Monday, November 30, 2009

Northwood Plaza: Slam Dunk!

Northwood Plaza, sadly is now known as the place where City Councilman Kenneth N. Harris Sr. was gunned down outside of the New Haven Jazz Club in the early morning hours in 2008. Now, the one would think that residents would demand that New Haven Jazz Club be shut down immediately. Ironically, that's the one business that residents envision staying at Northwood Plaza after redevelopment. The New Haven Jazz Club is throw back to when Jazz Clubs were a dime a dozen. I'm sure as Pennsylvania Avenue redevelops and tries to attract new businesses they would love to have several Jazz Clubs like New Haven.
Northwood Plaza was completed in the late 1930s by the Roland Park Company, the Builder responsible for what is now known as Original Northwood. Obviously Roland Park was built by its namesake Company along with its neighbors to the West of Greenmont Avenue/York Road. Northwood Plaza represented, at least in Retail Trends a move towards suburbanization. A Hechts branch opened there along with two Grocery Stores and the Northwood Movie House. Opening a Department Store in what was thought of Suburbia was a radical move back then. Not surprisingly, the Shopping Center was segregated despite having the City's first Black Suburb; Morgan Park located nearby to the east. Northwood Plaza's popularity continued to grow as Northern and Northeast Baltimore became built out. It is unclear when the New Haven Jazz Club Opened but it has been there for several decades.
The Social unrest of the 1960s was not kind to Northwood Plaza. Its tenants including the Hechts Department Store were subject to non violent protests such as sit ins by Blacks and Progressive Whites pushing for integration. Civil Rights legislation that forced integration in all public venues including Northwood Shopping Center by the late 1960s. Unlike other parts of Baltimore, Northwood Shopping Center was relatively unscathed by the MLK riots in early April 1968 following his assassination. The neighborhoods surounding Northwood Plaza was still White. The rioting trends in Baltimore ironically, occurred alomost exclusively in Black Neighborhoods.
The 1970s bgean Northwood Plaza's slow decline. The surrouning neighborhoods however, remained a draw for Inner City residents looking to escape racial turnover. Department Stores, began popping up in enclosed Shopping Malls rather than Strip Shopping Centers. Hechts began competing with its own branches in what would eventually become Towson Town Centre and Golden Ring Mall. Needless to say these locations were more profitable than that of Northwood Plaza. Hechts closed. Efforts to find another Department Store for the Space proved unsuccessful as other area Department Store changes were looking to expand "further out" rather than open another City Branch. Other tenants such as the Northwood Theatre followed suit.
Small racial turnover in nearby neighborhoods began in the 1970s but it became more widespread and recognized in the 1980s. Hillen and New Northwood became majority Black while turnover in Ednor Gardens remained majority White. To the east, Greater Lauraville remained completely White. Although, this beginning trend of a Black presence proved to be no Danger as crime did not increase, White Shoppers began favoring other newer Shopping Centers.
For a small time the old Hechts Space was occupied by a Hechingers Home Improvement Store before the chain went belly up and on the Second Floor a Burlington Coat Factory. Burlington Coat Factory left Northwood Plaza not long after its first floor companion Hechingers leaving the old Hechts Space vacant once more.
Today, the Shopping Center has two different owners. A while back (I'm not sure of the dates) Morgan State University and its ever expanding Campus bought the vacant Hechts Building. Their intentions were and still are to redevelop it and put its School of Business and Hospitality there as well as possibly a Student Run Hotel. Once completed this will be a monumental move across Perrring Parkway/Hillen Road. It was supposed to be a full fledged Highway like the JFX known as the Perring Freeway. Perring Parkway now serves as a divider between the City's Northern and Northeastern sections. Limited development along the road and Mount Pleasant Park further create this portrait. I've always thought that Perring Parkway/Hillen Road should be redeveloped as an Urban Boulevard that bridges the gap between the two sections of the City and Morgan State University attempts to do just that.
