Saturday, October 16, 2010

Woodberry Light Rail:TOD In the Jones Falls Valley

Anybody who's picked up a History Book on Baltimore knows that Hampden Woodberry started out as Mill Villages. The biggest players were Clipper Mill, Union Mill, Meadow Mill, and Mount Vernon which occupied four separate buildings. After the closings of the Mills the Neighborhoods experienced decline and then went on the upswing due to the success of the "Avenue" in Hampden. Now the Mills are back in town and the creators of Hampden Woodberry are now becoming a major player in its continues success. Though not everything can be saved I think a true TOD Village consisting mostly of the old Mill Buildings can be created in the vicinity of the Woodberry Light Rail Stop and bring beauty back to the Jones Falls Valley.
Clipper Mill has been the talk of the City when it comes Mill Preservation. Its original buildings have been converted into Artist/Office Space, The Woodberry Kitchen Restaurant, and the Assembly Apartments. New Town Homes and Single Family Homes have been built recently as part of this project. It is located just west of I-83 and its Union Avenue Underpass. I should point out that east of I-83 there are some abandoned Buildings on Clipper Mill Road that like the name suggests, is part of the Original Clipper Mill.
A very worthwhile restoration that has been over shadowed by Clipper Mill has been Meadow Mill. This Flower Mill, which was and is much smaller than Clipper Mill has been converted into a Gym and space for the Potters Guild of Baltimore. The Meadow Mill Athletic Club has gotten rave reviews and was voted the most "Kid Friendly" Gym in Baltimore. Meadow Mill is located just below Clipper Mill and is a little closer to the Union Avenue underpass. This is without a doubt, the closest Mill to the Woodberry Light Rail Stop.
Buildings 1 and 2 of the sprawling Mount Vernon Mills Complex have renovation plans on deck. Building off the success of Clipper Mill, the Mills redevelopment has moves east of I-83 to the intersection of Falls Road and Chestnut Avenue. This is located at the bottom of Hampden and offers some of the most unspoiled views of the Jones Falls. This is also where some of the first housing of Hampden came up seeing as it's detached and/or duplexes. There are some Office Condos near the old Mill Buildings as well. It was made to mimic the Mills. The new Mount Vernon Mills will be a mixed use development contianing Restaurants, Offices, and Apartments. Although it's close to the Woodberry Light Rail Stop and the North Avenue Light Rail Stop this Mill is far enough away from both to truly be considered TOD, but don't fret! There's a Hampden Shuttle Bug that takes people two and from the Woodberry Light Rail Stop. A new stop should be added here.
Another Building of the Mount Vernon Mills Complex is slated for preservation and a rebirth. This is building 4 also known as Union Mill. It got its name for being located on Union Avenue at Buena Vista Avenue and Clipper Mill Road. It is one block east of the I-83 underpass. The use for the Building is Apartments for Teachers. That's right, you can only live here if you're a Teacher. This is a great step in affordable housing as it identifies a group of people who need it most.
Now what I've mentioned so far in this post are projects that have been completed, or are in the works along the Jones Falls Valley. There are numerous eye sores along here that can be remedied to truly beautify the Jones Falls Valley and make it a 21st Century TOD Mill Village. Now I discussed buildings 1,2, and 4 of the Mount Vernon Mills. What happened to building 3? Back in the 1960s when I-83 was being built, it was demolished in favor of the Pepsi Bottling Plant. With the Mills closing in Hampden Woodberry it seemed rather odd for an industrial use to build here. Allow me to offer my theory; I-83 was supposed to extend pass Fayette St. through Fells Point and Canton, cross the Harbor and Meet I-95. This would have been a great route for truckers going to I-95 or the Port of Baltimore. The extended I-83 was canceled and I think Pepsi jumped the gun on opening their bottling plant here. I think Pepsi should relocate near the Port of Baltimore for easier access to said areas and free up the space it occupies in Hampden.
In its place will be mixed use TOD Village with Retail, Condos, and Town Homes. Lets face it, the Pepsi Bottling Plant is an ugly eyesore. The Jones Valley can not move forward in its rebirth with that piece of property as is. Also, the Mills near the Woodberry Light Rail Stop are relatively small projects not yielding a lot of new uses. To make this area a true TOD Village we need high density which is what the redeveloped Pepsi Site will be. There is ample room for close to 500 Condos and Town Homes flanked by Neighborhood Retail. Speaking of the Light Rail stop, shouldn't it be renamed "Hampden Woodberry?" I think so, that will instantly make Hampden appear more mass transit friendly. It already is with the Shuttle Bug to and from the Light Rail Stop.
Along Clipper Mill Road there is still a Mill Building that's part of the original Clipper Mill that hasn't seen any rebirth. I say it should follow in the foot steps of Union Mill to provide affordable housing for a specific sector of public servants. This time it will be emergency workers. So Cops, Firefighters, and Paramedics will be the targets for the Clipper Mill Road Building. These will be Condos for purchase rather than rentals at Union Mill. Also along Clipper Mill Road are unattractive auto related businesses that should be redeveloped into detached housing that matches Hampden's earliest housing also in the area.
As you can see, the Jones Falls Valley has captured my interest and I can't wait to see what's in store for it. I have some more posts in mind concerning the area so stay tuned!


Anonymous said...

Enjoying readed this article, but I have some concerns if we tear down or force out an industry that actually employs a few people (bottling plant) in favor of condos and retail. First, any greenfields development in this area would take away from the Avenue and rowhouse renovations. Baltimore probably needs less greenfields projects, not more, until the demand is there.

Unknown said...

Nice read, however you need to learn a bit more about the history of the area. The Mills were built by Heratio Nelson Gambrill and David Carroll. Gambrill & Sons owned the land and built all of the duplex stone houses. The Union Mills building was the Largest Plant in the New World when built and Baltimore was the largest Cotton Duct producer at the time. They had 7 Mills at one time. What is now called Clipper Mill (burned) was not even one of the mills at the time. The Real Clipper Mill is Baltimore Roofing now. They all converted to the Mount Vernon Mills on 1838 and the company is still in business today! If you are looking for some real info on the area feel free to email me!