Twitter

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Should Armistead Gardens Hit the Wrecking Ball?

This is the first post in the history of this blog that was brought on purely by comments from another post. Ever since I inked a post in June 2008 about whether the Armistead Gardens Co-Op can be extended and have its fundamentals used in today's environment. This is a moot point now but the development I wanted to "hand off" to a Co-Op was McCulloh Homes and I now think they should be redeveloped. But back to Armistead Gardens, residents past and present upon reading that post offered me their unfiltered opinions about growing up in and raising a Family in Armistead Gardens then and now. I was shocked by some of what they had to say about their Neighborhood which begged the question; Should Armistead Gardens Hit the Wrecking Ball? That wasn't a question I could answer without paying Armistead Gardens a visit so I did just that, armed with my camera trying to make sense of it all.
Now how did Armistead Gardens become a Co-Op? Back in 1955 Baltimore had the idea of shedding its public housing stock much like today. Unlike today Baltimore wasn't bulldozing Public Housing Units by the hundreds. Since Armistead Gardens at the time was a public housing development the City simply sold it off to the residents at the time. In order to deal with Neighborhood upkeep, something that the City used to responsible for, the formed the Co-Op. The Co-Op has been very strict in making sure blight and crime stayed out of Armistead Gardens and according to comments presented to me, they act like an HOA Police Force. Now Residents may own their homes but they don't own the ground their home sits on. This isn't uncommon for Row House Neighborhoods in Baltimore, the Home Owner pays the City "Ground Rent" which is a controversial subject on its own. When the City wiped its hands clean of Armistead Gardens they meant it. Rather than pay Ground Rent to the City, every Armistead Gardens resident has a 99 year lease on their grounds that they pay to the Co-Op.
Today, from what I've been told by commentators Armistead Gardens is in a Time Capsule. It has very low turnover for the most part but that's because homes have stayed in Families for generations. New Residents are those that were raised there whose Parents and Grandparents followed the same path. Housing Prices are some of the most affordable in the City so Residents raised in Armistead Gardens looking for affordable housing need not look far.
Now I told you about Armistead Gardens Residents who have moved back after being raised there but now I will tell you about a different group of Residents or should I say former Residents, like their counterparts they agree that Armistead Gardens is in a time capsule and that generation after generation has continued to live there as far back as when Armistead Gardens was public housing. This group of people couldn't wait to get out of Armistead Gardens because the Co-Op is unsympathetic towards residents who can't afford to make upgrades to their exteriors, crime, drug use, and drug dealing has reared its ugly throughout Armistead Gardens and they have watched their friends they grew up with turn into dope fiends. They say Armistead Gardens has gotten stuck in a vicious cycle of poverty and drug addicted residents.
Upon hearing these opinions more than twice about Armistead Gardens, I was both shocked and skeptical. I thought if these were indeed the living conditions in Armistead Gardens that maybe Armistead Garden's days are numbered.
After all, Freedom Village/Claremont Homes was a public housing development of varying densities west of Armistead Gardens that was just demolished in favor of the mixed income Orchard Ridge Community which has defied the recession and is Baltimore's best selling New Community. In the 1990s the public housing high rise known as Hollander Ridge east of Armistead Gardens was demolished in favor of Office/Industrial Space. So given what I was led to the believe the living conditions in Armistead Gardens are I thought it should hit the wrecking ball. I thought that its convenient location near Erdman Avenue, Pulaski Highway, Sinclair Lane, Moravia Road, I-895, and I-95, and eventually the Red Line and an East Baltimore MARC Station.
Orangeville, the proposed location of the East Baltimore MARC Station is currently industrial land with vacant swaths throughout. I have always thought that Orangeville, when transit comes will be transformed into a TOD Haven and transform those aforementioned roads in East Baltimore with lack luster Retail into a walkable urban haven. I figured a redeveloped Armistead Gardens would be an extension of that TOD in Orangeville. Eventually, that dream of mine could be realized but not now.
Why not now? Because I took a few trips down to Armistead Gardens to see if those claims by former Residents were true. I was pleasantly surprised to see that every time I was down there, I saw a very safe Family Oriented Community with houses that vary in their state of repair. There weren't many houses that needed a lot of repairs but I didn't see a single vacant. It's clear to see that some homes have been cared for and residents have invested the money in their homes. Some residents, since this was a public housing development way back when appear not to have the money to fix up their homes the way others have. Residents appeared healthy, kids were free to play outside, the drug and dealers that people told me "ran the streets" of Armistead Gardens weren't there and I don't think there are very many of them if any.
If there is a drug trade in Armistead Gardens it's kept under wraps, I've been blogging about Baltimore City and driving through every Neighborhood for almost four years and one thing I can spot very quickly is an open air drug market. In Armistead Gardens, it just wasn't there.
Now with all that info I provided to you, tell if you think Armistead Gardens should hit the wrecking ball. What do I think? I thought so at first but when I saw that the comments on my old post didn't appear to be true, I would have to say no. I do think that the main streets surrounding Armistead Gardens; Erdman Avenue, Moravia Road, and Pulaski Highway are all long over due for makeovers.

