Tuesday, June 17, 2014
Can the Horseshoe Casino Give Pigtown a Good Shot in the Arm?
During the flight to the suburbs and the dawn of the Computer Age, Industrial Jobs all around the City had dried up. Baltimore had gained a Central Business District and the redevelopment of the once industrial Inner Harbor both had brought job opportunities to the City. The new "Service Industry" economy has been great for Baltimore's eroding tax base (though Baltimore is still very much a broke City) and has stemmed growth in almost every Neighborhood near the Harbor. With the synergy created by the gentrification on the Residential side, it was only a matter of time that same synergy would come to Pigtown, but so far it hasn't.
That's not to say Pigtown hasn't had its successes. In fact, Washington Boulevard is seeing homes and businesses being rehabbed and some small businesses have set up shop. Granted some have also closed up shop but the willingness to invest and give Pigtown a proper Main Street is promising. I think the uptick in investment got the attention of developers a little too soon however when the project known as "Camden Crossing" came to fruition. Would be rehabbers of existing homes instead flocked to these new uncharacteristically wide town homes instead. Then the recession hit. Despite Camden Crossing's flaws it's still considered a success for the Neighborhood as a whole.
Today Pigtown is desperately seeking to rid itself of the negative stigma that surrounds it. They're looking to attract Residents who will buy, invest in, and maintain their homes long term, will support businesses along Washington Boulevard, and will be active in preventing crime. Although there are Residents doing just that, it needs to happen on a much grander scale. I would like to point out that unlike other Neighborhoods, Pigtown's housing stock is in good enough shape that demolition and redevelopment is not needed. Vacant houses are scattered throughout the Neighborhood and with a little elbow grease and sweat equity, they can be among the City's show case Row Houses.
So how does the new Horseshoe Casino play into this? Obviously, they're hiring a lot of full and part time employees and given its proximity to Pigtown, those not living in the area may seek to relocate. Neighborhoods closer to Downtown and the Harbor may be too expensive for workers. Pigtown's affordability and relative safety when compared to other Southwest Baltimore Neighborhoods may be the best for Casino Workers relocating to the area. I also think the City should try to entice new hires seeking to relocate do so in Pigtown. How you ask? Why not re-introduce the $1 row house program for casino workers? This will allow would be rent/mortgage payments to be freed up to allow these new workers/Residents to rehab the house they now own.
What if you already live in Pigtown and you're seeking employment at the Casino? This is a very probable situation given Casino's proximity to Pigotwn and the need for additional employment opportunities in Pigtown? Existing homeowners in Pigtown could receive less interest loans to fix up their homes and existing renters could also take advantage of the opportunity to buy a $1 row house to rehab and become homeowners. This population growth will be beneficial to existing businesses on Washington Boulevard and encourage new ones to open up shop. A larger population deters crime.