Monday, December 1, 2008

Greater Upton:From the Ground Up

Forget about Uplands or the Westside of Downtown I got the biggest redevelopment project right here; Upton. Upton has had and will continue to have gentrification at its door steps but it hasn't entered the neighborhood's boundaries. Now it's time to make Upton the mixed income highly diverse and celebrated neighborhood it was and wants to be once again. You can demolish buildings but you can't demolish a community spirit and the history that goes along with it.
Upton will learn a painful lesson from this post that Druid Heights is learning now and that lesson is; Preserve your housing stock!Upton had some of Baltimore's best architecture but it's too far gone to try and save it. Almost everything west of Druid Hill Avenue will have to go with a few exceptions not including Pennsylvania Avenue. The Avenue Market will remain in place but other than that Pennsylvania Avenue will be demolished.Photo From Google Earth
The 2000 U.S. Census shows Upton at a 22.3% vacancy rate, unlike its neighbors to the east, north, and south Upton has continued to bleed out its population. I would put the vacancy rate at 35% in 2008. both Druid Heights and Harlem Park were at 40% in 2000. Druid Heights is being redeveloped from the ground up much like I'm proposing for Upton (I'd put in more market rate home ownership) which is making it gain population but Harlem Park might have hit the 50% vacancy mark. Upton's average median income is $13,000 with 42% of the population making less than $10,000. After redevelopment my goal is to have the average median income for Upton at $47,000 and 15% of the population making less than $10,000. Upton's population is about 6,000 after its redevelopment I'm guessing it will be at 14,500.Success in neighborhoods that surround Upton hasn't "chipped away at Upton's blight" the way that city officials have hoped. This may explain in part why the Master Plan the City has created for Upton includes very little redevelopment. I'm personally deeming the Upton Master Plan ineffective and not broad enough. It's almost as if the city's unwilling to admit that they have let the housing stock in Upton get to a point where reinvestment isn't feasible. They made the assumption that Upton's colorful history will bring people back but a few people rehabbing a row house here and there is a mere drop in the bucket it's time for sweeping change and that time is now.
Photo From Google Earth
There will be two preservation areas, the first is everything located on and east of Druid Hill Avenue. There are vacancies here but the architecture here is some of the best the city has to offer. These vacant units will be sold to rehabbers for $1.00, yes I'm bringing back the Dollar Row Home Incentive. The second preservation area is on the western edge of where newer town homes were built in probably the 1970s where vehicular has been cut off. I would re open these streets to vehicular traffic seeing as this has been a proven failure citywide. Its boundaries are Fremont Avenue and Myrtle Avenue to the west, Pitcher St. to the north, Wilmer Ct. to the east, and Mosher St. to the south although the 1400 block of Argyle St. will be included. Exterior facade improvements will be made here to make them look compatible with all the new development surrounding it. Vacants will be sold at their market rate.
Now back to the rest of Upton which will meet the wrecking ball. Planning will begin right away and the time line will be as follows demolition will begin in 2011 with the cleanup and site preparation done by 2013. Construction will take place from 2013-2019. The density will be very high but there will be room for "pocket parks" with playgrounds and a public square. The "Main St." will be as it's always been Pennsylvania Avenue. My plan would be widen the road for streetscape median enhancements and left turn lanes. Almost of the buildings will be demolished there will be room to this. There won't be on street parking on Pennsylvania Avenue because it was removed a few months ago and deterred a violent open air drug market. New businesses along Pennsylvania Avenue will include sit down restaurants, take out/fast food restaurants, hair salons/barbershops, banks, pharmacies, dry cleaners bakeries, delis, a small bookstore, a small furniture store, and medical offices. There will also be community space for AA and NA meetings.
One thing Pennsylvania Avenue and all of Upton won't have or will have a limited supply of will be; stores with bars on the windows, bail bondsman, check cashing places, cell phone/pager stores, dollar stores, auto repair shops, junk yards, independent grocers with spoiled merchandise, laundromats, and liquor stores. There will be ample lighting and "flashing blue light cameras" to monitor activity and create a sense of safety. Greenery won't be too tall which can also create a sense of feeling less safe. The facades of Pennsylvania Avenue will look the apartment buildigs in neighboring communities like Bolton Hill, Madison Park, and Reservoir Hill. The buildings will house apartments and condos above the retail component. Speaking of apartments the 1970s style development on Pennsylvania Avenue will be demolished as will Upton Courts. As part of my plan to reduce school capacity Furman L. Templeton Elementary will close along with Eutaw Marshburn and Samuel Coolidge Taylor Elementarys. All three schools will merge as K-8 schools and will be located in the Booker T. Washington Middle School building.
20% of Upton's population will have "affordable housing" 10% rental 10% home ownership. The remaining 80% will be market rate 10% rental 70% home ownership. The market rate rentals rent will start at $850 for a 1 bedroom bath apartment and top out at $1500 for a 3 bedroom 2 bath apartment. For home ownership a 1 bedroom 1 bath condo will start at $110,000 and a 3 bedroom 2 bath condo will go for $160,000. For town homes a 2 bedroom 1 bath no garage no basement home will start at $175,000 and a 4 bedroom 3.5 bath with a basement and 2 car garage will top at $350,000. All homes both rental and home ownership whether subsidized or market rate will include a dishwasher and a washer and dryer.
Well Upton has learned a painful lesson about preserving its housing stock but now it's more than doubled its population, more than quadrupled its average median income and has a Main St. it can truly be proud of. Upton maybe rebuilt from the ground up but it will never lose its community spirit and its colorful history.


Anonymous said...

Locative media and the city: from BLVD-urbanism towards MySpace urbanism by Martijn de Waal

“Great cities are not like towns, only larger”, urban activist and writer Jane Jacobs observed almost half a century ago. But what then is it that makes a city into a city? Now that telecom operators, handset builders, and media companies are churning out new media technologies that promise to drastically alter our sense of place, this question has once again become very urgent. Whether we call them locative media, contextual media, or placed-based media, these technologies promise to change the way we interact with our surroundings. Let me call this new way of experiencing the city “MySpace urbanism”.

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Anonymous said...

Everyone want to go into these neighborhoods and put so many "market rate units in them" failing to realize the history. "the Ave" Has a huge community support of small mom and pop businesses and world renowned entertainment which started before the Harlem Renaissance and all below and above that. If you people want to continuously capitalize on "Baltimores urban areas capitalize the history and not what whites want. This city is 70% minority and black... let that be know and support those communities in upliftment... we don't need anymore cookie cutter neighborhoods built... the BS and so is YOUR plan... Start over!

Spence Lean said...

I fully realize the history. Upton in its heyday was a mixed income community i.e. Market Rate units. It's a crying shame that Upton's housing stock isn't salvageable, something the "White Man" didn't allow to happen. Upton had the same racial demographics in its heyday and its housing stock was in pristine condition. If Upton continued to be a low income community it wouldn't be honoring its history. When Upton became an African American enclave it housed Baltimore's African American working class to its elite. By redeveloping Upton to house the same income demographics it wouldn't be dis honoring its history. As a domino effect, it would allow for more businesses to open up on the Avenue. But hey if you like Upton as is that's your opinion and you're entitled to it. Most residents interviewed for the Upton Master Plan however, want to see change.