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Thursday, October 8, 2009

Neighborhoods of Greater Lauraville: Changing Demographics

The year was 1990, and the Neighborhoods of Greater Lauraville played host to a population that was nearly 90% White according to the 1990 census. Very little had changed racially here since the Farming Villages and wealthy Estate Owners sold off their land to develop what has become the Neighborhoods of Greater Lauraville which include, Lauraville, Waltherson, Beverly Hills, Acadia, and Moravia Walther. The product; middle class housing of varying styles and sizes in a suburban setting while remaining in Baltimore City centered along Harford Road, the Main Street that runs through Greater Lauraville and beyond.
How many neighborhood clusters in Baltimore City can say that have experienced very little racial change since its homes were built in the early 1900s until 1990? Very few however, like other neighborhood clusters in the City other changes did take place. There had been some population loss and a turn from Middle Class to an increasing Working class presence, mostly from White neighborhoods that did experience a racial turnover.
Well I'm sure you've figured out that from the title of this post that the status quo that lasted up to 1990 has since changed. The 1990s marked the beginning of racial change in Greater Lauraville. By the 2000 census it showed that Greater Lauarville was an almost 55/45 White/Black split. Whites were still the majority but to move from almost 90% White to 55% White was quite remarkable. If this pattern were to continue, Greater Lauraville by 2010 would be 15% White and 85% Black. It's October 2009 and the I can say that has remained diverse like it was in 2000 but perhaps the White/Black ratio has flipped to 45% White and 55% Black. Now I'm going to attempt to make sense of Greater Lauraville today and what we can expect tomorrow.
First I'll have to take you back to an ugly day in 2000. Locals from Northeast Baltimore (mostly White) protested at Hamilton Middle the proposed move of former public housing residents displaced by the implosion of their high rises into Northeast Baltimore including Greater Lauraville. The public housing residents in question were Black. Now, I'm sure everybody's first impression of this incident is that this was racially motivated. It was my first impression too but then I researched it deeper. This was the year 2000, by then Greater Lauraville was 45% Black. So these protesting Whites had a lot of Blacks living amongst them. I think it's more resentment that the homes given to these former public housing residents have been completely renovated while a lot of the protesters struggle to pay their mortgages and maintain their homes. I came to this conclusion after reading articles relating to this incident. I think it's more classist than racist.
Now lets examine the influx of Black Residents who have made Greater Lauraville home since 1990. Unlike the rest of Baltimore City Greater Lauraville gained population in the 1990s and may have done so in the 2000s. This suggests that the number of Whites lost isn't as high as one might assume because more homes are occupied. The average median income has also increased. Before the Black influx it was down suggesting that Greater Lauraville's Black residents have added to the stability of the neighborhood. I'm not saying they're millionaires, just Middle Class. The housing offered in Greater Lauraville is very diverse and allows home owners to add on to and renovate their homes to their dreams. New Construction of Single Family Homes in the City is practically non existent so the renovation of existing ones will provide the styling and luxury of a new home for a lot less money.
It's this same attractive housing package that has also brought new Middle Class Whites into Greater Lauraville. Yep, there's still inward White migration here although it's at a much slower pace than that of their Black neighbors. Obviously, when they're buying their homes they're aware of the diversity and like Columbia residents look at it as a positive rather than a negative. A new generation of White urban dwellers who have abandoned racism is emerging in neighborhoods that may have, in previous decades been re-segregated.With all this talk of inward migration we can't forget about the residents who have stayed here for generations with no intention of moving. Some are Children or Grandchildren of the original Homeowners. They have invested untold amounts of time and money into their pride and joy; their home. If they were racist, they would have moved at the onset of the Black influx and may have called it modern day "blockbusting" so it's safe to say that they're tolerant and welcoming of their new neighbors. Just look at the pictures posted of the Lauraville Country Fair, there's evidence to support this. One thing other than the demographics of Greater Lauraville that has changed has been Violent Crime. Greater Lauraville, until very recently (even more recent than the demographics shift) has been a Community that didn't have to worry about the problems that have plagued Inner City Baltimore. In fact, lots of homes left their doors unlocked. However, from 2007 up Northeast Baltimore has seen the largest crime increase out of any Baltimore precinct. These crimes don't appear to be Gang Related like many other parts of the City but it's not something to be taken lightly. Residents and Police Officers are not allowing crime to intimidate them and have participated in events such as "neighborhood watch" and citizens on patrol" to try and combat this increase and make Greater Lauraville safer than it's ever been.

