Friday, November 30, 2012
First lets start with the Preservation Zone. It's quite obvious that the Preservation Zone includes Marble Hill. Marble Hill is the locally recognized Historic Preservation Zone for the northeastern edge of Upton as well as Madison Park. The name Marble Hill comes from the fact that the Grandiose Row House Mansions have marble front steps. In addition these homes have some of Baltimore's most beautiful architecture and it hasn't been spoiled by ill fated 1970s "urban renewal" attempts. Baltimore's Black Elite occupied this area centered along Druid Hill Avenue and McCullough St. in fact the first house purchased in Old West Baltimore was located on McCullough St. in Marble Hill as is Thurgood Marshall's birth house. In addition to Residences, Marble Hill also housed Offices for Black Lawyers, Doctors, and Entrepreneurs. Although Marble Hill's Historic Designation is confined to the northern blocks of Druid Hill Avenue and McCullough St. I'm making the Preservation Zone from Dolphin St. to Laurens St. Despite being the area of Upton with the fewest vacants, Marble Hill does have some boarded up Row Homes. However, the Preservation Zone is just what the name suggests; absolutely no building in this area may be demolished. I think as Bolton Hill's popularity continues to make Madison Park an up & coming area, Marble Hill may not be far behind it.
Next we have the Reinvestment/Cluster Redevelopment Zone. This, like the Preservation Zone will focus on rehabbing existing homes. However, if a row of homes is too far gone to rehab demolition would not be the end of the world. This zone is located between Dwuid Hill Avenue ad Pennsylvania Avenue. The goal here is to minimize relocation of existing Residents. This area has more vacants than Marble Hill but isn't the worst in Upton. Even if every home still standing in the Reinvestment/Cluster Redevelopment Zone is rehabbed and saved, there will be new construction here. There are vacant lots in this area from previous demolitions which will make room for new construction. New construction will look exactly like the existing Row Homes in the area. In fact, some of the new construction might be attached to existing homes to create a truly streamlined look between old and new.
The last zone of Upton is the worst. So it's only fitting that it be called the Major Redevelopment Zone. Here is where the homes are mostly vacated there has also been lots of demolition already making the area a ghost town. On the flip side this is the greatest opportunity to give Upton a face lift with a huge area of new housing and new housing types. It's also adjacent to Heritage Crossing, a proven success. The redevelopment area will stretch from Pennsylvania Avenue to Fremont Avenue to Harlem Avenue to Mosher St. Town Homes and Apartments will be built like those found in Boradway Overlook, Orchard Ridge and Albemarle Square. These will be majority Home Ownership some of which will offer Home Ownership subsidies. The southern part of the 800 block of Edmondson Avenue will be redeveloped as a low to mid rise Public Housing Senior Building not unlike those recently built in Harlem Park.
Thursday, November 22, 2012
First is Heritage Crossing. Heritage Crossing was built on the site of the demolished Murphy Homes. These new Town Homes are a welcome addition to the Community and have provided a solid home ownership base for the area as a large portion of the homes are Market Rate Home Ownership.
Next we have Bakers View, a Town Home Community in Druid Heights that's selling like Hot Cakes. These Town Homes have a starting price of $169,000 with some of them being set aside for affordable home ownership. Some of Bakers View has actual Pennsylvania Avenue frontage. Like Heritage Crossing, Bakers View is turning out to be a suburban oasis in the middle of a desert of urban decay.
Next there is the Avenue Bakery. This may seem small but the fact that an independent business was willing to build a new building along Pennsylvania Avenue and plant a seed in the ground the way the Avenue Bakery has is huge. In fact Owner James Hamlin loves to say "It's not just about the Rolls" a big reason Mr. Hamlin has decided to build and open his Bakery that is also a a great spot for Breakfast and Brunch on Pennsylvania Avenue versus another part of town is because he's dedicated to being part of Pennsylvania Avenue's rebirth. If every vacant storefront on Pennsylvania Avenue had an entrepreneur like James Hamlin readying to invest in it, Pennsylvania Avenue would be the most sought after address in the City.
Next there's the redevelopment of the Sphinx Theater. The site of the Sphinx is set to become a Baltimore land mark once again, this time as a Sports Museum for Black Athletes. Like the Avenue Bakery this is a tremendous commitment to bringing life back to Pennsylvania Avenue from other parts of the area. Museums represent a proud history and that is something that Pennsylvania Avenue has and the more people know it, the better. It would have been great to have the Great Blacks in Wax Museum and the African American History Museum on the Avenue instead of their current locations. Another Museum that should open along the Avenue could be a Museum of Black Music.
