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Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Could a Saint Agnes Biotech Park Revitalize Wilkens Avenue?

Well, it's official, Biotech Parks are taking Baltimore by storm. Well, actually there are only two, the first is the UMB Biotech Park in Poppleton and the 0ther being the Hopkins Biotech Park in Middle East. The latter is transforming the entire blighted East Baltimore Community into a sought after world class live/work neighborhood with 1500 units of new and rehabbed housing. Baltimore wants to be a world class leader in the Bio-Science field so why not build another Biotech Park? It can be an extension of a Hospital Campus and in a part of town where redevelopment would be very beneficial. Without further ado, I give the St. Agnes Biotech Park.
St. Agnes Hospital is just one of Baltimore's Hospitals leading the way in Medical Innovation. Its location at the intersection of Wilkens Avenue and Caton Avenue has allowed for numerous expansions of its medical campus. St. Agnes Hospital and the communities of Wilkens Avenue create the perfect setting for gentrification with a Biotech Park playing the role as catalyst.Now my proposed location for the Biotech Park is controversial to say the least. Just across Caton Avenue from the Hosital lies Cardinal Gibbons School. Cardinal Gibbons is slated for closure much to the chagrin of its students and alumni. Personally, I'm neutral to the fate of Cardinal Gibbons. However, if fate deals Cardinal Gibbons the hand of closure, I think its campus would make the perfect location for the St. Agnes Biotech Park. If Seton Keough High School (not pictured) were to close (I'm not condoning it) its campus could be an expansion of the Biotech Park. Seton Keough High is located adjacent to Cardinal Gibbons with Caton Avenue frontage rather than the Wilkens Avenue frontage of Cardinal Gibbons. The Biotech Park's borders would be I-95 to the south, Wilkens Avenue to the north, DeSoto Road to the east, and Caton Avenue to the west.Now, of Baltimore's two existing Biotech Parks one doesn't involve residential redevelopment and the other one does. Now, those of you who have read this blog for any length can guess what I have in mind for the surrounding neighborhoods of St. Agnes but for those of you who are first time readers I'll make it simple; I favor redevelopment of three pivotal neighborhoods along Wilkens Avenue. They are: Gwynns Falls, Mill Hill, and Carrollton Ridge. Although the Biotech Park is located south of Wilkens Avenue the neighborhoods slated for major redevelopment are mostly north of it.Now the Biotech Park itself is only Phase I of the whole plan. It can't all be done at once because the market needs to be absorb everything in a timely manner. The Biotech Park and the jobs created from it need to create a demand for better housing options near it for its employees, right now the demand for better housing isn't there which can be seen by the high levels of vacant housing. So Phase II involves new housing. All three neighborhoods will be redeveloped with high density Apartments and Condos along Wilkens Avenue and Fredrick Avenue. These will also go below Wilkens Avenue to overlook Carroll Park, which is a diamond in the rough. Gwynns Falls has a lot of undeveloped land perfect for new housing. Within the neighborhood it will be town homes. The vacant housing stock seems to be contained certain blocks making redevelopment easy. Most developed blocks in Gwynns Falls are very healthy so redevelopment would be quite rare.Mill Hill is the most complex of the three neighborhoods to be effected by the residential portion of the Biotech Park. Shown above is a row of mostly vacant homes that should be slated for redevelopment. But this block doesn't represent all of Mill Hill.This row of homes also located in Mill Hill is relatively healthy with just the two vacants. The vacants could be rehabbed by a developer and sold off or the City could acquire them and sell them as $1 row homes. Redevelopment is not needed.Here is a very healthy part of Mill Hill along Ashton St., blocks like this will remain largely untouched. Ashton St. could use a makeover into a one way eastbound street. This will allow for angled parking on both sides which, in my opinion adds a touch of class and elegance to a row house neighborhood. Finally in Mill Hill are vacant parcels just waiting for new housing. As a general rule of thumb, if it's not along Wilkens or Fredrick Avenue and doesn't have Carroll Park frontage, it will be built as town homes. Also in Mill Hill lies Phase III of the Biotech Park; Westside Shopping Center and Fredrick Avenue. As new residents start populating its surrounding Westside Shopping Center its tenant roster and perhaps its lay out will change to meet the demands of its new clientele. Fredrick Elementary will serve as a School for several Communities whose Schools will close. Fredrick Elementary/Middle will be rebuilt as a brand new State of the Art Facility that will serve in addition to its current population those currently attending Samuel F.B. Morse, Stuart Hill, and Sarah M. Roach Elementaries. Those three Schools will close and will be sold off for development.The last neighborhood along Wilkens Avenue to be redeveloped by the Biotech Park is Carrollton Ridge. Although it's the furthest from St. Agnes and the proposed Biotech Park it will see the most change. Its housing stock is in dire need of intervention and I don't think very much of it can be saved.When driving through Carrollton Ridge, this sight: row of homes that are mostly vacant appear to be the majority rather than the minority like most others. It's because of this that Carrollton Ridge will be almost exclusively new housing. You know what they said before the economy went south; if you build it, they will come.This looks like it was a healthy vibrant block very recently. But if you look closely most of these homes are vacant. It appears the residents here fled very recently suggesting a draining population. Carrollton Ridge needs a lot of help and fast. This block might not have to hit the wrecking ball if these homes are bought and rehabbed right away.Now, there are very healthy parts of Carrollton Ridge and they will be preserved so they can become the majority once again. Well, I've wanted to do a Willkens Avenue Post for quite some time now but I couldn't think of a way to gentrify it because it currently appears to have gone stagnant. The beckoning call of the Biotech and the ever expanding St. Agnes Hospital paired together and going off of the success of the Hopkins Biotech Park gave me the perfect angle.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

I didn't know this area was so rundown. The biopark idea might work to revive this area.

Spence said...

It's far from Baltimore's worst area. It think it's more stagnant than run down. There's nothing kick starting the area toward population and economic growth. St. Agnes isn't doing the job just like Hopkins wasn't in East Baltimore. Hopkins is doing both there with the Biotech Park and new housing and I think St. Agnes should take a page from Hopkins to revitalize Wilkens Avenue. For the record, Wilkens Avenue isn't nearly as rundown as the neighborhoods near Hopkins.

MTS said...

I've been following your blog for several years now, as my family originated in Southwest Baltimore (they were residents of Mill Hill for nearly 130 years). I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw the 5th photo from the top---the building in the picture was my grandfather's bar! I've always loved all the old stories about that bar that my father told me growing up. In true family tradition, I now run a "neighborhood bar" in the suburbs (ironic, since my grandfather didn't even allow women to patronize the bar, let alone RUN it!)...it's always been my dream to buy it and restore it to its former glory. Hopefully one day the "powers that be" will listen to some of your suggestions and the neighborhood will change.

Anonymous said...

I am a investor and I own a couple of properties close to Samuel Morse Elementary school (between Wilkens ave and Prat st area) I would like to know if anyone has any idea as to when the Carlton Ridge neighborhood will be revitalized?

Spence Lean said...

Operation Reach Out Southwest was designed to provide revitalization to some of Wilkens Avenue among other parts of SoWeBo but Carrollton Ridge has continued to lose population and be a crime haven. I really don't know when or how revitalization will come to it.