Now we come to the Community's Main Street; Harford Road. Recent streetscape enhancements have transformed this once suburban like boulevard into a quaint neighborhood Main Street.
When driving down Harford Road one would look at the lack luster retail and think that this was another poor neighborhood with typical "urban stores" a lot of these stores have popped up during the Black influx.
It's funny because these stores cater to a poorer audience and they have opened as the average median income has gone up. It seems that retailers, and I've made this point before, whenever an area sees a larger Black clientele they assume that Dollar Stores, Beauty Supply Shops, Auto Part Dealers, Check Cashing Places, and Laundromats are the only types of stores good enough for a Black Population rich, poor, or anything in between. I call this "racist retail" other examples can be found in Forest Park, Belair Edison, and Northwood Shopping Center.For several years now there's been a vacant Gas Station on Harford Road at Montebello Terrace and has been awaiting redevelopment. This redevlopment has never gotten off the ground for various reasons. There have been numerous tries and the Baltimore Development Corporation seems to have finally secured a Developer and Architect. Too bad our economy's in the toilet so construction is still a ways away. The finished product promises to bring upscale retail and office space in-keeping with the architecture of Harford Road. Some residents have told me that they would prefer the Shoppes at Lauraville not be built at all because the Lauraville and Hamilton Business District have transformed this former eye sore into a successful Farmers Market.
Quite recently, some restaurateurs have seen the potential of Greater Lauraville and its buying power. Harford Road has become known as an emerging Restaurant District that attracts "foodies" from trendy neighborhoods. Sadly, this hasn't been a good time to roll the dice on starting a new Business but that hasn't stopped Restaurants already in business from opening their doors. If you don't know the area, no would expect that Restaurants in Greater Lauraville to look like "fine dining" establishments based on their menus but in fact their appearances have a "neighborhood watering hole" appearance but don't judge a book by its cover, a mistake I made.In 2008 a Study of the Harford Road Corridor was released. One big part of the Study was what residents in neighborhoods bordering Harford Road thought of what it had to offer. It appears that Residents have very differing opinions of Harford Road. One common theme was that it's evolving. How it's evolving and what's evolving into is where the difference lies.Many say that Harford Road is an emerging Main Street whose Retail will gentrify as more Residents with higher amounts of disposable income move into the area. A few think that Harford Road reflects poorly on the neighborhoods it's supposed to serve and go else where for their retail needs.
An even smaller few think Harford Road's "racist retail" is a precursor to Greater Lauraville taking a turn for the worse. Another small theme is that a lot of Greater Lauraville Residents don't use Harford Road as much as they'd like due to lack of retail that serves their needs. They're waiting for better retail and then they'd use Harford Road more often.
Now who does use Harford Road besides residents living there? After all it seems pretty clear that not all Residents who live in Greater Lauraville don't yet Harford Road is bustling with pedestrian activity. Many businesses receive patrons who I believe from East Baltimore. Lower Harford Road below Clifton Park and above Hopkins in neighborhoods with high residential vacancy rates that have no retail. I believe this to be true because the biggest cluster of pedestrians congregate at Bus Stops. These neighborhoods also have the highest percentages of Residents without vehicles. Now what we learned today? We've learned that present today Greater Lauraville is a draw for City Dwellers Black and White, we've learned that Greater Lauraville isn't immune to crime like it had been for decades, we've learned that streetscape enhancements although attractive aren't an end all for Harford Road. Harford Road isn't utilized by all of its nearest residents and won't be until its offerings aren't "racist retail." Most importantly we've learned that changing demographics don't always equal White Flight anymore.

24 comments:

Robert Walshe said...

I live in Waltherson and there is a lot of discussion in the Greater Lauraville community about crime trends. You mentioned "However, from 2007 up Northeast Baltimore has seen the largest crime increase out of any Baltimore precinct." Do you have a reference link on where you got that information?

~Free said...

We still have all our fabulous restaurants, FYI, that have survived our challenging economy including the Hamilton Tavern, Clementine, the Parkside, and Big Bad Wolf not to mention the old standards that have been there for years: Chameleon, Red Canoe, Koko's, Los Amigos... As a 6 year resident, don't see this as an accurate portrayal of Lauraville at all!

Carolyn said...

As an 18 year resident of Lauraville I'd say the article is an accurate portrayal. It isn't condemning, just being honest.

And you are right - if you didn't know the area and drove through Hamilton on Harford Road, most of the retail there would scream "poor neighborhood." Which we aren't.

Anonymous said...

Living here for about 1.5 years, I can say that I am pleased with the changes on Harford road. Many of the new places to eat are still around, along with some great ones that have been there for a while.

I will agree as far as shopping goes we need some work. There aren't really stores I go to when I just need to pick up supplies for the house or decorative items.

Heart of Hamilton is a nice gift shop and I hope it sticks around.

Sean said...

When you say "from 2007 up Northeast Baltimore has seen the largest crime increase out of any Baltimore precinct," you need to keep in mind that you're talking about MUCH MUCH more than Greater Lauraville, which is only one section of the NE district. In Lauraville, the closing of the Cameo, a constant problem site (scene of a couple of shootings, for example) actually brought about a strong change for the better on Harford Road.

