Saturday, April 24, 2010

Allendale East: More New Development on Edmondson Avenue

Whether anybody knows it or not, Edmondson Avenue is on the forefront of a major transformation with both Uplands and the West Baltimore MARC on the cusp of redevelopment. The problem is, if orchestrated wrong it will fail and if it was being done to my satisfaction would I be writing a post? I probably would but the fact of the matter is, there's a lot of potential I see in the Greater Edmondson Village/Rosemont neighborhoods from new housing and redevelopment to additional streetscape enhancements and everything in between.
As the new Uplands Community is built in the coming decade we have to look at Edmondson Village and see how it can turn around and be a sought after community just like Uplands. Now, what are the weaknesses of Edmondson Village? Lack of new housing, decaying Apartment Complex, housing stock on Edmondson Avenue gives poor reputation of the neighborhood, lack of sidewalks on Edmondson Avenue, the Red Line as proposed will increase traffic on Edmondson Avenue rather than relieve it, and a declining home ownership rate.Now I didn't mean to paint a completely bleak picture of Edmondson Village, as a matter fact the vast majority of its housing stock looks great. It is in danger of losing its appeal as more and more renters under slum lords continue to move in. That, according to the Edmondson Village Master Plan, is the number one concern of residents. Well Edmondson Village residents, I have the prescription to your neighborhood worries. Right now, driving through the neighborhood I see plenty of "For Sale" and "For Rent" suggesting a turbulent demographics shift. I say all those housing on the market be bought up by the City and sold back to perspective buyers for $1. The $1 Row House will come with strings attached; they invest at least $100,000 in their homes, and they (the owners) occupy them for a minimum of 7 years. This will restore the high home ownership rate in the Community. Next lets talk new housing or lack there of. I see a great parcel of land in the "Allendale" section of Edmondson Village. Dismantling the dated Edmondson Avenue/Hilton Parkway partial clover leaf will allow for additional space for new housing.
It will be located on the east side of Hilton St. below Edmondson Avenue. It will consist of town homes and a relocated Hilton Recreation Center with a 100% Home Ownership Rate and it will be called "Allendale East." Now the lingering problem of the row homes on Edmondson Avenue. The ones pictured above are among the healthiest to offer. Now the portion of the new Uplands that faces Edmondson Avenue will be higher density Apartments/Condos. I think the redevelopment of row homes into the same style Condos in Uplands will "keep the momentum of renewal" going into Edmondson Village and beyond.
These are the type of Apartment/Condo Buildings that would flock Edmondson Avenue from Uplands to the West Baltimore MARC Station. It features 48 units, underground parking, and four retail spaces on the ground floor. The higher density closer to the "Main St" goes along with common sense urban planning.Now Edmondson Village does have Apartments currently. They're located in the way back of the neighborhood at the intersection of Wildwood Parkway and Stokes Drive. They're known as Wildwood Gardens and their age and hard use have rendered them nonviable in today's market. Their location in the back of the neighborhood may also be a cause for concern. I think a redevelopment with town homes in their place would be the right way to go. I think after their demolition, Edmondson Village will be a much calmer neighborhood. The new town homes will be called "Leakin Village" and will offer picturesque views of Leakin Park and will be priced accordingly with a 100% Home Ownership Rate. The Median recently planted along Edmondson Avenue will symbolically represent the Red Line. It runs from Edmondson Village to the MARC Station above ground. The lush Community enhancement may become a thing of the past. With the Red Line set to be rammed down Edmondson Avenue the same way the Light Rail runs down Howard St. taking all medians and turn lanes in its path. Strangely enough, this is what the MTA thinks will turn around Edmondson Village when it in fact it will further contribute to its decline, case in point; Howard St. In order to make the Red Line work for everything west of the MARC Station it has to be tunneled and double tracked. Tunneled Light Rail is not much slower than Heavy Rail for the mere fact that it doesn't have vehicle traffic to get stuck in. When doubled tracked trains won't have to wait for each other on Cooks Lane where just a single track is proposed. I know it will cost a lot more but cutting corners on something like this has proven to be detrimental.As we look down the long and bumpy road to renewal known as Edmondson Avenue, I ask that you keep this post and these talking points in mind. Simply shoving a rail line down an already congested street will not solve the underlying Community problems. Examining Edmondson Village, which is at a teetering point right now and redeveloping and building new where needing and restoring Home Ownership will work wonders for the Community.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Mount Clare:Lets See Some Stimulus Dollars