21 comments:

Anonymous said...

Reading the comments from the original Armistead Gardens post is fascinating. Thanks for the rethinking and the update. Good, thoughtful work, Spence.

Vanessa F. said...

Hello, Baltimore native here who just came across your blog...

Great background information provided on Armistead Gardens. I went to middle school (Hamilton) with a classmate who was from there and always wondered about the background of the area.

Will return with more thoughts.

-Vanessa F.

Gary said...

As soon as i read the negative comments from former residents, I knew that they were ultimately going to be unfounded. I have learned that some people are such uber suburbanites that they will always think that they will always find the smallest bit of negative in any city neighborhood. I heard people say the same things about Hampden and as a resident I can say that though it has its issues, Hampden is far from infested with drug dealers and addicts. And I am constantly defending Lauraville/Hamilton to a friend who thinks poorly of the neighborhood because she "knows someone who lives on White Ave and their neighbors are druggies." Way to judge 2 entire neighborhoods based on one block.

Anyway, thanks for the investigative journalism and the positive post about an underappreciated and widely unknown community here in Balto.

Anonymous said...

Being raised in Armistead from the age of six months..I can say that it was a good place to be a child;however;today I am ashamed of what it has become. Their are some nice homes and nice families still living there. I know this because atleast some of my close family members still live in Armistead incidents of...people beingshot,stabbed killed,raped {elderly}robbed..I signed Anonymos to protect my self,friends and family members.Would love to see the good people of Armistead take back their community.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm did you go on the 9? thats where you can get dope all night all day!ive lived there fam has lived there. its nt nice by far

Anonymous said...

I am not sure what you think you saw while visiting as I was born and raised in A G as well as raising my children there until I was able to offer my children a better lifestyle and education by moving to the burbs. I still have numerous family members there and I can guarantee you that there is a open drug market going on there as you will see many transactions night or day rain or shine. GUARANTEED !!!!! Life growing up in A G was awesome as we all stuck together as brothers and sisters. The elementary school was a great place to attend school as well as the Carroll F Cook rec center where there was plenty of activities there to keep us off the streets. Thanks to Barry and Carol. Do not get me wrong we used small time narcotics and alcahol occasionally but nowhere near the extent of today. We all knew that if we did wrong there was always an adult that knew our family and if they did not knock us upside the head they were going to notify our parents. I loved growing up there.
I do not belive A G will ever be leveled due to the 99 year lease that is in place there. Every time a dwelling is sold the 99 year lease is renewed to that dwelling.
You need to go visit the 900 blocks of the old section if you want to see what has become of the streets there.

Anonymous said...

Should have been through there in the 90's an early 2000s on Quantril way 9 and 10 hundred blks 2 guys never left. Traffic jam of crackheads

Anonymous said...

Should have been through there in the 90's an early 2000s on Quantril way 9 and 10 hundred blks 2 guys never left. Traffic jam of crackheads

Anonymous said...

Yes armstead is a cheap place to live I give up here and now live in the same house with my kids and yes there are drug dealer here but out of respect for the kids around here it not in your face and yes the house are run down on the outside alot of people put the money inside there house when I was growing up here everyone look out for everyone now a days you have to watch your stuff there have been alot of cars being broken in to house be broken into there are hard working people that live here and we are not all on drugs or on welfare someone of work for everything we have it might not be much be we call this home so people need to stop putting it down we all are not bad people

Jen Evans said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

i lived in armistead all my life and as an adult now i think its a very financially comfortable place to live...theres drugs anywhere you go in baltimore city..your not gonna find the things they offer anywhere else for the cost..such as included in your fee (AHC calls it the maintance fee) that includes electric, maintance on the house, trash pick up ...cost is around 350-450 a month depending on your house size and location....its def worth it if you are newly married and need a starter house or something because you can sell the house even though its a 99 year lease..its comlicated and the office (AHC) are kind of ridiculous with the way they run shit..to be honest i think they should be investigated for some of the sneaky shit they do but in all...where are you gonna live at any cheaper?..thats what makes us stay and deal with their bullshit!!

