Thursday, September 22, 2011

Howard Park Super Pride: The End of an Era

On Saturday September 10th, the Howard Park Super Pride Pride Sign came down signaling the end of the Local Chain's tenure in Baltimore. Actually, the store has been closed for 11 years, it's just that it's taken that long to remove the sign. I don't see what the big deal was, it was done in a matter of hours. I just happened to be there at the corner of Liberty Heights and Hillsdale Road as it happened.
The fate of the Super Pride was sealed as "Neighborhood" Supermarkets began to expand to sizes that were up to three times that of the Super Pride. The Supermarket mentality has been go big or go home. I guess Super Pride swallowed its Pride and went home.
Howard Park began as a few estate homes that lined Liberty Heights Avenue at around the turn of the Century. Back then this was still the County. I believe Howard Park was part of the 1918 annex (correct me if I'm wrong). Howard Park acted as a flight to the suburbs before there were real suburbs. Howard Park, to the naked eye looks like a Suburb being that it's located on the extreme outskirts of the City.

Between World War I and the Great Depression Howard Park saw unprecedented growth. The stately Victorians that line Howard Park's Main Streets were joined by small bungalows, duplexes, and a few row homes and Apartments. Liberty Heights Avenue quickly became the Neighborhood's Make shift Main Street. The Retail has always been Liberty Heights and Gwynn Oak and the blocks immediately surrounding the intersection.
The Grocery Store located at the corner of Liberty Heights and Gwynn Oak showed that Howard Park was indeed a suburb. Although located in the City, the Corner Store that to this day so many Baltimorons depend on were absent. Instead what was then a large suburban style Grocery Store was built. As cars became the norm, this new Grocery Store became a magnet for all of Northwest Baltimore.
I couldn't find much information about Super Pride itself so I pieced together what little information I had in hopes that someone who reads this has more info and can fill me in via the comments field. Super Pride was the Grocery Store by the 1970s. The little building that housed the Super Pride has three spaces. Eventually the Super Pride had expanded into all three spaces. This was the beginning of the go big or go home mentality. Business had slowly begun to dwindle as newer and therefore bigger Grocery Stores and Northwest Plaza (Food King) and Reisterstown Road plaza (Giant) had opened.
The Super Pride had become compromised as Convience Stores and large Drug Stores that were almost equal in size begun popping up along Liberty Heights Avenue. Eventually in 2000, the Super Pride shut its doors and pulled down its metal latch for the last time. The once proud suburban Grocery Store that was Super Pride had become a vacant eyesore although the sign remains. At least one interim business took space in the old Super Pride. Around 2008-2009 a Tennis Shoe Warehouse took the space and there are still signs advertising it although the business is shuttered.
Howard Park Residents in the first part of the 21st Century worked tirelessly to get a new Grocery Store and redevelop the site of the old Super Pride. Sadly there were no takers. During the O'Malley years a Strategic Neighborhood Neighborhood Action Plan (SNAP) that includes Howard Park and a redevelopment scenario for the intersection of Liberty Heights and Gwynn Oak that calls for a new Grocery Store and additional Retail Space as well as the demolition of the Super Pride.
Well here we are in late 2011 in the middle of the worst economy since the great depression. Against all odds Howard Park has landed a new Grocery Store. Up & Comer Shop Rite has decided to open up shop at the site of the former Super Pride. The announcement came just three days before the City Primary Elections in a very public spectacle with City Officials including the Mayor. Congressmen Elijah Cummings even showed up and spoke. How do I know? I was there. The highly puclicized event inluded the demolition of the Super Pride sign (that had still been up 11 years after its closure) and the unveiling of the Artist's rendering of the Shop Rite.
The demolition of the old Super Pride sign signaled the end of an era although said era ended in 2000 when the aforementioned store actually closed but with addition of Shop Rite it also signals the beginning of a new one.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Uplands: Where's the Retail?

