Monday, October 17, 2016

East North Avenue: A Haven for Investment

North Avenue has been in the news a lot lately for representing all that's wrong with Baltimore and urban America as a whole. I'd like to take this opportunity to tell show all the potential the eastern end of North Avenue has to become a thriving community. There are many hidden gems hidden throughout East North Avenue and surrounding areas that can help lead the way to a great future. There are also many pitfalls in the area which I would like to turn around and make the gems they rightfully should be. In order to do that, East North Avenue must be a haven for investment.
Nothing is more helpful to a disinvested Community than reinvestment. It shows its citizens that the City hasn't forgotten about them. The end result is a nicer Community! East North Avenue doesn't have very many of these examples but there is a big one happening along the road itself; streetscape enhancements. On North Avenue between Harford Road and Washington St. a $2 Million grant has been given to repave the road, redo the sidewalks, put crosswalks in the intersections, upgrade lighting, replace traffic lights, and add pedestrian signals. This is a great start for these blocks but I think the streetscape enhancement areas should be expanded in both directions. Westbound to Greenmount Avenue and Eastbound to Baltimore Cemetery.
East North Avenue has some investment coming its way and doesn't even know it. For instance, as part of Hopkins Redevelopment project in Middle East, many blocks north of Hopkins along Broadway are seeing their long vacant row homes rehabbed and sold. This trend of reinvestment is making its way towards North Avenue. What I would like to see is something I call a "tentacle effect" where northbound streets have reinvestment trending northward to North Avenue. More specifically Gay St. and Harford Avenue.
Along North Avenue, I don't want there to be too much demolition. Although redevelopment will occur, I would like that to be on land that is already vacant. Given the success stories of rehabbing row homes in other parts of East Baltimore, I would like to see the same happen along North Avenue. I do however, have a couple of redevelopment zones in mind for East North Avenue which as I noted above, are areas where demolition has already occurred.

A big area of redevelopment will be on Gay. St. The southern most blocks of Gay St. are included in the Hopkins redevelopment and blocks closer to North Avenue, the American Brewery Building has been lovely restored and across the street, a new Senior Center has just been built. In between those areas however, are several vacant and almost vacant blocks along Gay St. Since new mixed income town homes have done well in other parts of East Baltimore, I'm proposing several new blocks of housing along Gay St. and surrounding blocks to further the "tentacle effect."
The other redevelopment area also includes Gay St. but this section is above North Ave. There are some vacant industrial areas with a few vacant row houses strewn about the area bordered by North Avenue, Collington Avenue, Sinclair Lane, and Gay St. A redevelopment project of this magnitude will change the entire landscape of the eastern end of the North Avenue. The new development will contain mostly new row homes as well as row house style Apartments with ground floor Retail where there's North Avenue Frontage.
Although some redevelopment is included for E. North Avenue, the vast majority of the population growth I would like to see is from reinvestment in the current housing stock. Further south, around Hopkins, there are incentives for Hopkins workers to buy in the area. I would like to repeat that incentive model for E. North Ave. Instead of Hospital workers, this time I would provide it for workers of Social Services and the Eastside District Courthouse. There are other distressed areas of the City that don't have much in the way of nearby employment areas. E. North Avenue has this advantage and the Community can further sustain itself if nearby workers became nearby Residents.
Another aspect of E. North Avenue I want to promote is focal points. These focal points will draw visitors into the area and help promote a welcoming environment. One of the best assets of the area is the newly rehabbed Columbus School. The Great Blacks in Wax Museum is also great draw to the area but I believe exterior facade renovations will help achieve focal point status as well.
The old Ashley Apartments are a focal point but for all the wrong reasons. The vacancy and decay of this architectural diamond in the rough show just how beautiful the area once was. Due to the size and historic nature of the building, the cost of restoring and rehabbing this building will be very high. This poses a problem to E. North Avenue because it hinders development in its current state but developers won't want to invest a red cent in it until the surrounding Neighborhood makes big improvements. The uses of a rehabbed Ashley Apartment building are endless. With that in mind, I'm proposing mixed use Retail/Office/Community/Residential and make it a focal point for all the right reasons.
As development in Hopkins and Station North continues, a comprehensive next step must be taken in order to keep the synergy of those areas going. E. North Avenue is the logical next step to connect these two areas. By marketing E. North Avenue as a haven for investment it will then become just that; A Haven for Investment.    

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