Friday, February 24, 2017

Sit On It 2017 Edition Part II: The Build-able Areas

In my last post, I may have created a doom and gloom situation in which Baltimore can't absorb any new development. That's only partially true. If you look at the projects I said would have to wait, you will find many similarities. Most of these are located around Downtown and the waterfront where development is occurring at break-neck speed. Another similarity is that these projects are very upscale. That means that renting or buying one of these Apartments is way over the budget of most Baltimore Citizens.
When looking at these projects around Downtown and the Harbor, you will see one thing that is lacking; affordability. Affordable housing is one area of Baltimore where new development projects are far behind. In the rare instances where new affordable housing is built in the City, it sells and leases in no time at all regardless of the condition of the surrounding Neighborhood. This shows that there is a pent up demand for affordable housing in Baltimore and if Developers want to increase their presence in Baltimore, they would do well building affordable housing in the parts of the City that are lacking new construction and are in desperate need of population growth. Here are some areas that will benefit from new, safe, clean, affordable housing.
The first redevelopment area is Penn North. Although this Neighborhood gained national attention for being the epicenter of the riots that followed the death of Freddie Gray, there have been a few instances of investment and development that have benefited this Neighborhood. Recently, a new Apartment Complex on Pennsylvania Avenue known as Penn Square was completed. It leased up so fast that additional Apartments are now under construction on an adjacent parcel. There are also a couple blocks of newer town homes built by Nehimiah Homes in the 1990s. These are owner-occupied and well maintained in many cases by the original owners.
Image From Google Maps
Other than these few new projects, Penn North is in dire straits. Most row homes are abandoned and boarded up and are too dilapidated to ever be occupied again. The redevelopment area is roughly defined by Pennsylvania Avenue to the west, North Avenue to south, Druid Hill Avenue to the east, and Fulton Avenue to the north. If there are rows of houses that are well occupied and structurally sound, care will be taken no to displace Residents and these homes will be spared demolition. Otherwise, all homes will be redeveloped. Apartments will align Pennsylvania and North Avenues with ground floor Retail mastered planned into it. The remainder will be row homes in town homes with parking pads in the back. This will be a mixed income Community with homes that are both rentals and for purchase at and below market value. The parcel that the vacant Westside Elementary sits on will have a new School Master planned into it to be built in the future.
Next we come to Druid Heights. Druid Heights is located just below Penn North. This Neighborhood has seen some redevelopment already thanks to the Druid Heights CDC. This grassroots operation has allowed the Neighborhood to purchase vacant homes and lots and redevelop them as town homes for purchase. Evidence of this can be found along Baker St. and along the Westside of Pennsylvania Avenue on either side of Gold St. among others. Other investments in Druid Heights include the "Avenue Bakery and the proposed Negro League Baseball Museum to be located on the grounds of the Sphinx Club.
Image From Google Maps
Still today, Druid Heights has a long way to go with vacant lots and boarded up row homes dominating the landscape. Although the new housing that's sprinkled throughout the Neighborhood has done well, there's plenty more to be done. The Druid Heights Redevelopment area's boundaries would be North Avenue to the north, Pennsylvania Avenue to the west, Pressman St. to the south and Etting St. to the east. Land already owned by the Druid Heights CDC will be homes for purchase and newly land acquired land will be rentals. Homes facing Pennsylvania and North Avenues will be "row house Retail" with the ground floor reserved for Neighborhood Retail when the market is ready, and the upper floor(s) will be Apartments. The rest of the land will be town homes.
Next we come to Gilmor Homes. Gilmor Homes gained national attention because that is where the arrest of Freddie Gray occurred. The injuries he sustained while in Police custody ultimately caused his death a week later. The media coverage surrounding the unrest that took place after his death exposed all of the deplorable living conditions in Gilmor Homes and the surrounding Sandtown Neighborhood in which Freddie Gray was a lifelong Resident. In order to say Baltimore is turning after this tragedy, big unprecedented investment needs to come to the area. That change needs to be the redevelopment of Gilmor Homes.
Although Sandtown represents what many consider to be the worst of Baltimore, there are parts of the Neighborhood that thrive by comparison. Like Penn North, Nehemiah Homes has built new Town Homes in the southern and eastern section of  Sandtown in the 1990s. In doing so, Residents have gotten new, clean, affordable housing as well as job training in the construction field. Today, many of the original owners still live in these homes and keep them well maintained. The Nehemiah Homes of Sandtown were built as privately owned affordable housing.
Image From Google Maps
The redeveloped Gilmor Homes will contain a decent amount of this price point as well to up the percentage of home ownership and upward mobility in the area. There will also be a generous portion of affordable rentals in the redeveloped Gilmor Homes so that longtime Residents won't be forced out of their Neighborhood and can be a part of the newly revitalized Sandtown. The homes along the Fulton Avenue portion of the redevelopment area will be rehabbed due to the historic nature of Fulton Avenue. Also included in the redevelopment will be a new Gilmor Elementary. School Construction has been missing in Baltimore and when redeveloping large tracts of housing, a new School(s) must be master planned into the area. Although most new housing will be town homes, there will be public housing Apartments for Residents who are disabled and Seniors.
Image From Google Maps
Now we come to Upton. The western edge of Upton is lots of vacants. The redevelopment area consists of Heritage Crossing to the south, Pennsylvania Avenue to the east, Mosher St. to the south, and Fremont Avenue to the west. The Heritage Crossing (pictured above) development built in the early 2000s which is directly to the south has been a boost to the area as a replacement to the dilapidated Murphy Homes. Heritage Crossing was supposed to cause widespread investment to neighboring areas. Sadly this has not been the case. In order to extend the benefits of Heritage Crossing, I'm proposing redeveloping this western edge of Upton with a mixed income Town Home Community while everything fronting Pennsylvania Avenue will be Apartments with Retail below. In addition, the Sav-A-Lot Grocery Store will be expanded and a new Furman. L. Templeton Elementary School will be built as well.
Image From Google Maps
Next we come to Marble Hill. This area is different from all of the other areas in this post because it does not include redevelopment. Back in their hey day, Marble Hill Homes looked as gorgeous as those found in the currently desirable Neighborhoods of Mount Vernon, Bolton Hill, and Reservoir Hill. Given how beautiful the architecture is in this area, it would be best to sell these houses as $1 row homes. The $1 price would reflect the high cost of rehabbing these homes. Purchasers of these homes would have to qualify for construction loans which in many cases would equal that of a mortgage. There may be infill new construction in this area if homes have already been demolished. These vacants lots may also be used as gardens and/or urban farms.
Image From Google Maps
Next we come to Madison Park North Apartments. These Apartments have been slated for demolition due to the high crime rate and grossly negligent landlord. In fact, this complex has earned the unfortunate nickname of "Murder Mall." I'm proposing more than just a tear down rebuild of these troubled Apartments. I would like to address the food desert climate by adding a Grocer to the redevelopment plans. I would also extend Reservoir Hill Park south of Lennox St. This area is one of the few in the City that is receiving School Construction. Across the street, John Eager Howard Elementary is undergoing a massive renovation and modernization. The Residential component of the new Madison Park North will be significantly smaller than it is now but given that a Grocer will come to the area and a beautiful park will be expanded, I consider it a good trade off.
Although the name of this post is labeled; Sit On It, it shows that there are parts of Baltimore that have been sat on for too long. The small areas of investment to come through these areas has been quite successful. If Developers who are being forced to "Sit On" their harbor investments and look throughout other areas of the City, they will find areas that will benefit from investment today and make the entire City as a whole healthier.