Thursday, February 16, 2012

Not Highlandtown, Waverly!

There's been some interesting news surrounding the Arts Communities of Baltimore. Rather than migrating to the "new" Arts & Entertainment District in Highlandtown, an emerging Artist Community has quietly been forming northeast of Station North in Waverly. I'm going to take
a microscope to both Highlandtown and Waverly to see if I can put my finger my on this new development.
First of all, I will be talking about "Artists" a lot this go around, so I would like to make clear just what defines an Artist. I think the City defines an Artist as either a Painter, Sculptor, Musician, Poet, or Photographer who makes their living selling their work. I personally think what defines an Artist is much broader and that anyone with a passion for creating anything qualifies as one. My definition might be too broad for the spectrum of this post so I will use the City's narrow definition.
Now lets take a look at Highlandtown; the Neighborhood the City wants for an Entertainment District. Highlandtown historically has been a working class Neighborhood that has catered to the City's ethnic Eastern European Population most notably Polish and Greek Catholics. Bethlehem Steel in Dundalk served as a Major Employer for the Neighborhood until its slow decline after World War II. Another economic benefactor was the Crown Cork & Seel whose sprawling complex was located in the heart of Highlandtown.
Today Highlandtown is on the upswing after disinvestment due to plant closures took their toll on the Neighborhood. Just north of Canton and east of Patterson Park, Highlandtown's location is setting it up for gentrification Neighborhoods closer to the Harbor become built out making the price tag for a house in Highlandtown sky rocket. The Red Line will have a station that serves Highlandtown.Highlandtown has been losing population for quite some time and despite growth in Neighboring Areas between 2000 and 2010 Highlandtown has continued to lose population. Although the Eastern European population is still dominant, there is a growing Hispanic population. Highlandtown is composed almost exclusively of early 20th Century Row Homes with very few trees.
Now lets take a look at where Artists are flocking; Waverly. Waverly is by all accounts suburban, it has tree lined streets Single Family Homes with gardens, Duplex Row Homes, and very little Commercial Activity on streets other than Greenmount Avenue and 33rd St.
The Gothic Architecture alone with high ceilings would attract anyone to Waverly. Waverly started out as a pre annexation suburb with large estates that were divided into smaller lot homes be they Single Family Homes or Row Homes. In 1954 Waverly's crown and jewel; Memorial Stadium Opened and hosted the Os and the Colts until Camden Yards Opened in 1992.The closure of Memorial Stadium drained Waverly of its vitality and it too began losing population. The decline of surrounding Neighborhoods only worsened matters. I think the proximity to Station North has been beneficial to Waverly when it comes to attracting Artists. As Station North becomes more expensive and commercial, Artists may seek a more affordable alternative nearby that is also safe. Waverly not only fits the bill but Artists looking to settle
down and start families will appreciate the suburban atmosphere that Waverly provides.
As Waverly makes a turn around, Greenmount's rough commercial corridor may finally improve and be more conducive of its surroundings. Good news on the front of surrounding areas, Barclay is undergoing a massive redevelopment effort that may well bring in a larger Artist presence, then again it may not but it will still be good for Waverly.
I can't put my finger on why Waverly has become a haven to Artists instead of the City's choice of Highlandtown, but I think Waverly's affordability and diverse selection of architecture makes a good case.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Liberty Road East: A Different Kind of TOD

Well here I am in the County again, the more I focus on issues surrounding the County I realize how a successful County is crucial to a successful City. This go around I'm focusing on Liberty Road East (inside the Beltway but outside the City),which includes the communities of Lochearn, Milford Mill, and Sudbrook. Most of my focus when it comes to the County is mass transit and Liberty Road East is no different.
Even if and when Baltimore has a viable Rail Transit system not every suburban drag will be located directly on Transit Line but Liberty Road has the distinction of eventually being located in between two; the Green Line to the north and the Red Line to the south hopefully by the year 2020. In the suburbs of DC, due to their well functioning Rail Transit system, there has been an upswing in Transit Oriented Development (TOD) in the past 10-15 years. Obviously TOD has to be within a short of one or Rail Transit Stops in order to qualify as such so Liberty Road doesn't quite meet the qualifications, or does it?
Who says TOD has to be built strictly around Rail Transit? Perhaps a Bus Line can attract development and redevelopment to an area that although not a short walk to a Rail Stop but a short bus ride to one?DC employs a line of buses known as "Metro Bus" (think Charm City Circulator that only goes between Rail Stops)which serves riders who don't live as hop skip and a jump away from a Rail Stop. As Baltimore expands the number of Rail Stations available throughout the City and the County, a similar venture should come to fruition to increase Rail ridership and decrease dependence on cars.
Given Liberty Road's prominent location between the Green Line and soon to be Red Line in the County I think a Metro Bus like line should operate with stops throughout Liberty Road East to increase ridership in its nearby communities. A bus route can include the Milford Mill and the Old Court Stations on the Green Line, and the Social Security and the Medicare/Medicaid Stations on the Red Line allowing Residents of the Liberty Road East Communities a convenient alternative to driving to a Rail Stop or worse driving their car all the way to their destination in the City.
Now what does a Metro Bus like system have to do with TOD? Like I said TOD only really has relevance within a short distance of the RAIL stops themselves, but why does that have to be the case? Why not have TOD oriented around a BUS Stop that then transports you to a Rail Stop
for your commute Downtown? What I'm proposing for Liberty Road East and eventually all of Baltimore (both City and County) is a class system of TOD to classify what type of transit the development is oriented around.
Class A TOD is built around at least one Rail Stop examples of this include the new Westport Development, Charles Center, and Station North. All these areas now have one Rail Line servicing them but if the Yellow Line ever becomes a Reality all these stops will have access to it. Class B TOD is what I'm proposing for Liberty Road East, though close to a Rail Stop, it's not an easy walk so dedicated buses like DC's Metro Bus will serve it. Finally Class C TOD (of which there aren't any known examples of) would be built around a Bus Stop that doesn't directly service a Rail Stop.
Now why put TOD along Liberty Road East other than what I've already proposed? Well I see a lot of promise in the area just like Liberty Heights Avenue just across the City Line. The Neighborhoods surrounding Liberty Road are stable modest single family homes with
nicely manicured lawns and handsomely renovated interiors. Liberty Road itself is filled with hodge podge Retail, and rundown Apartment complexes, neither of which paint a true picture of the Community at large. If TOD albeit Class B TOD but TOD none the less were built where such blight now stands, a broader mix of residents and incomes will come to the area and with that, better amenities such as modernized Schools and Community Centers. I think a new class of TOD has just been born and if successful, can be a model throughout Baltimore.