Friday, June 11, 2010

Reopening The Great Northeast Part II: Building on new Strengths

Image from Google Earth
I continue on with Part II of my series that will connect Northeast Baltimore with Downtown via East Baltimore. If you haven't read Part I it involves reconnecting Harford Road and Gay St./Belair Road from North Avenue to Pratt St. as two way thoroughfares.
As we move further Northeast, the neighborhoods become more residential. There's also less vacant land waiting for new development. There is however block after block of vacant boarded up row homes waiting for REdevelopment. There are also many blocks of new housing that aren't just stable, they're thriving!
The clusters of new housing are both small and large. I'd like to examine the tranquility that's very obvious when driving through these redeveloped blocks that just isn't there when driving through other parts of East Baltimore. I'm going to go out on a limb and say that most new housing in East Baltimore is owner occupied and is dubbed "Affordable" This opinion is based on two things; one, they're kept up too nicely to be rentals, only a proud owner would take such care of his or her home. If these homes were built as "Market Rate" they would have sat as vacant as the home they've replaced. East Baltimore, at the time these homes were built wasn't quite ready for Market Rate Home Ownership Housing Yet. I also believe that the majority of those who have made these houses homes were already local East Baltimore Residents. They may have lived in high vacancy blocks, wanted to move but not out of East Baltimore so when these new homes come on the Market at an affordable price tag they jumped at the opportunity.Last but not least these new homes prove that East Baltimore can be a sustainable Community and they can be used as building blocks making it possible for future new housing developments to include a broader income mix i.e. Market Rate Homes.
And that's exactly what's happening as we speak. The East Baltimore Biotech Park could have been nothing but Offices (kind of like the UMB Biotech Park) but Hopkins decided to demolish the vacant homes north of its Campus and build a mixed income Community of 1500 new homes. I can't help but wonder if the existing new homes in East Baltimore, had they not been a success story if the Hopkins Biotech Park would have come to fruition.Another feat of the Hopkins Biotech Park is that it's ushering in contemporary design concepts in what used to be a neighborhood of "cookie cutter" row homes. If these design concepts are successful they can applied elsewhere throughout my Master Plan Map for this post.
Speaking of my Master Plan Map it shows highlighted in Purple; "Preservation Zones" and in Green "Redevelopment Zones" It's a sad truth that almost everything in the preservation zones is new housing to begin with. The photo above is one of the healthiest blocks in the Plan area. The awful truth is that East Baltimore as gotten into a state that in order for it to be a viable sustainable Community close to all of its original housing stock has to be torn down and rebuilt. This is a painful lesson to learn I hope Edmondson Village residents are taking these words to heart.Another Development that will hit the wrecking ball is Clay Courts. Cay Courts is a development of Section 8 Apartments and Town Homes. The only problem is that it runs through the once and future right of way of Gay St. After all, this post is centered around connecting Northeast Baltimore with Downtown. Luckily, there will be a lot of redevelopment in the plan area of this post that the number of Section 8 units in Clay Courts can be absorbed with the 2,000 + new housing units I'm proposing as redevelopment for the decayed vacants. Harford Road will be easier to adapt. It doesn't stop and start up again. However, it does eventually become a one way northbound street known as Harford Avenue. Luckily it's a very wide one way street so a two way conversion could be acheived by simply repaving and restriping the road. Well that concludes Part of my Northeast Baltimore connection to Downtown Series Like the sign below says: Baltimore's New East Side is on Track!See I told you, the sign wouldn't lie!


Gary said...

The book "The Baltimore Rowhouse" by Mary Ellen Hayward discusses the "new" housing in East Baltimore in some depth in its final chapter. At the time the book was written these had been pretty recently constructed. Basically, my understanding is that they were built on top of the demolished Lafayette Court high-rise housing project. I don't recall if they are public housing, affordable housing, or what, but I know the book discusses it. Just as an FYI.

Spence Lean said...

I own that book, it was a GREAT read the old Lagayette Courts is now Pleasant View Gardens (PVG). That's now what I'm writing about in this post. These are new homes that weren't apart of a former public housing project. While we're on the subject, PVG is mostly public housing with a few market rate home ownerships. Newer such developments with broader income mixes include; Heritage Crossing, Albemarle Square, Boradway Overlook, and the Townes at Orchard Ridge. But PVG is a major improvement, I'd like to see Douglass Homes redeveloped as well.

Gary said...

Yes, you are right. Looks like the homes you are referring to are condominium townhomes built in 1982. I looked up a sample (800 & 900 blocks Central Ave) on SDAT website, which shows that the vast majority on that block are owner occupied.