Saturday, March 31, 2012

The Wilkens District

 Baltimore for much of its history has been a working man's City. It wasn't until the fall of the manufacturing industry and the flight to the suburbs that it became a way to simply house the poor. Then came the Inner Harbor redevelopment which gentrified the once working class Neighborhoods of Fells Point, Canton, Federal Hill, and Locust Point. It appears that Hampden and Medfield are headed in that direction as well.
With this sudden spike of gentrification the working class residents of these Neighborhoods have been priced out. The demand for working and middle class housing risen yet the supply has diminished. There has to be a way to ensure that a Neighborhood can make a turn around and not gentrify. There has to be a way to ensure that it's affordable yet Residents can make the required repairs to their homes to keep the Neighborhood clean and well kept. A clean and well kept Neighborhood shows that Residents have planted a stake in the Community and have invested a lot and in and of itself makes for a crime deterrent. I think designating a part of the City for its working class and middle class is crucial for its future and I know just the place to do it; Wilkens Avenue.

Wilkens Avenue for the most part, is in pretty bad shape its once working and middle class population has fled due to the collapse of the manufacturing sector and the flight to the suburbs. As a result, the home ownership rate has declined, crime and vacant blighted homes has risen making Wilkens Avenue appear stagnant. In a sense Wilkens Avenue is stagnant the central issue surrounding its decline is jobs or lack there of. The manufacturing plants in Southwest Baltimore have mostly shuttered and the area doesn't seem to be attracting potential employers. It doesn't sound Wilkens Avenue will turn around any time soon or will it?

When I look at Neighborhoods that have benefited from Artist Housing, I think of that as a secret weapon the City has to revive Neighborhoods that are in poor shape. Then I realized that Artists aren't the only profession that is in need of affordable housing. Like I said Baltimore has always been a working man's City and it still is regardless of what the gentrified Harbor portrays. There are lots of working and middle class Residents who are struggling to find a decent place to live and an affordable price. That's when I got the idea to make districts strictly for said professions, but where? It has to be an area that's not too far gone but at the same time the housing and the land it sits on has to be low in value.
I found just the area along Wilkens Avenue in Neighborhoods like Mount Clare, Carrollton Ridge, Mill Hill, Violetville, and Morell Park. Some Neighborhoods are in better shape than others but they all could benefit from additional Residents who can bring in investment and stability. When I talk about bringing in affordable housing, it's for people with good jobs but their income is not all that high. In making districts along Wilkens Avenue for certain professions it will ensure that those buying into the Neighborhood are gainfully employed and home prices will be income adjusted so that the monthly mortgage payment will be at most 30% of their monthly income which is the recommended amount when preparing a budget.

Now where along Wilkens Avenue would each particular District go? Well actually that really doesn't matter there is plenty of vacant housing ready to either rehabbed or rebuilt depending on how dilapidated said housing is. The districts will be as follows; The Hospitality District (for Hotel and Restaurants Workers), The Education District (for Teachers) the Emergency District (for Cops, Firefighters, and Paramedics, the Nursing District, the Retail District (for workers in Retail), the Civil Servant District (postal workers, garbage
collectors etc.) and the Plumbing District.

Now comes the question of whether making housing affordable enough for Baltimore's workforce is enough to attract them to Wilkens Avenue. Personally I think so because the opportunity to become a home owner in and around Baltimore would otherwise be nothing more than a dream for those in these professions (I work in Hospitality I'm speaking from experience) and also I would like the redevelopment portions of these districts to feature new LEED initiatives to cut back pollution and reduce utility bills which is something we all worry about when paying our monthly bills.

This might be the ticket for Wilkens Avenue to make a comeback, one that is better than gentrification because it will help reestablish a solid working class and middle class base in the City. These good jobs didn't use to require subsides but as the cost as living went up our wages either went stagnant or went down. Much like Wilkens Avenue.


The Relapse Diary said...

I've always felt that way! An in my blog post"Slow down" I kind of get into that! How neighborhoods get left behind! I agree just cause you can't afford a 150,000 home or better you should have to live in a ghetto or Police ignored neighborhood!

Unknown said...

It is hard to detect the best district when you are abroad. I travelled to Argentina some months ago and I was desperate to know which neighbourhoods were the best in terms of security, traffic, amount of green spaces and cost of living (because there are areas that are more expensive than others). My results led to the conclusion that those apartments in Buenos Aires that gather the conditions mentioned above are: Nunez, Belgrano, Palermo and Devoto!

Unknown said...

I tried to take my husband and kids to Fells Point but I couldn't find it. Yeah, the buildings are there, but something's missing. My girlfriends & I used to go to the clubs and dance with sailors and we were wearing beautiful dresses from the thrift shops.( We're in our 50s now.) I'm slightly offended by the Hon Festival; it's a little like they're making fun of the way we were. We looked pretty fierce, all dolled-up. The fake Hons look bad. Their outfits aren't pulled-together and they don't match. Those ladies would be terrified to dance with a sailor.