Where's the Retail? That's a simple question right? The problem with a simple question is that they don't always have a simple answer. Such is the case with the new Uplands Development and its relationship (or lack there of) with the Community and responding to requests Community Members whether they're prospective buyers or residents in adjacent Communities. I can't really answer the question of where the Retail is but what I can do is make a good case for adding to make ALL parties happy.
Uplands has a very interesting history and hopefully a future that is equally interesting. Uplands grew up with the Edmondson Village Community as an all White Garden Apartment Complex that was meant to be a stepping ground for upwardly mobile World War II Veterans . In the early 1960s Uplands went from all White to all Black as did the greater Edmondson Village Community as a whole. I know in other rental Communities, to speed up the blockbusting process, evicted all White Residents and replaced them with Black Residents. Whether or not this was done with Uplands I don't know, I haven't found evidence to support either scenario.
The Greater Edmondson Village Area went into decline in the late 1970s and early 1980s. It was at this point that Uplands became a Public Housing Project that the City turned over to the residents as an attempted Co-Op. This did not work as the distressed Uplands grew more and more crime ridden and vacancy rates rose. Uplands was eventually turned over to HUD where the dilapidated were emptied out by the few remaining Residents and were boarded up.
In 2004 the City decided to turn Developer and they set their site on the vacant Uplands Complex. They acquired it from HUD either free of charge or an amount very small like $1. The City envisioned turning Uplands into a mixed income Community of more than 600 units featuring all housing types. The City then realized that if the property of New Psalmist Baptist Church were to be added, another 400+ plus units could be added to the redevelopment, the grand total of new housing units would be bumped up to 1100. The acquisition of New Psalmist was a success and the total number of units is now 1100.
In 2008 demolition began on the entire Uplands Neighborhood. Once demolition was complete work began on upgrading the infrastructure in preparation for the new development. The official groundbreaking was on October 1st, 2010 and Phase I is just now getting underway at Edmondson and Athol Avenues. Apartment and Condo Buildings will flank Edmondson Avenue in keeping with the philosophy that higher density housing should be near the busy streets.
Upon glancing at the Master Plan, I noticed that something was amiss; Retail! Where is it? Surely a development of this size would warrant it right? Well I think so. Apparently the City and the Developers don't. They seem to be promoting Edmondson Village Shopping Center as the "Premier Retail Destination" for the new Uplands Community.
Now don't get me wrong, I love Edmondson Village, it's one of my favorite Neighborhoods from a Researcher/Planner's stand point. The Shopping Center on the other hand, is not conducive to Uplands or Edmondson Village itself for that matter.
I think that the new Apartments along Edmondson Avenue in the new Uplands should include Ground Floor Retail that is more upscale because the new development as well as existing developments more than warrant it. I'm not suggesting a Ruth's Chris Steakhouse but I'm also not suggesting a Family Dollar.
Good Tenants should include but aren't limited to; Starbucks, Coldstone Creamery, Walgreens, Dry Cleaners, Wine& Spirits Shop, Five Guys, Mens Warehouse, Quiznos, Pier 1 imports, and a Bank.
I know that the relationship between the Developer and the Community is not optimal. The Community feels that the Developer is taking their money and running and that the Developer is not listening. Keeping that in mind, I would like to speak to the developer in their own language; money.
Uplands as is will be a big pay day for you, but selling privately owned homes will only be a one time payment. Allowing for Retail will be the gift that keeps on giving. Charging rent to Retail Tenants in what will be a prime location after the Red Line is built will literally take you to the Bank. Not only that, with a good selection of Retail Tenants, you can raise the home prices and the rents for the Market Rate Units.
Like I said at the beginning, Retail at Uplands will make all parties happy. And I never had an intention to renege on it.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Writer's Block!!!

Sorry folks got a bit of writers block which I've had for a couple of months. Hopefully new ideas are on their way and with ideas come posts....well usually it does it might take a little while for an idea to become a post, putting pen to paper can be a difficult process. Hopefully I'll get a flood of ideas that can easily become posts.