Another great sign that Pennsylvania Avenue is poised for a turn around is that there are murals and monuments all over the place. This proves that Residents, Politicians, and everyone in between know the significance of Pennsylvania Avenue and all the history that goes along with it. There's the Royal Theater Marquis that's been rebuilt, the Billie Holiday Statue, and countless Murals on Buildings. The Murals show that the area has a flourishing Arts Community and these talented Artists should be the cornerstone of Pennsylvania Avenue's rebirth. Another way to bring the Avenue's history to life could be something along the lines of the "Hollywood Walk of Fame."
Now that I've told you the many ways Pennsylvania Avenue is beginning to show signs of life it's time to take it a step further by giving everybody what they all want; An Avenue that's once again the epicenter of the Black Community in Baltimore while at the same time drawing other parts of the City to the Avenue to eat great food, hear great music, and see great exhibits.
The first thing to do would be to redevelop Upton Courts, at least the part that has Pennsylvania Avenue frontage. This ill fated urban renewal attempt has robbed the Avenue of opportunities to expand Retail uses and takes away from the character that the 1890s architecture provides to other parts of the Avenue. In the place of the portion of Upton Courts with Avenue Frontage will be Apartments and Condos with ground floor Retail/ Entertainment that bare the same Architecture as the original buildings that line the Avenue.
Next we must rebuild the Royal Theater for a new generation. The Royal was the crown and jewel of Pennsylvania and all of Old West Baltimore and I think in order for the Avenue to come back strong, the Royal has to be there to anchor it. The Royal will be just one of many first run theaters and clubs that will pop along the Avenue in the future to bring back the Community that abandoned it decades earlier. Behind the Royal is what is currently Robert C. Marshall Park. Right now the park is just grass, I'd like to see it turned into a Public Square, like that found in Union Square. This new public square will be renamed "Upton Square complete with trees, benches, and picnic space.
New Buildings will be built, but with the exception of Upton Courts, no further buildings with Avenue frontage will be torn down. Pennsylvania Avenue is an historic district whose buildings bring out that history. If everything were new, the magic would be harder to recapture. Now there are some buildings that aren't original but will not be torn down because they serve the Community so well. such as the Upton Boxing Center, Shake & Bake Family Fun Center, and the YWCA.
A huge concern regarding the Avenue is security. There is a lot of crime that plagues the area and that has to change before Businesses and Customers alike begin flocking back in droves. This may not eradicate crime in any way but removing barred glass from windows and doors of Retail establishments will create the illusion of safety. Around the Harbor, Cops ride around on Bikes as well as foot patrols. This same kind of "face to face" Law Enforcement will help to ensure the safety of everybody around the Avenue.
Wednesday, November 21, 2012
Old West Baltimore (Harlem Park, Upton, Sandtown Winchester, Madison Park, and Druid Heights) must be the bygone and left behind area of the City. Yet at the same time, it's one of the most history packed and potential packed areas of the City. Somebody just has to remind everybody how great this area was and how great it could be. Obviously one post can't cover all of Old West Baltimore which is why I'm going to do a series highlighting certain areas and how they can be reinvested in which will bring down the crime rate and bring Population Growth to an area of the City that has been losing Population for close to half a century.
Recently, before I had the idea to do this series I wrote a post on Harlem Park, below is that post and there will be more to come concerning Old West Baltimore. Enjoy!
Harlem Park: Don't Wait for the Red Line
Tuesday, November 13, 2012
As Neighborhoods age, home owners take great care to keep their homes in great shape both inside and out, if they don't the Neighborhood becomes blighted and that leads to a slew of problems that over time become harder and harder to solve. In addition
to private home owners having to step up to the plate, so does the City. In a City that's as financially strapped as Baltimore that's easier said than done. This is where Walther Avenue could use some help. The road itself needs to be repaved and striped, the sidewalks need to be retrofitted, the median could use more flowers and shruberry, there aren't enough street lights and the traffic signals look old and weathered.
