Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Not So Concerned Citizens

Within Baltimore's Foest Park Area there are several smaller Neighborhoods that make up the area as a whole including; Forest Park, West Forest Park, Central Forest Park, The Concerned Citizens of Forest Park, and Forest Park Golf Course. Put them together and you'll have the "Greater Forest Park Area" most of these Neighborhoods are some of the finest Baltimore has to offer containing an African American Middle and Upper Class Residents, consisting of mostly large Single Family Homes that have been gorgeously restored over the years as well as smaller Single Family Homes, Duplexes, Row Homes, and Apartments. Most of the Greater Forest Park Area has avoided urban decay with only a few vacants to speak. However there is one Neighborhood in the Forest Park Area that hasn't escaped Urban Decay and its housing stock has become distressed.
Ironically of the Neighborhoods consisting of Forest Park, the one whose name suggests it to be the most stable, that very Neighborhood is the most distrsessed. I'm speaking of course about the Concerned Citizens of Forest Park (CCOFP). CCOFP south of Forest Park Avenue, north of Wayne Avenue, East of Lyndhurst Avenue, and west of Garrison Boulevard.
This Neighborhood, unlike the rest of Forest Park is almost all Row Homes with a few Single Family Homes mixed in. My educated guess is that some of the Single Family Homes were once sprawling Estates that were subdivided into Row Homes that now make up CCOFP. The Single
Family Homes for the most part appear older and distressed.
CCOFP's state aside, Forest Park packs a lot of punch in its name. It is very easy to look past the lack luster Retail selection and see the character of the homes, the relatively low crime, and the many parks in the area such as Leakin Park, Lake Ashburton, and Forest Park Golf Course. It's easy to see why Forest Park acts as a destination and how the name speaks of an affluent area.
So how did CCOFP get this way? Could it be that it's primarily Row Homes and not Single Family Homes? My theory is that it's BECAUSE Forest Park thought of as an enclave for the Middle Class and Upper Middle Class that the condition of CCOFP has remained under the radar.
It's hard to imagine that Forest Park or anything tied to its name could have ditsressed housing stock or a high vacancy rate. I wasn't aware of it myself until I spent some time there delivering
literature on foot. I was honestly shocked but it gave me the idea for this post so it can't be all bad.
Forest Park, being in the position that its name sells, would bode quite well to newly redeveloped housing stock selling well. CCOFP is in a state where I feel redevelopment is the only option. I also think it well speak well to the area having some new housing stock added to it. Now what par of CCOFP would I slate for redevelopment? All of it. Yes all of it, the Neighborhood is small enough that it could be amcomplished relatively easily. It also has a low home ownership rate
as compared to Neighboring Areas.Now what type of new housing stock will replace the aged housing stock in CCOFP? New Town Homes. They will be large in size complete with a two car garage in the rear that will go along with Baltimore's "classic row house alley." Town Homes will be featured in the new CCOFP except along Garrison Boulevard where Apartments like the new Senior Apartment Building will be built.
I know that the redevelopment of an entire Neighborhood seems like a drastic step but condsiering how small said Neighborhood is and how it stem the tide if urban decay that may easily plague the rest of Forest Park if intervention isn't done in CCOFP. I mentioned how unlike the rest of the Neighborhood that Garrison Boulevard will have Apartments on its frontage. Perhaps this opening a door to a future post?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Adios Armistead

The first post I did regarding Armistead Gardens I posed the question of whether the "experiment" of turning a public housing project like McCulloh Homes into the hands of its tenants by making it a Co-Op. Since then, my opinion has shifted away from a Co-Op at McCulloh towards a redevelpment of the site, mostly due to the fact that I learned that Uplands had been a CoOp.
That post landed a lot of comments from Residents of Armistead Gardens both past and present blasting the Co-Op and the Neighborhood in general. Comments saying that the Co-Op is racist or fines Residents for not making repairs they can't afford or that the Nieghborhood has
become an open air drug market and that Kids who have grown up there become addicts and that those currently living there want nothing more than to get out.
This unprecedented amount of responses led me to write another post regarding Armistead Gardens entitled; Should Armistead Gardens Hit the Wrecking Ball? Obviously, this post gave a less favorable synopsis of Armistead Gardens which was merely echoing the sentiment of user
comments from my original post. The title question was never answered because I left it open to discussion for people to comment on. My plan to have additional reader comments worked perfectly. There were a lot of comments regarding Armistead Gardens in a less than favorable tone from its Residents. In not so many words they said Yes Armistead Gardens Should Hit the Wrecking Ball so here I am in November 2011 saying "Adios Armistead!"
Originally Armistead Gardens was a product of World War II. It was Barricks for the now defunct Fort Armistead. After World War II Armistead Gardens, like other Barrick housing development such as O'Donnell Heights and Cherry Hill, it was converted to Public Housing.
Unlike the other aforementioned developments, Baltimore wanted to get rid of Armistead Gardens from their Public Housing Portfolio in 1955. It was then that the City turned Armistead over to its Residents who in turn formed a Co-Op in which Residents owned their homes but were automatically subject to a 99 year ground lease.
Armistead then became a very tight market. There are some homes that have never been bought or sold since 1955, they've just "stayed in the family" for generations. There has been very little influx in 20th century Armistead Gardens. Between 2000 and 2010 there has been more influx than in previous decades the almost all White Armistead has seen a rapid increase in Hispanic Residents in the past 10 years.
There are several theories as to why Armistead Gardens has gone down hill, one is that there is a lack of influx, another is that the Hispanic Influx has had a negative effect, another is that the tear down of Neighboring Public Housing developments Freedom Village, Claremont Homes, and Hollander Ridge have had a "spillover" of their crimes into Armistead. Whatever the cuase may be for the decline of Armistead, it appears as far as my readers are concerned, that redevelopment might be the only choice.
One big reason I'm choosing Armistead as a potential redevelopment site is its lcoation. I forsee the far east side if Baltimore from Herring Run Park to Hopkins Bayview being transformed into a TOD haven. My reason? The Red Line and the East Baltimore MARC Station that comes with it. The Bayview stop on the Red Line is the proposed location of the East Baltimore MARC. One thing that's misleading is that the "Bayview" stop is actually located in Orangeville just north
of Bayview.
Orangeville, for the most part is a 20th Century Industrial Park with varying degress of occupied land. There are also a few houses in a very small residential enclave. There is plenty of vacant land in Orangeville that could be rezoned into mixed use high density residential with ground floor retail with improved "Office Flex Space" and an Indutrial Overlay so as not to kick out remaining Industry.Orangeville, in addition to being located directly north of Bayview, it is also directly south of Armistead Gardens. Armistead Gardens would be just included as part of the Orangeville Redevelopment.
I always envisoined a redeveloped Armistead as a higher density alternative to Orchard Ridge which has replaced the Freedom Village and Claremont Homes Pubic Housing Projects. The densities would be exchanged from the original land uses seeing as Armistead is low density and Freedom Village and Claremont Homes were High Density that have since been redeveloped as the low density Orachrd Ridge. It only seems fitting that a redeveloped Armistead be high density. The Orangeville Armistead area is poised for big change thanks to the Red Line and East Baltimore MARC Station.
Seeing as Armistead Residents have shown very little Neighborhood Pride and sentmenality please join them and myself when we say; Adios Armistead!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Liberty Height Redevlopment III Mondawmin College Town

