Thursday, January 31, 2013
Living close to Downtown meant something completely different after World War II. That being said, Downtown was completely different after World War II. As Retail, Offices, and the Industrial Harbor were fleeing Downtown for the suburbs or in the case of the Harbor, disappearing forever. This made Downtown into a ghost town. Meanwhile, Neighborhoods that hugged Downtown were overcrowded. The wartime Jobs that accelerated the great migration from the rural South had evaporated but the new Citizens who had come for work didn't leave the City. At the same time for those who could afford it, the flight to the suburbs was in full swing. This made for an eroding tax base and an increase of poverty Citywide.
Neighborhoods that hugged Downtown had the most poverty and the oldest and most obsolete housing stock. At the same time it was the most overcrowded part of the City. In short everything surrounding Downtown was slums. Obviously something had to be done. The story of Baltimore's plight as a rust belt City is echoed all across large Cities in America. That is why HUD decided to dedicate a large sum of money to build new High Rise Apartments in poverty stricken overcrowded Cities across the Country. These new Buildings would have the amenities so desperately needed in these slums such as Refrigerators, Heat,and Indoor Plumbing. Given their proximity to Downtown, those living on the top floors could be treated to the same views as those living in a luxury Downtown penthouse.
And so it came to be that East Baltimore between Downtown and Hopkins went from having overcrowded slums to having clean "modern" public housing complexes of some of which were high rises. For the first Residents of Broadway Homes & all new developments for that matter, their new community was a dream come true. These new buildings allowed them a higher quality of life that they were proud of. HUD had devoted a large sum of money for the demolition of the slums and construction of the high rises but how much were they continuing to give to maintain these larger than life structures? They didn't allocate any money for that. Maintenance fell on the City's back. Since Broadway Homes was a public housing development, it was pretty low on the City's bucket list because it didn't produce as much of a tax base than say Roland Park. Maintenance was non existent as the buildings fell into disrepair almost as quickly as they were built. Residents were simply forgotten and left behind.
If you were left behind by the Government that was supposed to protect and defend you, how would you feel? If you answered angry and betrayed, you would feel exactly how Residents of Broadway Homes felt by the 1970s. Given the increasingly decaying buildings and the decreasing Police presence, crime, drugs, and violence replaced the memories of a healthy peaceful Community that the Broadway Home's first Residents remember. The high rises, although they looked very plain, were designed in a complicated manner which allowed criminals to hide out after the commission of a crime and others used that advantage to terrorize Residents.
Elsewhere in Baltimore, Downtown began to make a turn for the better. The Central Business District began to re-centralize itself with the creation of Charles Center and eventually the redefinition of the Harbor from an industrial port to a tourist magnet. Eventually living in and around Downtown was and still is a sought after address. For the majority of Baltimore's history this has been the case, it was only after World War II that Downtown had become a ghost town. The success of Downtown did spread but only to certain Neighborhoods, remember so many of the Neighborhoods that hug Downtown contain public housing developments some of which were high rises and pretty much all of which were decaying. This contained gentrification to the southeast below Pratt St.
Broadway Homes and other public housing developments like it were supposed to provide a long term solution to the overcrowding and decaying slums hugging Downtown. By the 1990s it was apparent that Broadway Homes could not be revitalize in its current form. The same was true for all public housing high rise developments in the City as well as Cities across the Country. That's when Maryland's own Senator Barb stepped in and sponsored a bill known as HOPE VI. HOPE VI allocated federal funds to demolish and redevelop failing public housing high rises in urban areas and replace them traditional lower density housing. These mixed income communities would help break up large concentrations of poverty and attract outside investment. Although Broadway Homes wasn't the first development in Baltimore on the list, it was on it and the Feds realized its state of decay and provided funds for its demolition and redevelopment.
Now that Broadway Homes had been demolished, the time had come to rebuild and rebuild they did. The actual Broadway Homes site was given to Hopkins who swapped it for undeveloped parcel directly adjacent to the original Broadway Homes. Along Broadway, there Apartments were built which is what the old Church Hospital was converted to. Along Fayette St. between Broadway and Caroline St. are new Mixed Income town homes with a mix of public housing units, market rate rentals, and market rate home ownership. In the first few years of Broadway Overlook, the average median income of the area sky rocketed. Perhaps that great view of Downtown had something to do with it?
Broadway Overlook and other HOPE VI developments have begun the natural process of revitalizing all of East Baltimore between Downtown and Hopkins. The question remains; should the public housing units be converted into market rates due to the increasing popularity of the area and view of Downtown? Simply put, No. There are plenty of other developments in East Baltimore that can be rehabbed or redeveloped for Market Rate, and they also have great views of Downtown.
