Monday, November 24, 2008

Greater Rosemont:Remnants of Industry

First off let me be clear of the Boundaries of what I call "Greater Rosemont" North Avenue to the north, Monroe St. to the east, Gwynns Falls/Leakin Park to the West and Route 40/Franklin St. to the south.The 11 neighborhoods that make up this cluster were and still are a victim of suburban flight. It's almost as if no one has touched them since the 1970s and have been left there to rot. The questions one must ask themselves when confronted with a chunk of the city that needs so much attention is why and how? I can think of a big reason; Industry right smack dab in the middle of the neighborhood cluster are industrial ruins that had they not been present during the neighborhoods' initial decline would have stemmed the tide of urban decay.

What baffles me about this industrial anomaly is that it was built in the early 20th as were the residences that surround it. As early as World War I the push for suburban flight for the middle class was on and Greater Rosemont was west Baltimore's response. One thing the suburban dream promised was cleaner air and green lawns, something that's hard to come by when you live near an industrial area. The decentralization of jobs component of Suburbia didn't take effect until after World War II some 35 odd years later. By that time, the industrial revolution was over and the number of industrial jobs was diminishing and plants were not expanding.

This left Greater Rosemont flawed in its suburban appeal and vulnerable to blockbusting. From 1945-1955 the cluster had changed from all white to all black. In 1968 the MLK riots destroyed streets that bordered the clusters of neighborhoods (Edmondson Avenue, North Avenue, and Monroe St.) Neither the bordering streets or the neighborhoods that lie within them have recovered.Well now it's time these neighborhoods see some large scale recovery. Grassroots efforts done by a few of the neighborhoods have had a small positive effect but there hasn't been any large intervention. The most successful gentrification stories have the same beginning middle and end. It's a troubled area that borders on a neighborhood that just saw gentrification and the troubled neighborhood trys to capitalize on it. This has been a proven strategy in Baltimore and Cities across the Country. Unfortunately in the case of Greater Rosemont there aren't any neighborhoods nearby that are draws for it to latch onto. Greater Rosemont has to gentrify itself from within, a much more challenging method of gentrification but that's all we have to work with at the present time. There maybe some hope with the Fulton Avenue streetscape enhancements and the West Baltimore MARC Redevelopment on the eastern and southern borders respectively.The method I'm using is redeveloping the industrial wasteland that pollutes the middle of the neighborhood cluster. Sound crazy? Well it is but that's what they said to the developers of Charles Center, Harbor Place, and Silo Point. There is one untapped resource in the treasure chest of gentrification in Greater Rosemont and that is the Amtrak and MARC lines that run right through the industrial wasteland. As part of the Baltimore Regional Rail Plan there are two lines the Orange and the Purple which will share the right of way with MARC and Amtrak. The idea behind them was to localize those lines and help the neighborhoods they run through. The purple line is the line that runs through Greater Rosemont. The Rail Plan doesn't include a stop in Greater Rosemont for the purple line but I will include one instantly making it eligible for TOD. Both the MARC lines and the CSX lines that run through Greater Rosemont will be tunneled allowing more land to become available.
The new development will be high density apartments and condos in the mid market range with ground floor retail that will serve the community that already exists and the new community that will come into existence. Currently Greater Rosemont has very little retail. It was spread out through corner stores but those have mostly closed further contributing to the feeling of abandonment. The existing community will see some redevelopment depending on the block. Some blocks are in great shape while others are plagued with vacant boarded up homes and still others have been demolished awaiting redevelopment.
Greater Rosemont may have remnants of industry now but through unconventional methods of gentrification they will be a thing of the past.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Canton: Maritime Overlay and Mixed Use Development Living In Harmony

Let me make one thing clear before I begin this post, I don't want to kick out thriving industrial businesses and redevelop the land they sit on. I support the Maritime Overlay District but within it there is vacant land that probably won't attract additional industrial uses.
It's no secret that Baltimore's famed Inner Harbor was once an industrial port. In fact of you look closely enough in certain areas you can still see evidence that proves this. The Middle Branch is following this model of taking vacant and under utilized industrial land in Westport and Fairfield.

The most recent complete makeover was Inner Harbor East, Locust Point is in the process of having old industrial land redeveloped into mixed use (Tide Point and Silo Point), and soon to come is Harbor Point on the Western edge of the Fels Point and that's it, the Inner Harbor's built out right? Wrong!
Now there are two Cantons, there's the neighborhood of Canton which is almost built out but then there's the Canton Industrial Area which has lots of land available for redevelopment. With better economic circumstances would developers have been savvy enough to venture here? Well I guess we'll find out once the economy turns around and the housing market is privy to risk takers.Now when looks at the Canton Industrial Area today he or she may be perplexed by why this would be good land for high density mixed development. After all, there are CSX lines running throughout and I-895 cutting through it. Well, my last two posts discuss these issues one talks about the MTA, Amtrak, and CSX lines tunneling their above ground lines and in the other it discusses the elimination of I-895 north of the Harbor Tunnel and funneling its traffic onto I-95 right then and there rather than at the city/county line.
Ok, that frees up some land but not all of it, and didn't I say at the beginning of this post that I didn't want to disrupt the Maritime Overlay District and kick out industrial uses that are working well? Yes I did, although there are thriving industries in the Canton Industrial Area there is lots of vacant and under utilized land as well even with I-895 and the CSX lines in existence. Some industrial businesses that are still successful have had to make massive lay offs over the past 50 years due to workers being replaced by machines and computers yet their parking lots remain large enough to accommodate a much larger work force that just sit there. Would these businesses be interested in selling off their now over sized parking lots to put a little extra coin in their pocket? Sounds reasonable to me
I'm getting a little ahead of my self here, our economy is in no shape for what I'm proposing but, the tunneling of the CSX lines and the demolition of I-895 might be better for the short term to free up even more land for when the market becomes favorable for building of any kind.
Now comes the question of mixing industrial uses with upscale residential, retail, hotel, and offices. The gentrification of all neighborhoods around the Harbor have done it from Fels Point to South Baltimore to Locust Point to Inner Harbor East and even the neighborhood of Canton. The Middle Branch neighborhoods of Westport, Brooklyn, and Curtis Bay will be rebuilt under the same formula. Further away from the harbor once the Red Line is built there will be TOD in Orangeville where the East Baltimore MARC Station is proposed. Like Canton Orangeville is a mix of thriving and dead industry and the dead land will be redeveloped.
Redveloping Industrial Canton, it's almost too easy it's been proven time and time again in Baltimore that Maritime Overlay and Mixed Use Devlelopment can live in Harmony.