Sunday, May 30, 2010

Reopening the Great Northeast Part I: The Second Downtown

Image from Google Earth
This is the first in a three part series whose purpose is to close the gap between the Inner Harbor and Northeast Baltimore. Currently, there aren't many direct routes that connect the two. I will put forth two routes that will serve as direct two way roads that will connect the two sections of the City. Also by having the routes run directly through some of the most blighted sections of East Baltimore the two roads will serve as a catalyst for major reinvestment and redevelopment. I'm writing under the assumption that the JFX will be torn down in favor of either N. President St. or Jones Falls Boulevard.
For this post, I have defined the Master Plan boundaries as the following; Orleans St. to the south, Chase St. to the north, Greenmount Ave. to the west, and Broadway to the east.
The first things to go will be Oldtown Mall and Forest St. Apartments. Although Oldtown Mall is an Historic Landmark, its buildings have become too dilapidated for occupancy. This is also where Gay St. is to be reopened as a three lane two traffic thoroughfare. One lane in each direction and one that will act as a turn lane when needed.
Oldtown Mall, Forest St. Apartments, and the Penn Fallsway Parking Lots will be developed or redeveloped as high density mixed use residential, retail, hotel, and offices as an extension of Downtown.
Also poised to hit the wrecking ball in my Master Plan is LaTrobe Homes. Crime, drugs, unsanitary living conditions, and lack of maintenance have made this sprawling public housing development a liability for its residents. LaTrobe Homes has 701 units. As part of the redevelopment of the properties and LaTrobe Homes 701 new public housing units will be spread out so no existing LaTrobe Homes resident will be left out in the cold. Demolition has begun in the area in question. The blighted Somerset Homes were torn down over a year ago as the Dixon Administration's sweeping blight removal and land banking plan. The problem with land banking is that it allows for land, like that of the for Somerset Homes to remain undeveloped indefinitely. I would extend the Oldtown Mall redevelopment zone to include this piece of land thereby connecting Downtown to Hopkins.Now we come to the cornerstone of reopening the northeast. This pedestrian Mall needs to be reopened as a two traffic Gay St. which will allow for traffic to easily move from Downtown to Belair Edison, Frankford, Overlea and beyond. The ultimate goal is to reconnect Gay St. to Belair Road. The other road is west of Oldtown Mall and is currently two separate roads. The first is the southbound Hillen St., the second; northbound Ensor St. My plan is to consolidate both directions of traffic to Hillen St. which is wide enough to carry two directions of traffic. Hillen St. will be renamed Harford Road and Ensor St. will be closed for to make way for new development. Renaming it Harford Road will encourage drivers Downtown who live in northeast Baltimore neighborhoods such as Lauraville, Waltherson, Hamilton, and even White Marsh to use Harford Road as it will eventually be a two way street extending from Downtown to Harford County uninterrupted. Dunbar High has undergone extensive renovations in the past year. The other two Schools it shares a campus with have either closed or are slated for closure. This makes for a great opportunity to move Dunbar High's athletic fields to the School itself rather than having them a couple blocks to the northwest.
The current fields will also have the new Gay St. cutting directly through it. Any land leftover on the Dunbar Campus will be dedicated as Community Green Space complete with a furnished Public Square and a Community Pool (free admission) that will be the envy not just of the City, but the suburbs as well.
Church Square has appeared to have its Stop Shop and Save Anchor. That's ok, it needs to be redeveloped along with Bond St. Apartments and Town Homes to make way for Gay St. Once redeveloped the new Church Square, which will be integrated with a much busier Gay St. might be able to lure a new Grocery Anchor.
The preservation zone in this Master Plan includes newer housing. New housing has proven to be pivotal for East Baltimore. It offers what I like to call a "an island of hope in a sea of blight and decay." Existing new housing and its relevance, when redeveloping East Baltimore will be examined more closely in future posts on the same subject matter. Stay tuned!


Gary said...

I will be interested to see your comments on the "newer" housing you reference in the last paragraph.

In my opinion, this plan - replacing high-density public housing with a rowhome atmosphere - has been very successful in restoring the sense of community to residents, and making them take more pride in where they live. These homes were built years ago but they are still in very good condition.

Seems to be one of the few times where a redevelopment plan of the City actually addressed the underlying social issues as well - instead of just moving them elsewhere.

I look forward to reading your thoughts...

Spence Lean said...

Well a new post that talks about new housing in East Baltimore in greater detail was just published. I hope you like it, I think it echoes your sentiments.