It would make sense that the final installment of my series of Liberty Heights Redevelopment be focused on the eastern terminus of Liberty Heights; Mondawmin Mall. Mondawmin Mall has improved itself leaps and bounds over the past several years thanks to a $60 Million renovation
and new anchor tenants like Target, Shoppers Food Warehouse, Marshalls, and Ana's Linens. Yes Mondawmin Mall is a great suburban destination. The only probem with that statement is tat Mondawmin Mall is located in the City where in order to stay viable, high density and walkability reign king. To ensure continued success at Mondawmin Mall and surrounding areas; further redevelopment and other changes should be made.
The Mondawmin area, in my opinion is something of an untapped resource. It can be something of a College town like Mount Vernon and Charles Village. Mondawmin's location near both Baltimore City Community College and Coppin State University. Both Schools have grown
tremendously over the past decade and Mondawmin Mall can be the perfect Retail and Transit Haven for both Schools.Although the Mall is currently one of Baltimore's busiest Rail Transit Hubs; it's not nearly what it could be. One reason is that the entire Mondawmin Area and all that surround it are not considered to be the same area. Druid Hill Park, Coppin State University, Baltimore City Community College and Lake Ashburton are not recognized as Neighbors.
A good way to unify the area is way finding signs. These will alert people as to where they are in relation to other Community Amenities and if the designs to the signs are unique to the Mondawmin area, that will further unify the area. Another way would to expand the underground area of the Metro Station. This will be very costly but I do see it fitting. If escalators were located not just at the Mall entrance facing Liberty Heights, but also at Druid Hill Park, Baltimore City Community College, and Coppin State University. The additional entrances and exits will allow for a larger ridership base for the Metro where said riders might not have considered it in the past.
On the Retail end, Mondawmin's current selection is serving the Population quite well and I foresee it continuing to do so for years to come. One thing that can be brought to the area that it is currently lacking is Transit Oriented Development (TOD) If you read my much older post Mondawmin Mall Stuck in the Suburbs you will probably know where this is going. If you didn't or you've forgotten, I'll write it again. If there's one thing I don't like in an urban area
it's surface level parking. I think it is a waste of valuable space and in an urban area it shows little to no value in the land. If surface level parking exists it means that no other developers,
retailers, or businesses are interested in coming to the area. In other words, if there was demand to build in the area, the surface parking lots would be long gone.Now how do we create that demand in Mondawmin? Easy all we have to do is emphasize its strategic location on the Metro and its proximity to two Colleges and two parks and the Zoo. The Colleges and the Mall are all major Employers in their rights. So who wouldn't want to live just
steps from the Metro that will take them to Work and who wouldn't want to live near Campus without living directly on it? By planting questions like that in the heads of people looking to move to the City whether it be for Work or School, Mondawmin proves itself a healthy contender. Now there's your demand.
TOD is usually high density in order to force as many units or suites into a small area as possible. Mondawmin Mall's surface lots are obviously my preferred location for TOD in Mondawmin. TOD in the area will be mostly residential in the form of mixed income Apartments,
Condos, and "stacked" Town Homes. A few buildings will be designated as Student Housing for the Neighboring Colleges. Also on property located within the residential buildings will be a Hotel. Now this begs the question; where will people now park? With my proposed expansion of the Metro station into areas other than the Mall, this allow for an underground Parking deck that will encompass the foot print of the current Mall Parking Lot and will serve the Mall and
residences above it.Well that concludes my series of posts regarding the redevelopment of
Liberty Heights Avenue. By focusing on Howard Park, Forest Park, and
Mondawmin, it should create a synergy that will stretch across all of
Liberty Heights.