The Retail Portion of Northwood Plaza is owned by the Schuster Family and up intil Harris's Murder in 2008 was self managed. Now Trout-Daniel & Associates has been put in charge of management, more importantly Security. Before Trout-Daniel & Associates signed on, local residents as well as Morgan State University Faculty and Students have blasted the lack of Security at the Center. It needs Security Guards to be present all through the night and into the early morning hours. The New Haven Lounge's late hours is cause alone for this heightened Security Measure.Stores at today's Northwood Plaza are down scale for the neighborhoods that surround them. They include; Shop Rite Supermarket, a Rent A Center, a Rite Aid, Sunny's Subs, a Beauty Supply Store, a Dominos Pizza, a Chinese Take Out Place, a McDonalds, a BP Gas Station, and the New Haven Lounge. Now, except for Lauraville, the Clientele living near Northwood Plaza (students included is majority Black) however, what doesn't make sense is how much money residents make versus the stores in Northwood Plaza. In Hillen the Average Median Income is almost $53,000 Ednor Gardens; $52,000, New Northwood; $31,000 Original, Northwood; $65,000 and Stonewood Pentwood Winston; $40,000 now what does this suggest? It suggests that neighborhoods near Northwood Plaza are strongly Middle to Upper Middle Class who don't fit the bill for the Retail there. These days College Students ie those of Morgan State have more disposable income than ever. The reason I can think of for Northwood Plaza's unaccommodating Retail Mix is that it's a majority Black area although their earning power is high which makes me use the phrase that put me under intense scrutiny; "Racist Retail."
Luckily, both the neighborhoods and Morgan State University are fighting back to lure upscale reatilers and redevelop Northwood Plaza. They've used the Services of the Neighborhood Design Center to brainstorm plans for both the University Section and the Retail Section. I've seen the plans and they're a slam dunk. It calls for a mixed use Residential with Ground Floor Retail and the School of Business and Hospitality to be incorporated together. Usually, with two separate owners, it's very hard to come up with a cohesive plan to make it look as one but they've been able to do it. Slam Dunk! here's a link to the plans for Northwood Plaza.
Now it's pretty well documented that Mogran State University wants to put its School of Business and Hospitality and possibly a Student Run Hotel. The plans suggest a Hilton Garden Inn but that was just for illustrative purposes. This will bridge the Hillen Road Gap Slam Dunk! Now, what about new Retail? The neighboring communities can support higher end Retail and it appears that two floors of housing above it are what the plans suggest. They want a Grocer and by its size (43,000 Square Feet) a Bloom or a Whole Foods fit the bill. I say in that space labeled "Grocery" we put a Barnes & Noble and put a much smaller Trader Joes in the Center. Trader Joes are only about 20,000 Square Feet and can easily be a medium sized tenant. Other suggestions could a Ritas or a Cold Stone Creamery, Peir 1 Imports, Chicos, a Dry Cleaners, an upscale Winery, and a few Sit Down Restaurants on the Caliber of a Pizzeria Unos, Bonefish, Applebys, or a Fridays, and of course teh New Haven Jazz Club. I higher end Grocers because Harford Road has a new Safeway and a CVS and in Waverly there's a new Giant. These merchants would certainly be a Slam Dunk!
Now, all this activity at Northwood Plaza and Morgan State University should catch the attention of the MTA. Buses overcrowd Hillen Road and back up traffic. The area is booming regardless of Northwood Plaza's current state. Yes, I'm talking about expanding the Green Line from Hopkins to Morgan State/Northwood Plaza. This has been overshadowed by the Red Line and the Charles St. Trolley but the time has come for a Green Line Expansion. It would go up Broadway to Harford Road to Hillen Road with stops at the new Biotech Park, Clifton Park/Coldstream Homestead Montebello and Morgan State/Northwood Plaza. This would end the Green Line for now. It was supposed to continue up Hillen Road/Perring Parkway but I'd rather see it travel under the denser Harford Road catching residents of Lauraville, Waltehrson, Hamilton, North Harford Road before going through Parkville Perry Hall and White Marsh. Slam Dunk!
Well, for a Shopping Center with two owners and different redevelopment plans it's very hard to come up with a cohesive plan to satisfy all parties but the Neighborhood Design Center did it this time Slam Dunk!