The American Investment and Recovery Act. In these tough economic times it was and is today's version of the New Deal which made FDR one of the best Presidents on the Domestics. The American Investment and Recovery Act is set to create jobs for workers mostly in the Blue Collar sector as they will be charged with repairing America's aging Infrastructure. As of the writing of this post, I haven't heard of this Act being used to redo an entire a neighborhood. Well that's what I'm proposing for this post and as the title suggests, it's Mount Clare. So Mount Clare, Lets See Some Stimulus Dollars!Mount Clare has earned its page in Baltimore's and the American Railroad's History Books. Its location at the eastern terminus of the B&O Railroad has meant work for those who lived nearby for decades whether it be the maintenance of the tracks & cars, their expansion, or the loading and unloading of goods and services made Mount Clare a destination for anyone willing to work. The B&O's western terminus changed many times over but its eastern terminus will always be Mount Clare. Mount Clare's location has allowed for industry to pop up all around it for its proximity to the Railroad line. Yes, for Mount Clare it was the Great American Love Story known as Capitalism at its best.Like all love stories, a happy ending is hard to come by. When the love story in question is capitalism in post industrial America, it's down right impossible. The B&O Railroad, bought and sold several times rerouted its tracks away from Mount Clare, Industrial Jobs including those on the Railroad itself disappeared never to be seen again. Now did that leave Mount Clare? It left Mount Clare in the same place as all other urban rust belt neighborhoods across the Country. Mount Clare's population began to go down leaving home and businesses vacant and its infrastructure left to crumble.

The gentrification of the Inner Harbor didn't so much as graze Mount Clare. What it did bring was a new Shopping Center known as "Mount Clare Junction" that was integrated into the B&O Rail Museum. The Safeway anchor tenant just closed its doors, the Shopping Center has suffered from high vacancies and low attendance just like the neighborhood it serves. The Inner Harbor Gentrification has turned around Pigtown, Mount Clare's neighbor directly to the east. Sadly, the economy went bust just as there was a shred of hope that Pigtown's gentrification was traveling west to Mount Clare. With Pigtown, Hollins Market, and hopefully Mount Clare Junction's vacant Safeway (pictured above) will be backfilled with another Grocer.Now what makes me think that wanna be Harbor Dwellers would come to Mount Clare? Well take a look at this "Million Dollar" shot from Mount Clare that showcases Downtown. Yep, this picturesque view is afforded to Mount Clare residents past present, and future. Now, this view isn't secluded to Mount Clare exclusively. Other Communities with a great Downtown view have redeveloped with brand new housing. Is this what I want for Mount Clare? NoNow we come to the American Investment and Recovery Act and what it can do for Mount Clare. When you think of that act you would think that at best, it would repave the streets, re cement the sidewalks, restripe crosswalks and median strips, angled parking, more greenery, streetscape enhancements, new traffic signals and count down pedestrian signals, new street lights, and bus stops.But how does this help the housing stock? Directly, it doesn't. Indirectly, it could bring about some homesteaders but not enough. Now where does this leave the Housing Stock? The American Reinvestment and Recovery Act doesn't appear to do much if anything for housing. Now why is that? I don't know. Could additional funds diverted to Mount Clare via the American Investment and Recovery Act be beneficial to Mount Clare and Baltimore as a whole? Yes. What I'm proposing is for the feds to acquire all vacants in Mount Clare just like the O'Malley Administration's "Project 5000" Unlike to Dollar Row Home Program, these homes will be rehabbed BEFORE being sold rather than after. This is Reinvestment in America resulting in Recovery, the definition of the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act. So Mount Clare, Lets See Some Stimulus Dollars!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Could a Saint Agnes Biotech Park Revitalize Wilkens Avenue?

