Monday, September 22, 2008

Remington Master Plan

If you blink when you're driving Downtown from Hampden you might miss Remington. Remington is a collection of diagonal streets nestled between I-83, Hampden, Charles Village, and Johns Hopkins Homewood Campus. With all the investment and development in surrounding neighborhoods Remington seems to have gotten pushed to the side and I'm coming up with a master plan that will allow Remington to maintain its identity as an economically, culturally, and ethnically, diverse enclave in northern Baltimore.
What was Remington?
Remington started out as an outgrowth of the Hampden Woodberry Mill Villages that sprang up around the Civil War along the Jones Falls Valley in what was then Baltimore County. The bulk of residential development in Remington took place at the turn of the 20th century and into the roaring 20s. Like Hampden, mill workers were hit hard by the great depression and looked elsewhere for work. If they were lucky enough to find work it was through jobs created through FDR's new deal. The mills made a triumphant come back upon America's entry into World War II. After World War II production at the mills dropped and began closing during the 1950s and into the 1960s. Remington remained stable despite this increase in unemployment.
What is Remington?
Today Remington's layout is as diverse as its citizens. (I've worn that analogy to the born but I like it) The housing stock is both well preserved and dilapidated, it's a neighborhood for families young and old and college students. Being near the Jones Falls Remington has remnants of an industrial past that put a blighted appearance in certain areas.
A fundamental aspect of creating master plans is identifying a neighborhood's strength and capitalizing on them. On the other end of the spectrum is identifying the neighborhood's weaknesses and addressing them and coming up with solutions for them.
First Remington's strengths. Close to I-83, Hampden, Johns Hopkins University, Station North, Charles Village, and Wyman Park. Hampden Shuttlebug offers access to Woodberry Light Rail Station. Housing Stock is affordable. Diverse population who cares about their neighborhood. Old industrial land available for redevelopment. Lots of churches and faith based organizations. Robert Poole Middle has closed as of summer 2008.Now Remington's weaknesses. Rise in violent crime, Housing stock is aging, 18% of housing stock is vacant, retail is spread out and lack luster, vacant lots, blighted industrial land out of sync with the residential character of the neighborhood. No neighborhood entrance signs, very little open space and streetscape enhancements. Neighborhood is closed off from its revitalized neighbors. Neighborhood has lots of litter. No library or community center.Now to enhance Remington's strengths. First the addition of "wayfinding" signs throughout Remington directing pedestrians and motorists to nearby destinations. Although the Hampden shuttle bug will remain an intricate part of Remington's public transportation I will add a Light Rail stop at I-83 and 28th St. which will further enhance Remington's perception of a Transit Oriented Community. Further market Remington's diversity and host neighborhood block party for new residents and those who have lived here for generations to get to know each other. Since Remington's character will remain residential, old industrial land will be redeveloped into new mixed income housing which will range from town homes, to apartments and condos.
Now lets shift focus to Remington's weaknesses. There has been a rise in violent crime in Remington as everyone is all too aware. Ways to combat this would adding adding flashing blue light cameras at problematic areas, going after the most violent offenders (A strategy of the Dixon Administration that seems to work well), and stepping up foot patrols. The image of Police Officer should be that of a citizen who keeps you safe not that of a bully who's drunk on power.Next the aging housing stock, this goes hand in hand with the 18% vacancy rate. Bottom line is that Remington needs population growth and there are many organizations that target neighborhoods like Remington. If there are city owned vacants SCOPE would be an excellent tool. There should be a "Healthy Neighborhoods" initiative for Remington which provides low interest loans for existing home owners to fix their homes, especially the exterior facade. New housing should be aggressively marketed on to promote Remington as a desirable place to call home not only that, new housing near JHU should be student housing to further promote Remington's economic diversity.
Not all of the former industrial land should be developed as housing. Although Remington is in close proximity to a number of parks there's little open space in Remington proper. There should be a new "public square" which is only about a block in size but it will be a focal point for the neighborhood and can play host to any number of events.Now lets talk retail, retail in Remington is spread throughout the neighborhood where businesses can't complement and build off of each other. There should be two "retail spines" in Remington a north south and an east west. The north south retail spine would be Sisson St., an odd choice I'm sure you're thinking but it's the only north south street that connects the southern border of Remington to Hampden. 25th St. turns north into Huntingdon Ave.
Photo From Google Earth
I would extend 25th St. to meet Sisson St. The east west retail spine will be 29th St. It will be converted to 2 way traffic from I-83 to Howard St. Both Sisson and 29th will be Remington's version of "The Avenue" which is course of 36th St. in Hampden. Both roads will receive streetscape enhancements which will include planted medians, brick crosswalks, tree lined streets, additional lighting, metered parking, and new traffic signals with "countdown" pedestrian signals.
With the issue of litter residents will be educated on calling 311 to report illegal dumping and to have their street or alley removed of litter and debris. Now Remington is not a large enough neighborhood to support its Library Branch but I would implement a Hampden Shuttlebug stop at the Hampden Branch of the Enoch Pratt Free Library as well as a complete renovation inside and out to keep the library up to date and current. Now, a Community Center is something Remington can get and it's within an arm's reach believe it or not. With the closing of Robert Poole Middle that school can be torn down and a brand new school would be built in its place known as Hampden Woodberry Elementary/Middle which will draw from Medfield, Hampden Elementaries and the Green School. The Green School is located in Remington and if it were vacated it could serve as Remington's Community Center.
Well, I've figured out why it takes the city so long to come up with Master Plans. They take forever to think up write. You have to be ultra comprehensive while keeping in line your basic vision which in the case of Remington is for it to be a better version of what it already is.


Anonymous said...

Interesting. Are you a Remington neighbor? I'm Dan, resident of 416Tuxedo, enjoyed your work very much.

Spence Lean said...

First off, I appreciate your comment very much. But no I'm not a Remington resident. I am looking to move and Remington, Hampden, Station North, and Charles Village are neighborhoods of choice. Since I have the ear of a Remington resident what changes if any would you like to see in your neighborhood?

Anonymous said...

Hi! I know you posted this a while ago, but you might be interested to know that Remington is actually a "healthy neighborhood" target (though it's not easy to see on the Healthy Neighborhoods website-- but it is listed on Greater Homewood's site-- and Johns Hopkins "live near your work" program is targeting Remington in a big way.
These programs have sparked my interest in the neighborhood!

Anonymous said...

you obviously don't live here. who the hell would want to put a blue light in their own neighborhood

Spence Lean said...

True, I don't live in Remington but at that time I published this post (a year and a half ago) Remington had a rash of violent crime which has since subsided, had it not I would have stood by my proposal to add flashing blue light cameras there. But since violent crime is down and that was just a rough summer I don't think they're needed anymore.

Remington Chronicles said...

Time to update your blog. Things have changed for the better AND Remington is bigger than 29th and Huntingdon.

Anonymous said...

While some things may still hold true, this analysis needs to change with the ever evolving Real Estate picture.

A public square would still be a nice focal point for the area.