Anonymous said...

You've got a great blog, how about some captions on the photos.

Spence Lean said...

Thanks for the kind words, as for captions I never really thought about it, I figured that the written with the pictures acted as captions but if you tell me an instance where you don't know what you're looking at, I'll tell you or put up a caption.

Michael Lantz said...

I haven't been through that neighborhood in along time.Is that a bad neighborhood?I like those picture of Northwood Shopping Center.

Toure Zeigler said...

I agree with everything you said in this post. NE Baltimore has a lot of great potential that is being wasted. I live in NE Baltimore, probably a mile north of Northwood Shopping Center and my neighbors and I always have to go to Towson, Parkville and White Marsh to shop. NE certainly lacks restaurants besides carry outs.

Anonymous said...

Do you have any updates for the northwood plaza plan?

Spence Lean said...

Here's a link to the Neighborhood Design Center's Plan for Northwood Shopping Center. As far as updates, all I know is what's on the page. I think things are at a economic stand still Citywode, Statewide, and Nationwide.

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Anonymous said...

Some insight as I grew up in Original Northwood. It was fairly self segregated well into the 1970's and the first real casualty of segregation was the movie theater, multiplex theaters didn't help either. That combination doomed the movie house to second their status and it close around 1980. Food Fair/Pantry Pride was the super market anchor on the western end of the center. The Haven Lounge was a lily white bar in the 50s 60s & 70's too and was a stop to and from stadium games, especially Colt Games where they would bus you over. The New Haven Lounge struggled at first for several reasons, first whites just stopped going. It's 2014 and there are very very few, non chin, integrated local neighborhood bars, so expecting that of the New Haven Place would have been inconceivable in 1980 and early on the switch over from all white, to all black bar was complete, though it kept the name simply as The Haven Lounge for sometime. It became a full on Jazz Club in the late 80. When the theater and the bar went, the dominoes started tumbling. One of the exceptions was the Northwood Records which was black owned from the early 70 and an was one of the finest records in the city. It was a mecca for punk and English imports and was remained committed to vinyl well into the CD changeover,

Anonymous said...

We contacted Trout Daniel Management and were told that they no longer manage the plaza

Anonymous said...

So incredibly sad, seen it through the soon as low income moves into a neighborhood all shopping and properties go to hell.

Anonymous said...

To anonymous: 2016 saw the graduation of my daughter and her now husband from Morgan. During my our many visits to the Baltimore (from Washington DC). We fell in love with the area around Morgan, so much potential. 2017, I love living here now. Far from being low income. Wife and I did see the down side of the area, but decided to be the change. Looking forward to the new Commons shopping center. Looks like we made a very good move. My glass will always be full and not just half full. Looking forward to seeing you at one of the open air jazz performances one cool spring evenings. Keep your head up ✊������✊������

Emmergee said...

Do you have a source listing the tenants in the late 1950s/early 1960s? I can't recall the name of the clothing store mid-center. These are the ones I remember:

Hecht's -- with a "Rooftop Restaurant" (at the Hillen Road end)
A jeweler
Read's drug store
Kresge's (precursor to K-mart) dime store
Acme grocery store
Food Fair grocery store (at the Loch Raven Blvd end)
Barber shop
Hallmark card store (the owner wouldn't charge kids tax on purchases)
Movie theater
Record shop (Music Mart)
Savings & Loan (Vermont Federal, I think)
Bank (Equitable)
Silber's Bakery
The Arundel Company (ice cream shop)
A smaller clothing store
One bar/lounge ("The Haven")
...and some offices near the S&L

Spence Lean said...

I don't know the name of that store (Hess?) but I did just hear that the entire plaza is going to be torn town and redeveloped with a Barnes & Noble and a TBD Grocery Store.

Robert Ward said...

Thanks for the update. I grew up in New Northwood, on Winston Road. It was ideal in those days. Zero crime. We all left out doors unlocked or even open at night. It was unthinkable that anyone would try to rob you. I also remember when the Northwood Shopping center opened, in the mid 50's, I think. My parents and I went down there and were in a state of shock. We had never even heard of the term Shopping Center before. The Food Fair was this giant store with all these fresh fruits and vegetables. The Read's drug store had a huge comic book rack. Silber's was the best bakery in town. There was also a High's Ice Cream parlor, and the fabulous Music Mart Record Store in which the 45's were on display in a big rack. The records were featured by their place on the Hit Parade. Number one was on the top row left, number 2 beside it, and so on down the rows until you got to 50, I think. Albums were in the back of the store, and there were glassed in listening booths so you coulds hear the record you wanted to buy...or not. The co-owner was this very sexy red head wioth a pont tail named Pat. Tight sweaters and jeans. Every teen aged boy in Northwood was in love with her. I may have bought a few too many records because she smiled at me and remembered I was "Bobby." Soon after the Shopping Center opened Hect's built their store and then the center became a mecca. Oh yeahg, and let us not forget the Northwood Movie Theater, very classy. Even nicer than the Boulevard at 33rd and York Road. We all went there every Friday night. Some pictures I first saw there, "The Bridge Over the River Kwai.", "Vertigo", "Love Me Tender" ,Elvis' first movie. When he died every girl in the theater wept openly and all the boys mocked them (*to keep from crying themselves). I first read the dirty parts of Grave Metallious' "Peyton Place" in Read's. A sexy girl, opens her blouse and let's a boy touch her bare breast while she is driving her car at a high speed on the highway. Their subsequent sexual excitement makes them lose focus and they are hit and killed by a truck. Holy Christ. I had never read anything remotely as "DIRTY". or as HOT! I was too young to buy the book but no one cared how long I stood there. Such was media sex excitement in the 50's. In 60 my family and I moved to Towson. I hardly ever came back to Northwood anymore as Towson had it's own shopping center. But none of it was as exciting as Northwood Shopping Center, when it was new and shiny and was a place to shop, listen to records, see movies and even meet girls. Sad to hear how it's fallen. I hope yr right about it's renewal. If the surrounding families can afford better stores bring them on.