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Saturday, February 27, 2010

How far is the reach of Hopkins Biotech Park?

All the talk in East Baltimore is new Biotech Park and its development arm East Baltimore Development Initiative (EBDI) which has been charged with building Baltimore's "New East Side" now that covers a lot of ground, a lot of ground and a lot of blocks. Of course, Middle East will benfit the most because the entire Neighborhood from Ashland Ave. to Chase St.has been or will be torn down in favor of the 1500+ new homes, new school, and TOD Retail near the MARC line. But all that can't just simply transform East Baltimore by itself. Or can it? No it can't but I'd like to examine how far its renewal efforts will reach and where additional help is needed to truly build Baltimore's New East Side.
Hopkins isn't the only game in town when it comes to East Baltimore gentrification. First it went above Eastern Avenue, then above Patterson Park, then above Fayette St. and now Monument St. is where the buck stops. Patterson Park has been a driving force for non redevelopment renewal in Washington Hill, Butchers Hill, Highlandtown, and Upper Patterson Park. The renewal seeds are beginning to be planted throughout McElderry Park as well although there's a lot of work still to be done there. Hope VI redevelopment of dangerous public housing projects including Broadway Homes and Lafayette Courts have restored a sense of safety to the neighborhood. Hope VI has been such a blessing to Baltimore I would love to see President Obama revive it, all of us Marylanders know that Senator Barb will be the first in the Senate to back such legislation. If that were to become a reality, Douglass Homes, LaTrobe Homes, and eventually Perkins Homes would East Baltimore's first choice Developments for such funding.
Now, the title of this post is how far is the reach of the Hopkins Biotech Park? Well, it seems to be helping its neighbors to the south and eventually the west mostly. Of Course the Middle East Neighborhood has been engulfed by Hopkins and its neighbors to the north Oliver and Broadway East won't see much. The Gateway at Washington Hill, currently a vacant located directly below Hopkins is set to be developed into ground floor Retail, with Offices and Residences above. Plans call for a Supermarket as well. The economy has stalled this project (what else is new) but will prove to be a Community asset when completed.Another great development opportunity is the site of the recently demolished Somerset Homes. The Dixon Administration demolished this vacant public housing development with no real plans for redevelopment. I think of this as a blessing in disguise. Both east and west of Somerset Homes are other possible opportunities that should be merged together. Oldtown Mall and Forest St. Apartments to the west and three Schools to the east. One School is closed another slated for closure once the population drains out and the third is grossly under capacity. This would make for great mixed use development and a Dunbar High that fits its smaller population.

McElderry Park and Milton-Montford is my main focus of this post. McElderry Park has become a patch work of vacant homes and beautifully rehabbed ones. This patchwork isn't block by block it's home by home within the block. That was just one of may reasons redevelopment here would be a mistake. Other reasons are that the renewed interest in McElderry Park isn't from Hopkins redevelopment, it's from homesteaders who have been priced out of Patterson Park where redevelopment is about as common as Camden Yards filled with Os fans. Also the decline of McElderry Park was more recent than that of other parts of the City. That means its vacant housing stock isn't in that of shape. To jump start this I would like to see the City owned vacants here sold for $1.
Take a look at Fayette St. in McElderry Park. Closer to Downtown and Hopkins it has nice median strip that adds a touch of class to the street. I think this median needs to be extended from Hopkins to Pulaski Highway. Also notice the patchy pavement, this is common throughout McElderry Park and a Dixon Administration throw back known as "Operation Orange Cone" which paves City streets is needed here.
This gentrified block in Patterson Park has lots of trees. Trees, at least in Baltimore is a sure sign that a neighborhood is on the right track. McElderry Park does have trees but not enough. As homes are rehabbed trees, should be planted in front of them as a "gift" from the City.
Perhaps the biggest deciding factor of McElderry Park meeting up with Hopkins gentrification is the southeastern border of Middle East. This is the strongest section of the neighborhood and I don't see the EBDI tearing down these homes. This part of Middle East is what separates McElderry Park from Hopkins. Now, these homes on McElderry St. look fine but one is for sale, one is for rent and another is boarded up. This section of Middle East should be treated just like McElderry Park in that the City should sell these to homesteaders for $1. Once this section of Middle East comes back, the two biggest driving forces fore change in East Baltimore; Pattersonb Park and the Hopkins Biotech Park will join together.

Now how far is the reach of the Hopkins Biotech Park? As far as Upper Patterson Park, only if we allow for it.

3 comments:

Mr. Mephistopheles said...

Check out the 200 block of N Kenwood Ave. Some activists who live on that block undertook a huge tree planting project last fall (with help from the city).

Gary said...

You are on point with the fact that McElderry Park would be an excellent candidate for a dollar-home program, or some other form of incentive program targeting/promoting homesteading. As you said, this neighborhood is among the most recent to decline - this is evident by the significant quantity of formstone in the neighborhood, which indicates that the neighborhood was strongly owner-occupied well past the era of the strongest suburban flight.

I would venture to guess that many of these homes are in surprisingly good condition.

Also, I believe that the city is providing more assistance with creating tree pits on sidewalk-dominated streets such as those throughout McElderry Pk. Residents used to have to pay for such a pit, but I believe you can get the city to do it now, as part of the (former) mayor's TreeBaltimore initiative. This could be very beneficial to communities such as this one.

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