Thursday, November 15, 2007

Will Big Projects Produce Catalysts For Surounding Blight?

Baltimore has and has had a lot of big development and redevelopment proposals on the table over the years. They have delivered results beyond the expectations of officials on both the private and public sectors. Now these results are in some cases only limited to the land the new development sits on or in some cases has produced massive reinvestment and redevelopment in neighboring blighted communities. Here I intend to examine each monster development past present and future to see if it produced or will produce a catalyst for its surrounding neighbors.
The Inner Harbor is the mac daddy of them all. We all know that its surroundings far and wide have benefited spectacularly from its transformation.The Hippodrome, the whole Westside of Downtown's transformation in my opinion can be attributed to its renovation and reopening. Not Camden Yards.
HOPE VI developments, not so much in fact they have had the opposite effect. Displaced public housing residents flooded the surrounding neighborhoods creating more blight. The exceptions are Albermarle Square, Broadway Overlook, and the soon to be Orchard Ridge.
Canton Crosssing, so far the First Mariner Bank Tower has been the only completion of this but Canton had already made a comeback when Canton Crossing began.
Camden Crossing, well someone had to take the risk and move development west of MLK Boulevard and into Pigtown. Pigtown or to the yuppies Washington Village has made an amazing turn around in the past few years and Camden Crossing with the combination of Washington Boulevard a main street and being voted the best neighborhood in the city have played a big part in it.
Mount Clare Junction Shopping Center, although mere blocks west of gentrifying Pigtown the mixed use development has not spurred much investment in the Mount Clare neighborhood. In fact the shopping center itself has struggled with vacancies and low attendance.East Baltimore Biotech Park, they have hit the nail right on the head with this one. From Middle East, to McElderry Park, to Old Town Mall there has been interest in development and rehabbing.
State Center Redevelopment, with the demolition of McCulloh Homes, the joining together of Upton, Madison Park, Bolton Hill, and Mount Vernon with a brand new transit oriented mixed income development I don't see how it will fail. I have hopes that this will spur revitalization of Pennsylvania Avenue as a vibrant cultural and retail district.
West Baltimore MARC Station, when the red line is built when it intersects with the West Baltimore MARC Station there will be a huge demand for Transit Oriented Development. This is currently a blighted area that may be a hard sell but you know what they say; location location location. It's currently located right in between Downtown and the new Uplands.
Station North, just label a blighted area an "Arts and Entertainment District" and watch the gentrification begin. Artists get tax breaks to work in abandoned buildings and they put in the sweat equity to raise property values. There is however, a double edged sword to Station North. Gentrification has been so swift that the artists who put in the sweat equity and turned this neighborhood into a cultural destination are now priced out and the yuppies are moving in. Just look at the $400,000 town homes being built on Calvert St. The good news is, Baltimore has many blighted areas that can be dubbed "Arts and Entertainment Districts."
Vistas on the Lake, new upscale condos in Reservoir Hill overlooking Druid Hill Park. This is the first time upscale and Reservoir Hill were mentioned in the same sentence. Although it has some of Baltimore's prettiest row homes the neighborhood, although gentrifying by "a new generation of urban dwellers" has a huge of amount of land and buildings that have federal subsidies on them that can hold back additional development on the scale of "Vistas on the Lake."
Westport, Patrick Turner set his sights on the Middle Branch of the Patapsco River with a plan. The plan, is to duplicate the investment, development, and gentrification of the Inner Harbor. It seems easy enough, Westport was once just like the Inner Harbor. They were both industrial waterfronts. Industry has abandoned Westport leaving room for new residential, retail, office, and hotels. Patrick Turner will do just that. As far as existing Westport residents, investors and rehabbers have been knocking on their doors getting them to sell low so in a few years after the gentrification they can sell high and make a fortune. My advice to existing Westport residents would to hold on to your homes as long as you can because you will be rolling in the cash in a few years.
Photo From Developer Website
Waterview Overlook, Cherry Hill has a much smaller piece of developable on the waterfront land than Westport. Even though Cherry Hill consists almost exclusively of public housing and low income housing there is a waiting list to pay for $300-400k to live in Cherry Hill.
Montgomery Park, this Baltimore land mark that was a warehouse for Montgomery Ward has been lovingly restored and put to productive use. Sadly it stands alone as far as investment goes. The Carroll Camden Industrial Park is as blighted as ever.
Gateway South, between the Carroll Camden Industrial Park and Pigtown and their surounding highways this will be a slam dunk and may spur redevelopment of the Carroll Camden Industrial Park that Montgomery Park hasn't been able to.

As far as the original question I posed Will big projects produce catalysts for surounding neighborhoods, well it depends on the project and the neighborhood. Sometimes you just have to be at the right place at the right time.

Monday, November 5, 2007

What Does the Mortgage Crisis Hold for Baltimore?

The United States has dug itself into a big hole. Buying overpriced and inflated homes they can't afford. From 2002-2005 the prices of homes have sky rocketed due in no small part to record low interest rates and new shaky interest only mortgages. Buyers now more than ever have to depend on the assumption that their homes value will increase. Well guess what happens when you assume. Now that home prices aren't going up and since so many people (nearly 1/3 of all new mortgages are interest only) they haven't paid down the actual price of their home.

Baltimore is no different. During the years in question 2002-2005 many Baltimore neighborhoods gave gentrified. Canton, Pigtown, Reservoir Hill, and Patterson Park have now seen an alarming number of foreclosures. New development, whether here or in neighboring communities have also played a part in the inflation and therefore the foreclosures. In the not so distant past, land and the homes that sit on them were dirt cheap, no pun intended. The practice of flipping one or homes has become common practice. Flippers have often lost it all because they need to get rid of the house or houses to save their skin. Baltimore's up and comers are now in Jeopardy for the time being.
Charles Village for one has scaled back numerous development plans including turning $700,000 condos into rentals. The Westport development may have to go on the back burner for a while too.Now don't fret too much, it's not all bad. Baltimore still has a pent up demand for new quality afdordable housing.Baltimore can and already has started to look else where. This is a great oppurtunity to show case neighborhoods that have, for too long gone under the radar. Some such neighborhoods and developments include: Athena Square in Greektown, The new Uplands, Orchard Ridge (Freedom Village/Claremont), Station North, The new O'Donnell Heights, The new Park Heights, Penn North, McElderry Park, and Middle East. All of these neighborhoods either are or will be offering new housing at relatively affordable prices. New housing is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to affordable housing. Neighborhoods around the harbor owe their sucess almost exclusively to homesteading. The option of homesteading can make or break an older neighborhood trying to rebound.
More good news, when the housing market turns around again, development in Baltimore's glitzy neighborhoods will continue where it left off while at the same time other neighborhoods have turned during the mortgage crisis. In the long term it's a win win for Baltimore, it may be hard to picture but just think of the year 2010, it will have panned out just like I said.