Anonymous said...

I live in AG and have my intire life, there is plenty of dug activity. you may not see it by just visiting but just wait til the weather gets warmer. even tho I try not to associate to much with the scum that has seemed to overrun this place, you still are not surprised to run into a junkie that u know from way back. its cheap to live here and that's why this cycle will never change. like the person who commented above, these certain people do not positively contribute to society and have no plans for themselves. its sad that the young people here have no urge to change their lives for the most part. maybe a wrecking ball would be good....

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Its the Mexicans that are destroying AG not drugs

Anonymous said...

Its the office allowing illegals to move in that's hurting ag and destroying the charm of how close this community was... NOT DRUGS

Anonymous said...

The office allows illegals to move in with bogus paperwork when his I.d. says smith and he was clearly born south of the border that is wrong and illegal all in the name of profit and filling the house as soon as possible.
When 8 people live in a two bedroom house and the office allows it is wrong... So who is the main culprit in AG the drug dealer who is trying to make a little bit of money for their family or the corporate money hungry office that is destroying the charm and breaking the law allowing illegals to live in our community

Anonymous said...

There's to many illegals here, it's okay for them to have multiple families of upwards to 15+ people in one home! But if your not a spic and have someone staying at your home for more then a week or two the corporation WILL fine you.. It has went way down here compared to when I was a child, I never used to be scared to walk around at 1am because you knew everyone now you can't because you have the illegals constantly looking you up and down yelling things at you in particular us females. I miss when Armistead was the old neighborhood. On top of that the board members favor certain people over others so things I may not get away with if I was related to a board member or friend with someone you get certain privileges!! Since everyone is to scared to do or say anything nothing will change, and if you do say something you get messed with from the board members and they will do anything and everything to make it hard for you after you speak up!! Just like Charles Johnson and Florence on Wright avenue, Charles is always going around messing with anyone and everyone he can with no repercussion even though numerous people have went to the main office and spoke with Darlene and Phyllis, still nothing gets done they let that man do anything he wants. It's only a matter of time before he pisses the wrong person off and they hurt that man. Everyone here is at their wits end with him!! All in all Armistead is still a fairly good place..

Anonymous said...

My husband and I lived in Armistead in the early years of our marriage. We are now raising our children in Baltimore County. Once we no longer need the services of the county public schools system and the benefits for our children, we will sell our home and return to Armistead. After paying over $3000 per year in Baltimore County property taxes, $350++ monthly in BGE, $60 a quarter in water, etc... I am looking forward to 'going home'. I miss my house and the simple life we had. I have wonderful friends that I miss. When it comes to drugs and all of that, it-is-here-in Baltimore County. Strive to create a great neighborhood where ever you may live!

BTW, Armistead is home to the historic Joseph Sterett House (Fox Mansion). This house played an important role in the War of 1814

Anonymous said...

so what is the problem with illegals people if they pay they can buy the house, in my neighborhood theres many illegals and i can say they are hard workers like other people so dont be dumb. cuz is like if i say they allow black people to live on AG so thats why AG has many problems just because some of them are bad, it's gonna sound racist so dont be like that, cuz they are not the only ones who sell drugs

Anonymous said...

this is the problem with this kind of people i been living on AG many years and see many people from different countries and imma said if u respect they respect u, is the same with black people but is fuuny how this guy is worried about "illegals" more than drugs sellers, but my question is how he knows they are illegals, just because they look different or just because they speak another language? ; easy they are just selfish because they see another people who come from another countries make more progress even if they doesn't speak our language they work hard and progress so dont be like that for me anyone who can afford to buy a house right here is fine, but if u guy's don't like get a degree find a better job and buy a house in a place that u dream

Jenine said...

I've never lived in Armistead Gardens, but I have passed the neighborhood several times whenever I would ride with my mother towards the city. This rung especially true if we were taking our cousins home. We used to live in the East side out Whispering Woods at one point (I hated living with my mother, but that's another story). Anyway, the houses always struck me as being pretty old. LOL. Although Baltimore City as a whole has a drug, crime and poverty problem, there are some neighborhoods that are alright. For instance, Hamilton's pretty nice and I say this living above it in Parkville on the county side. Then, there's a good section of North Baltimore above York Rd that's pretty nice as well. Besides, Baltimore County isn't all that great either. Even in not so nice areas like Lansdowne, where I live now, they're always jacking up the rent especially when they build new homes in the area.