Tuesday, January 22, 2013
Albemarle Square: Corned Beef and Seniors
Saturday, January 19, 2013
As Baltimore City's population began to decline after World War II, Belair Road was unaffected due to the fact that there was still some new construction available and except for the fact that its over the City line, it's for all intensive purposes, the suburbs. When you think of a City Neighborhood, you think of tightly packed Row Homes, alleys, and not a spec of green space. Does that sound like Belair Road? I didn't think so. Granted, the Neighborhood of Belair Edison (pictured above) is predominantly Row Homes but they have expansive lawns, mature trees, and well tended gardens. Despite having City style row homes, you can tell that Belair Edison was built with the suburbs in mind.
Belair Road remained, for all intensive purposes a suburb while the City that it's technically a part of, fell into shambles. Baltimore as a whole was plagued with population loss, drugs, crime, disease and unemployment. As Retail trends changed with the redevelopment of the Harbor, Belair Road was still the destination for City Dwellers to buy cars. Finally, the ever growing suburban Car Dealers got the best of Belair Road in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Car Dealers began pulling out of Belair Road which had become small lots in comparison to what was in the suburbs. It was then that Belair Road began to look like it was actually part of the City instead of the suburbs. Belair Road was landlocked so new construction would only be possible by redeveloping what's already there. However, the suburbs appeared to have an endless supply of land.
The exodus of first rate Car Dealerships from Belair Road made the area look like a ghost town. Sure used car dealers and "second chance" dealers opened in the place of some but they look tacky and appear to be short lived. Some Neighborhoods along Belair Road began to experience an uptick in crime. As crime increased and the foot traffic along Belair Road decreased as well as vacant storefronts and abandoned car lots, Belair Road was officially part of Baltimore. This decline also begged the question; Was Belair Road loosing population?
When driving up and down the main road, one might begin to think so. But are there any signs of urban decay when you turn down any residential street (pictured above) along Belair Road? That is a big fat NO! It appears that every Neighborhood that has Belair Road frontage (Belair Edison, Waltherson, Gardenville, Frankford, Glenham Belhar, Cedmont, Overlea) are worthy of being show case Neighborhoods that rival any older suburban Neighborhood. If Belair Road was in fact loosing population there isn't a single boarded up house to show it. Before saying whether or not Belair Road was growing or shrinking I decided to consult the 2010 census. Below is what I have found.
Belair Road is still growing! Despite a desolate Retail Corridor, every Neighborhood that I listed in the previous paragraph has posted an increase in population between 2000 and 2010. Now given that the Neighborhoods of Belair Road are growing but the road itself suggests otherwise, I think it's high time that the uses along Belair Road itself change to reflect the very real growth of its surrounding Neighborhoods. Lets Belair Road a Grower and a Shower. Below is what I have in mind.
What I have in mind for Belair Road is what I have in mind for all of Northeast Baltimore; Green Line and TOD. For those of you who don't know what the Green Line is it's the Metro Subway that currently runs from Owings Mills to Johns Hopkins Hospital. Currently the MTA is actively pursuing an extension from Hopkins to Morgan State University (pictured above.) In the very distant future, there are plans to extend the Green Line past Morgan State University up Perring Parkway through Mount Pleasant Park into Fullerton, Perry Hall, White Marsh, and Middle River ending at Martin State Airport. This is a very ambitious undertaking and will be VERY expensive due to the fact that any extension of the Green Line MUST be Heavy Rail. It would make sense that the MTA get its money's worth when this expansion does eventually happen. So what does the Green Line expansion have to do with Belair Road?
I personally think the proposed route for the Green Line does not promote ridership. Once it's past Morgan State Univeristy and Northwood Shopping Center (pictured above) it doesn't go through any real Neighborhoods until it leaves the City. Perring Parkway runs through Mount Pleasant Park. How much ridership can you get from a park? Not very much. So, what can we do about it? Reroute the Green Line into Northeast Baltimore? I think so! Once the Green Line has its stop at Morgan State University it should then make an easterly turn down Argonne Drive before going Northeast up Harford Road catering to the Neighborhoods of Lauraville, Hamilton, Beverly Hills, Mayfield, Belair Edison, and Arcadia. Then it should turn easterly yet again down Echodale Avenue to Belair Road where stops can serve the Neighborhoods of Waltherson, Glenham Belhar, Cedmont, Frankford, Gardenville, and Overlea. THEN it will go into the County and serve Parkville, Perry Hall, and White Marsh.
This rerouted Green Line can open up new TOD sites for Belair Road. I suggest that this new route be adopted and the land vacated by the numerous car dealers along Belair Road be acquired and redeveloped as High Density TOD. I think this will usher in new life to the aging Corridor and bring in new investment such as sidewalks, biker lanes, and streetscape enhancements. On the Retail spectrum, I would like Belair Road to be similar to Harford Road especially when it comes to the new Restaurants popping up in Lauraville. Given that Belair Road is a middle class area, I think it can support nice independent sit down restaurants. On the TOD end, I would like Belair Road to resemble what Charles Village (pictured above) has become.
Tuesday, January 8, 2013
|Senior Housing in Pleasant View Gardens|