Also, when mentioning the vacant gas station, you neglected to mention the Tuesday farmer's market that not takes place there, voted Best New Farmer's Market by the City Paper (it's also gotten great writeups in the Sun). Personally, I'd prefer that the proposed construction NOT occur and the site's use as a community space continue into the future. The Hamilton-Lauravill Main Street group put a lot of work into rehabbing the site, and the Market draws a large crowd, most of whom appear to be driving there.

Also, you're off about residents not using Harford Road. A couple of niche businesses, and some others that appeared to be poorly-run, have gone under, but the Lauraville House, Red Canoe, Chameleon Cafe, Zeke's, Parkside, etc are bringing in lots of area residents.

When we bought our house here 6 years ago, there wasn't much worth walking to on Harford; that's absolutely changed for the better.

Spence said...

The crime stat was from Newspaper Articles talking about crime trends in general. I am aware that Northeast Baltimore is much more than Greater Lauraville. One reason it's the highest becuase before hand there was so little. As for Harford Road, read the Corridor Study. It has a resident survey. That's where I drew my conclusions from. Plenty of them echoed your sentiments that Harford road is improving while others thought differently. My personal opinion of Harford Road is not part of that assemsent. I think with actives residents with such as yourselves, Harford Road and Northeast Baltimore as a whole (I omitted Greater Lauraville) can only improve. The Baltimore Development Corp. does show the old Gas Station as being developed into Shoppes. I'm sure there will be new places the Farmers Market can re-open and be better than ever.

Clem said...

this blog means one thing for us greater lauravillians: we are busted. it's only a matter of time before this genius blogger discovers the secret code language we use in 'casual' conversation in public situations. next he'll publish a story about our secret lynchings and developmental planning on keepin the colored folk out in the near and distant future. it IS a conspiracy and you got us! great blog!

Anonymous said...

I don't know how much, if any, of "Clem's" comment is sincere. But I think this post is courageous in talking about race and class in Baltimore neighborhhods. Race relations are better, perhaps more nuanced, than in the old days. Still, what the blogger calls Retail Racism is very much with us.

Spence said...

I had no intention of calling residents racists just the chain retailers that turn up in less affluent neighborhoods that are also along Harford Road. I think the diversity in Lauraville is very refreshing. I grew up in Columbia in one of its most culturally, ethnically, and economically diverse neighborhoods only I didn't know it at the time. Only after I grew up was when I realized how rare Columbia is. In researching how other Baltimore Neighborhoods resegregated through blockbusting I commend Greater Lauraville for being so accepting of change when so often people aren't.

Anonymous said...

It's obvious the blogger does not live in this neighborhood, not only by his admission. If he lived here, he'd truly know that residents do indeed stay in the neighborhood when shopping. Meals at Clementine, Hamilton Tavern, Parkside Inn, Lauraville House, Koko's, Chameleon Cafe, coffee from Zeke's. Prescriptions from CVS. Gifts from The Heart of Hamilton. Art openings on First Fridays. Vacuum repairs. Hair cut. DIY projects. Red Canoe for breakfast and kids. Groceries from Safeway. I moved here 7 years ago and leave my neighborhood less and less as more and more businesses emerge.

Spence said...

You are right that I'm not a resident of Greater Lauraville or any part of Northeast Baltimore. I had a lot less to go on than I have had on other posts. After going down Harford Road I expected to see more restaurants than I did. I saw lots of vacant storefronts and I put two and two together which was wrong. The write ups of said restaurants also made them out to be more upscale than the restaurants I saw appeared to be. The write ups made me think I'd go to a trendy restaurant found in Harbor East. After further investigation (which I should have done before publishing this post) I saw that the restaurants that appeared less upscale offered a menu selection of restaurants found in Harbor East. Their facades fooled me.

Sue J said...

Spence, I am curious whether you actually went into any of those stores you refer to as "racist retail"? Because I am white and middle-class, and I live just up Harford Road in Westfield. But I regularly shop and dine in Hamilton/Greater Lauraville -- and I regularly take the #19 bus -- and everywhere I go has a diverse mix of people. So I think you are way off the mark when you write:

"Harford Road isn't utilized by its nearest residents and won't be until its offerings aren't 'racist retail.'"

The bottom line is, this is a city neighborhood. We don't get many tourists up here, but we live and work and shop here. We are not a "planned community" like Columbia; instead we grow in fits and starts, with some "lack luster retail" as you call it.

I think your last comment about our restaurants says it all: "Their facades fooled me."

I would encourage you to visit Harford Road again -- but this time get out of your car ....

Spence said...

