Saturday, December 17, 2016

Perkins Homes Redevelopment: A Comprehensive Master Plan

It's finally happening! After years of speculation and requests from neighboring Communities and Residents themselves, Perkins Homes is finally going to be redeveloped. When a public housing community in Baltimore is redeveloped, the scope of the work stays within the boundaries of said public housing Community.

With Perkins Homes, I want to challenge that way of thinking by creating a Perkins Homes Redevelopment District. This District will extend north of Perkins Homes and will include underutilized land areas in East Baltimore that can either house current Perkins Homes Residents, or other Residents looking for newly built affordable housing be it for rent or for purchase.
Perkins Homes used to fit in perfectly in East Baltimore. Not only was the area surrounded by low and how rise public housing, but the traditional row house Neighborhoods such as Fells Point, Upper Fells Point, Washington Hill, and Little Italy were being drained of their population and jobs. Today, reinvestment and redevelopment has been in full force in the Neighborhoods surrounding Perkins Homes as once vacant row homes are being lovingly restored, redevelopment has created the Inner Harbor East Neighborhood which in addition to new housing and Retail has brought jobs back to the area. Finally Perkins Homes' public housing Neighbors have been replaced by lower density mixed income town homes.
Today Perkins Homes sticks out like a sore thumb. It remains an island of blight in a sea of reinvestment and gentrification. Both Residents and Neighbors have been calling on the City to redevelop the aging complex for some time. Finally, the calls were heard and redevelopment will be coming down the pipeline. Usually when a public housing development is redeveloped, the only thing focused on is development itself. As an example, when Murphy Homes in Upton was torn down, it was replaced by a lovely mixed income town home development known as Heritage Crossing. Heritage Crossing did its job by transforming the land it sits on, but the surrounding Upton Neighborhood is still in dire straits. This why with Perkins Homes I want to expand the redevelopment area to touch upon a few other areas that will expand the transformation.
First, I will cover what I believe should happen to the actual Perkins Homes. Once demolished, I believe the mix of uses should be a mix of Apartments, Condos, and Row Homes. I say Row Homes instead of  Town Homes because I would the finished product to fit into the surrounding Neighborhoods which consist primarily of traditional Row Houses. The Apartments/Condos will be centered on Pratt St. which will give the area a Main St. feel. Further west on Pratt St. this was accomplished between Little Italy and Historic Jonestown (Albemarle Square.) All housing types will be mixed income and will range in size so that individuals and families of all sizes will be welcome.

Now to include the other parts of the area I would like to include in the Perkins Homes Redevelopment District. Just across the street from Perkins Homes on Pratt St. lies City Springs Elementary School and the former Lombard Middle School. I'm always looking to both build new Schools in the City while decreasing under-used Schools in the process to balance capacity and enrollment. In this case, I would demolish the old Lombard Middle School and relocate Magnet Programs housed there. On the site, I would build a brand new City Springs Elementary that would also house students from Commodore John Rogers Elementary and Wolfe Street Academy. Once this school opens, the current City Springs building would be torn down and replaced with row homes.
North of Perkins Homes are a couple of other vacant or otherwise under utilized blocks. The first is the east side of Eden St. between Lombard St. or Baltimore St. the other one is the west side of Eden St. between Baltimore St. and Fairmount Avenue. New Row Homes will be built on these lots. Next we come to City Springs Park. I see lots of potential here but I believe in order to further enhance it, it must be expanded. That's why I'm proposing expanding it west of Dallas St. by demolishing the current buildings and making it part of the park. I love that this Park already has an outdoor pool and urban garden. Enhancements I would add are a baseball diamond, football field and track, and basketball and tennis courts. I would also landscape the pool area.
Next I would cross Fayette St. and build Senior public housing on the vacant land near Douglass Homes.Eventually Douglass Homes itself will probably redeveloped.  I would continue with more Senior public housing on both sides of Central Avenue including the now shuttered Sojourner-Douglass College. These new buildings would look similar to the current Senior Building on Central Avenue that's part of the Pleasant View Gardens Community.
Lastly, I would make enhancements to the east side of Aisquith St. between Fayette St. and Orleans St. First, I would tear the down the current Community Center for Pleasant View Gardens and relocate a few feet down the road in the old Eastern High School Building. The old Eastern High School Building will of course be restored to its original grandeur before becoming the new home for the Pleasant View Gardens Community Center. In the current spot, I would put in another park. This would have more green space as well as a Football and track as well as an urban farm. I think this will further enhance the welcoming environment Pleasant View Gardens has worked hard to maintain.
As you can see, the Perkins Homes Redevelopment District goes far beyond Perkins Homes proper. Of course that's the point. With all of these projects looked at as individuals, they would never get funded. But if tacked on to an existing redevelopment initiative and looked at as a comprehensive Master Plan for the surrounding area, suddenly enhancing parks, school construction, and more Senior Public Housing can go hand in hand with redeveloping Perkins Homes.        

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