Well, it's official, Biotech Parks are taking Baltimore by storm. Well, actually there are only two, the first is the UMB Biotech Park in Poppleton and the 0ther being the Hopkins Biotech Park in Middle East. The latter is transforming the entire blighted East Baltimore Community into a sought after world class live/work neighborhood with 1500 units of new and rehabbed housing. Baltimore wants to be a world class leader in the Bio-Science field so why not build another Biotech Park? It can be an extension of a Hospital Campus and in a part of town where redevelopment would be very beneficial. Without further ado, I give the St. Agnes Biotech Park.
St. Agnes Hospital is just one of Baltimore's Hospitals leading the way in Medical Innovation. Its location at the intersection of Wilkens Avenue and Caton Avenue has allowed for numerous expansions of its medical campus. St. Agnes Hospital and the communities of Wilkens Avenue create the perfect setting for gentrification with a Biotech Park playing the role as catalyst.Now my proposed location for the Biotech Park is controversial to say the least. Just across Caton Avenue from the Hosital lies Cardinal Gibbons School. Cardinal Gibbons is slated for closure much to the chagrin of its students and alumni. Personally, I'm neutral to the fate of Cardinal Gibbons. However, if fate deals Cardinal Gibbons the hand of closure, I think its campus would make the perfect location for the St. Agnes Biotech Park. If Seton Keough High School (not pictured) were to close (I'm not condoning it) its campus could be an expansion of the Biotech Park. Seton Keough High is located adjacent to Cardinal Gibbons with Caton Avenue frontage rather than the Wilkens Avenue frontage of Cardinal Gibbons. The Biotech Park's borders would be I-95 to the south, Wilkens Avenue to the north, DeSoto Road to the east, and Caton Avenue to the west.Now, of Baltimore's two existing Biotech Parks one doesn't involve residential redevelopment and the other one does. Now, those of you who have read this blog for any length can guess what I have in mind for the surrounding neighborhoods of St. Agnes but for those of you who are first time readers I'll make it simple; I favor redevelopment of three pivotal neighborhoods along Wilkens Avenue. They are: Gwynns Falls, Mill Hill, and Carrollton Ridge. Although the Biotech Park is located south of Wilkens Avenue the neighborhoods slated for major redevelopment are mostly north of it.Now the Biotech Park itself is only Phase I of the whole plan. It can't all be done at once because the market needs to be absorb everything in a timely manner. The Biotech Park and the jobs created from it need to create a demand for better housing options near it for its employees, right now the demand for better housing isn't there which can be seen by the high levels of vacant housing. So Phase II involves new housing. All three neighborhoods will be redeveloped with high density Apartments and Condos along Wilkens Avenue and Fredrick Avenue. These will also go below Wilkens Avenue to overlook Carroll Park, which is a diamond in the rough. Gwynns Falls has a lot of undeveloped land perfect for new housing. Within the neighborhood it will be town homes. The vacant housing stock seems to be contained certain blocks making redevelopment easy. Most developed blocks in Gwynns Falls are very healthy so redevelopment would be quite rare.Mill Hill is the most complex of the three neighborhoods to be effected by the residential portion of the Biotech Park. Shown above is a row of mostly vacant homes that should be slated for redevelopment. But this block doesn't represent all of Mill Hill.This row of homes also located in Mill Hill is relatively healthy with just the two vacants. The vacants could be rehabbed by a developer and sold off or the City could acquire them and sell them as $1 row homes. Redevelopment is not needed.Here is a very healthy part of Mill Hill along Ashton St., blocks like this will remain largely untouched. Ashton St. could use a makeover into a one way eastbound street. This will allow for angled parking on both sides which, in my opinion adds a touch of class and elegance to a row house neighborhood. Finally in Mill Hill are vacant parcels just waiting for new housing. As a general rule of thumb, if it's not along Wilkens or Fredrick Avenue and doesn't have Carroll Park frontage, it will be built as town homes. Also in Mill Hill lies Phase III of the Biotech Park; Westside Shopping Center and Fredrick Avenue. As new residents start populating its surrounding Westside Shopping Center its tenant roster and perhaps its lay out will change to meet the demands of its new clientele. Fredrick Elementary will serve as a School for several Communities whose Schools will close. Fredrick Elementary/Middle will be rebuilt as a brand new State of the Art Facility that will serve in addition to its current population those currently attending Samuel F.B. Morse, Stuart Hill, and Sarah M. Roach Elementaries. Those three Schools will close and will be sold off for development.The last neighborhood along Wilkens Avenue to be redeveloped by the Biotech Park is Carrollton Ridge. Although it's the furthest from St. Agnes and the proposed Biotech Park it will see the most change. Its housing stock is in dire need of intervention and I don't think very much of it can be saved.When driving through Carrollton Ridge, this sight: row of homes that are mostly vacant appear to be the majority rather than the minority like most others. It's because of this that Carrollton Ridge will be almost exclusively new housing. You know what they said before the economy went south; if you build it, they will come.This looks like it was a healthy vibrant block very recently. But if you look closely most of these homes are vacant. It appears the residents here fled very recently suggesting a draining population. Carrollton Ridge needs a lot of help and fast. This block might not have to hit the wrecking ball if these homes are bought and rehabbed right away.Now, there are very healthy parts of Carrollton Ridge and they will be preserved so they can become the majority once again. Well, I've wanted to do a Willkens Avenue Post for quite some time now but I couldn't think of a way to gentrify it because it currently appears to have gone stagnant. The beckoning call of the Biotech and the ever expanding St. Agnes Hospital paired together and going off of the success of the Hopkins Biotech Park gave me the perfect angle.