I did leave my car, several times on several different days and went into Safeway, Family Dollar, a Beauty Supply Shop, Harford Road Liquors, and an Auto Mart. I didn't see very many White residents at any of those places nor any of the bus stops. Maybe the days I came 90% of the White residents were out of town. If you want me to come back and photograph everyone walking down Harford Road or every patron of every store and ride the buses that serve all of Lauraville/Hamilton I will and upolad them to a new post. I did see a more diverse array of residents when walking through residential neighborhoods.

Spence said...

http://baltimorecity.gov/government/planning/downloads/HarfordCorrStudyFinalDraft.pdf

Give this study a read especially, focus on the end where there is a Community survey. You may be surprised at what some of your neighbors have to say. I repeat the survey was done by residents not by outsiders. You can say I don't know Greater Lauraville until you're blue in the face but those who participated in the Harford Road Survey do and it's their comments that are on the survey not mine. It did help me get an idea of what residents though of Harford Road now you have prooven me wrong.

Sue J said...

Thanks, but I'm quite familiar with the survey. I was one of the respondents, and I read it when it came out last year. I think it's worth noting that the results are based on only 101 respondents (Appendix B), it was an online survey, and it may not be a fair sample of the entire population of Harford Road Corridor neighborhoods.

What frustrates me about your post is that this corridor is in fact growing and thriving, despite what you write. I could write a long list of successful new business here, but instead I encourage anyone who is interested in this area to check out the Hamilton-Lauraville Mainstreet blog for a much better description of our neighborhood.

And then, have a beer at the Hamilton Tavern, coffee at Grind On Cafe, get your hair cut at the Chop Shop, buy children's books or attend a poetry reading at Red Canoe, stop by the Hamilton Gallery, or even catch a movie.

Sorry if I'm taking it too personally, but I think you are relying on unreliable data and giving a false impression of Hamilton-Lauraville today. Thanks for letting me rant. :-)

Spence said...

Sue, I never said Harford Road wasn't growing and if I did I never meant to make that impression. It does however have room to grow even more. There are vacant storefronts that could be back filled with even bigger neighborhood draws. Retail like a book store, cards & gift shop, Trader Joes, clothing, and furniture shops. More Boutique style retail can further and compliment the recent growth of Harford Road.

Gary said...

Spence,

I am very glad you made this post, and judging by the number of comments, it apparently was a topic long overdue. I do think many of these comments - both complimentary and critical - have merit. Don't worry though, I'm not going to hastle you too much.

I recently discovered this area as a result of my commitments to the Rec & Parks Dept... and I really came to like the nice mix between urban and suburban. And the architecture - espectially those bungalow houses - is classic NEBO.

It might be worth noting that though "greater Lauraville" overall is very diverse, the black population is much more prevelant in Lauraville-proper and the northern end of Walther Ave, while Beverly Hills and Arcadia seem to to be more prevelantly white. There are, though, a fair number of white people in Lauraville and vice versa.

The University of Balto did a study a few years back (of which you may know), that presented a good amount of "metrics" for each community - drop-out rates, crime, etc. Greater Lauraville was, relatively speaking, pretty strong. It is a stable community.

It is fair to note too that the substantial crime increase in the NE district is mostly due to crime spikes in places such as Belair Edison and around Clifton Park, and even Waverly. There were a few violent crimes in the Lauraville area but it was later determined that the victims were targeted by individuals from these other areas, and were not random victims. Overall, I think the area is safe, but the community should be (and is) vigilant.

Anyway, thanks for the post!

Michael Lantz said...

That use to be a nice Neighborhood back in the 1980's.I used to go to Northern Senior High back in 1984.I used to ride the #19 bus from that area.I heard that it is crime ridden neighborhood.I used to have a friend that lived on Kentucky and Harford Road back in 1994 and it didn't seem that bad.

Spence said...

Michael, it's still a very nice area and when the economy turns around, I'm sure it will become a destination restaurant district like Highlandtown. There's just been a few instances of crime which due to the rarity of it has been publicized more so than if it were in Park Heights.

Michael Lantz said...

I think that once you get up around Argonne Park Drive it is alot better.My friends brother used to live in an upstairs apartment on Kentucky Ave and Harford Road back in 1995 and It was safe.I think that the worst thing happened was some guy drove his car through the liquor store.

Spence said...

I think you were thinking of the Clifton Park area which has had a lot more problems than Greater Lauraville, which is what this post is about.

Michael Lantz said...

You are right Spence,That area is a very bad area around Clifton Park area is a bad area.I attended the Maryland Rehabilitation Center on Argonne Drive back in 1999-2002 and that area was pretty safe.I used to wait for the #19 bus and I never had any problems.The Hamilton Area is a pretty nice area.

Anonymous said...

To say as a resident of Lauraville, Harford Road is in use more frequently. More people are coming out and getting our neighborhood known.

Bjorn Button said...

I agree that the area is evolving. With the maryland rehabilitation center nearby, the area is being revitalized to keep its beauty prevalent and not lose its cultural feel.