In recent years wider roads like Walther Avenue have gotten streetscape enhancements or money has been budgeted for roads to get them in the future. These include roads include but aren't limited to; Charles St. in Mount Vernon and Station North (pictured above), Northern Parkway between Reisterstown Road and Roland Avenue, Reisterstown Road and Park Heights Avenue above Northern Parkway and Harford Road in the Lauraville and Hamilton Commercial Districts (pictured below). It should be noted that Harford Road is the Commercial Drag that serves Walther Avenue as well.
Walther Avenue is a long road so doing the streetscape enhancements all at once would be a bit daunting. That's why I have decided to break up the work into four phases the first of which will stretch from Harford Road to Moravia Road. This will go through the historic Neighborhoods of Arcadia and Beverly Hills. The traffic signals at Parkside Drive and Moravia Road will be replaced with moder ones that feature "count down" pedestrian signals and brick crosswalks. Once above Herring Run Park Walther Avenue should be narrowed down to one lane in each direction with the extra lane reserved for on street parking and a dedicated bike lane. In every phase, the street lights will be replaced with newer modern looking ones.
The second phase goes through the Neighborhoods of Moravia Walther and Waltherson. Waltherson percentage wise was one of the City's largest gainers in population outside of Downtown. The boundaries of Phase II will be from Moravia Road to Frankford Avenue. Between Echodale and Frankford Avenues, Walther Avenue widens to three lanes. This will be narrowed down to two lanes as part of the goal to make room for more on street parking and dedicated bike lanes. The traffic signals at Echodale Avenue and Frankford Avenues will be replaced in this face. The median will also be enhanced with additional flowers and shruberry. This may be a good place to encourage Residents to plant vegetable gardens of their own.
The third phase runs between Frankford and Glenmore Avenues in the Glenham Blehar Neighborhood which also reported a loarge population gain. This part of Walther Avenue is where the pavement is in the worst shape and in come parts, the median has no landscaping whatsoever. Obviously this will be remedied by the streetscape enhancement project. The traffic signals at Hamilton, White, and Glenmore Avenues will be replaced in this phase. Also given that this section of Walther Avenue has Glenmount Elementary/Middle and Brudick Park, care should be taken to reduce speed given the high pedestrian activity here. Traffic calming such as "chokers" at crosswalks can help in Drivers reducing speed.
The fourth and final phase of the Walther Avenue streetscape enhancements runs from Glenmore Avenue to Northern Parkway in the Rosemont East Neighborhood. This is the part of Walther Avenue that has the highest amount of Apartments and Row Homes. This also has the only Commercial Building along Walther Avenue which is a Family Dollar. The traffic signal at Northern Parkway will be replaced during this phase. Again Walther Avenue will be narrowed to two lanes in each direction from three in order to provide on street parking and a dedicated bike lane. Walther Avenue ends at Northern Parkway in the Overlea and North Harford Road Neighborhoods both of which gained population in the last 10 years.
In the far northeastern corner of Baltimore lies Walther Avenue, a grand suburban boulevard with beautifully maintained homes and lawns. If given a streetscape enhancements, Walther Avenue will truly be eye popping.
Thursday, November 8, 2012
|Photo from the New York Times|
|Photo From Cherry Hill Master Plan|
The land on which the demolished Barracks once stood, new Town Homes with garages were built as market rate Home Ownership Units. The only issue I take with this development is that the home ownership and rentals are clearly differentiated which in a true mixed income Community the circumstances of the Residents are shown by the type of home they live in.
Now there is some confusion regarding Cherry Hill that I would like to clear up. Cherry Hill and Cherry Hill Homes are not the same thing. Cherry Hill Homes is a Public Housing Development that skirts the edge of the Neighborhood and is easy accessible to the Light Rail Station and as a result Patapsco Avenue. Much of the crime in Cherry Hill appears to be associated with Cherry Hill Homes. There are currently 1394 units of this sprawling development which is a mixture of Garden Apartments and Town Homes. I believe that Cherry Hill as a whole can make a turn around if a significant portion of Cherry Hill Homes were redeveloped.
The rest of Cherry Hill is a mixture of Apartment Complexes (Cherrydale, The Communities of Middle Branch Manor) the revitalized Barracks (River Front Town Homes) and privately owned "classic" Baltimore Row Homes. This is the Cherry Hill that doesn't make head lines because it's relatively safe and isn't poverty stricken and in distressed condition like the Cherry Hill Homes development.
