more vacant homes and land, and it appears to have had industrial uses in the past. This makes perfect sense because the old Baltimore Belt Line roughly runs parallel to 25th St. South Charles Village is also bordered by neighborhoods that haven't gentrified yet. Barclay to the east needs full scale redevelopment in the whole neighborhood as was discussed in a previous post, Charles North/Station North to the south is experiencing a rebirth despite tough economic times, and Remington to the west hasn't had its day in the sun yet. It will, being located between Hampden and Charles Village it just needs a shove in the right direction, in fact I'm drafting a master plan for Remington as I write this post.
Now I named this post "Charles Village:Take it to the Streets." Why did I name it that? Well because there has been an increase in non violent crimes such as purse snatching and hold ups in Charles Village, there have been a few crimes that have turned violent. The Mayor's Office and the City Police Department haven't made non violent crimes a big priority as they have been going after only the most violent offenders. This has worked citywide as the murder rate plummeted in 2008 after a 2007 spike. However, a petty theft today could become a murderer tomorrow. Nipping petty thefts in the bud should be a priority of the Police Department because it could stop would be murderers and potentionally save lives. This puts Charles Village in a bind. In order for it to appear on the radar screens of the Police Department it would have go into serious decline through numerous homicides. Community Activists in Charles Village do no want to see their neighborhood go down this road. What's the solution? Take it to the streets.Community policing is the perfect deterrant for petty crimes for the simple fact that there is safety in numbers. Charles Village is a very walkable neighborhood with the potential for a great night life. Having more citizens walking the streets in large groups at night will scare off criminals whether they're just walking around or are formal Citizens on Patrol. A big advantage Charles Village has working for it is that it has ample lighting on much of its main streets. This was added when new developments were built. If residents take it to the streets Charles Village will continue to thrive as a truly diverse College Enclave.

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