Also in Cherry Hill there are a good number of amenities such as the Aquatic Center and Splash Park, South Baltimore Health Center, Harbor Hospital, The Gwynns Falls Trail, Light Rail Access, Middle Branch Park, a Town Center, Cherry Hill Park, Southern Community Action Center, Baltimore Rowing Club, Middle Branch Marina, as well as great views of Downtown. A community with amenities such as these should be a magnet for Young Professionals, and Families of all ages and income levels. The rents should mirror that of Inner Harbor East while the price of a Row Home should mirror that of Fells Point. Obviously this is not the case and I believe Cherry Hill Homes is the primary factor holding the Neighborhood back.
That being said, it's time to redevelop Cherry Hill Homes. Now the newer section located near Carver Road and Bridgeview Road (pictured above) will be spared and will remain a Public Housing Family Development. Now one thing that be done with caution and care is to provide public housing for Seniors who would be displaced by the redevelopment of Cherry Hill Homes.
The section of Cherry Hill Home to be redeveloped will be on the outskirts of the Neighborhood located behind the Patapsco Avenue Light Rail Station. In the place of Cherry Hill Homes will be high density TOD Apartments, Condos, and Town Homes most of which will be Market Rate Home Ownership and Rentals (70%) They will expand from Seagull Avenue to Berea Road. This new TOD Community will integrate Cherry Hill with the Light Rail Stop with a lighted promenade from Seagull Avenue to Berea Road. The following road will be extended to meet Patapsco Avenue; Seagull Avebue, Bethune Road, Bridgeview Road, and Sethlow Road. This will allow Patapsco Avenue as well the Light Rail Station to be integrated into the fabric of Cherry Hill.
Also when redeveloping Cherry Hill Homes, great care must be taken not to displace Residents who are upwardly mobile. There are Residents who are gainfully employed and/or are in School. A good portion (30%) will be set aside for current Cherry Hill Homes Residents who meet the upwardly mobile criteria above which will allow them to "rent to own" their homes. These new homes will be similar in concept to the successful River Front Town Homes that were the original Barracks. This will increase Home Ownership in Cherry Hill and allow Residents to build equity in their homes. Unlike River Front Town Homes, the redeveloped Cherry Hill Homes will be only new construction.
On the opposite side of Cherry Hill sits what was once to be Waterview Overlook, this was supposed to be an upscale condo and Town Home Development. Land along Waterview Avenue had been cleared for development but the housing market went bust and so did the developers of Waterview Overlook. Since this land is zoned for exactly the number of units that the original Waterview Overlook was supposed to have, I would like to see this project resurrected. Also along Waterview Avenue there is great opportunity to integrate the road with the existing Cherry Hill Community. It would involve redeveloping part of the Middle Branch Manor Apartments. The redeveloped part of Middle Branch Manor would be similar to Waterview Overlook in appearance and will have Waterview Avenue frontage.
In the inner ring of Cherry Hill, there are some plats of land that are vacant. Those plats of land will be developed as Town Homes which are what's already in that part of the Neighborhood. Also the existing Neighborhood is very dark. Street lights are very rare and I think invites crime. The redeveloped part of the Neighborhood will obviously have more street lights but they also have to be added to the existing Neighborhood. I'm surprised that this issue wasn't addressed long ago. Streets will be repaved and sidewalks repaired and retrofitted.
Now we come to the Schools. Cherry Hill has 4 Elementary Schools and 2 High Small High Schools. School Construction is something that Baltimore City is way behind on and I think that new Schools in Cherry Hill are crucial to its success. Combining the four Elementary Schools into two both in brand new buildings one at the current Arundel Elementary/Middle site and the other at the Patapsco Elementary/Middle. The two High Schools, New Era Academy and Southside Academy co-exist together in the former Arnett J. Brown Middle School Building. Since this building's use was that of a Middle School, the site outside is inadequate for a High School let alone two. Things that are lacking include a running track, football field, tennis courts, and baseball diamonds. All that this School has is a blacktop. In order to keep this building's site adequate, all of those things will have to be added.
In 2008 the City of Baltimore released a Master Plan for Cherry Hill. It barely brushed upon the subject of development and redevelopment. I think to achieve the results set forth in the original Plan a second Master Plan that was development oriented had to be created. Hopefully this plan that I have set forth will take off and Cherry Hill will be among Baltimore's most sought after addresses.