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Eli Pousson started as a Field Officer at Baltimore Heritage in partnership with the National Trust for Historic Preservation in October 2009. Prior to moving to Baltimore, Eli worked for the DC Office of Historic Preservation and completed graduate work in anthropology and historic preservation at the University of Maryland College Park. Eli continues to work with the Lakeland Community Heritage Project and other heritage organizations in Prince George’s County, Maryland.

What does Project CORE mean for Baltimore’s historic neighborhoods? Over 450 buildings are proposed for demolition in 2016. Learn more about city and state plans for vacant buildings.

This past January, Governor Larry Hogan and Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake announced Project CORE—a plan for the state to spend $75 million on tearing down and stabilizing vacant buildings and $600 million on incentives for redevelopment over the next seven years. Mayor Rawlings Blake called it “demolition dollars on steroids.”

In February, Governor Hogan added CORE (short for Creating Opportunities for Renewal and Enterprise) to his supplemental budget. The General Assembly approved $7.1 million for Project CORE in 2016 and committed to offer the rest of the funding over the next three years. Baltimore City pledged to match the state’s funding with up to $20.5 million. Although the final details on the amount of funding are still being determined, we expect the overall project will include around $100 million over the next four years. Overall, Project CORE is expected to fund the demolition of as many as 4,000 vacant buildings.

4303 Park Heights Avenue. Courtesy DHCD.
4303 Park Heights Avenue in Central Park Heights. Courtesy DHCD.

We know we can’t save every vacant house in Baltimore but we know that demolition alone won’t solve the city’s problems either. Baltimore Heritage is seeking a balanced approach that preserves buildings that are important to community residents and invests in alternatives to demolition in all historic neighborhoods. To reach this goal, we need to take a close look at the city’s vacant buildings. We need to understand what buildings may be demolishing under Project CORE and why. Finally, we need to hear from you. What do you think about CORE and the demolition of vacant buildings in Baltimore?

How many vacant houses does Baltimore have? Where are they located?

Baltimore Housing keeps track of over 16,000 vacant buildings. Over two-thirds of the city vacant building notices are found in areas that the Baltimore City Planning Department’s housing market typology calls “stressed markets”—neighborhoods with deteriorated buildings, many vacant properties, and more renters than homeowners.

2023-2027 Herbert Street. Courtesy DHCD.
2023-2027 Herbert Street in Mondawmin. Courtesy DHCD.

Nearly all of these buildings are fifty years old or older. Over 7,000 of the vacant buildings are in National Register designated historic districts. Eleven districts contain over 100 vacant buildings and two districts, the Old West Baltimore Historic District and Baltimore East/South Clifton Park Historic District, each have over 1,500.

The large number of vacant properties in historically African American neighborhoods like Old West Baltimore is no coincidence. For decades, mortgage discrimination against black homeowners, housing segregation, and employment discrimination have driven disinvestment in African American neighborhoods. This is one reason some housing justice advocates are concerned about demolition policies that follow existing market conditions. For example, a recent report by the Baltimore Housing Roundtable noted the troubling similarity between the city’s housing market typology in 2014 and the “redlining” maps created by the U.S. Home Owners Loan Corporation in the 1930s.

What buildings are affected by Project CORE?

Last month, Baltimore Housing and the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) shared their 2016 plan for 75 demolition “clusters” (each cluster ranging in size from two to twenty-three buildings) for a total of 468 buildings in twenty-nine neighborhoods. We have published a list of these demolition clusters and created a simple map based on that data. Photographs of the buildings proposed for demolition are available in this report from DHCD.

554-572 Presstman Street. Courtesy DHCD.
554-572 Presstman Street in Upton. Courtesy DHCD.

Approximately 71% of the buildings selected for demolition are in private hands, with most of the remaining properties owned by Baltimore City (Mayor/City Council) and a few held by the Housing Authority of Baltimore City.

2016-Project-CORE-ownership

Neighborhoods with five or more demolition clusters include Broadway East, Shipley Hill, Middle East, and Sandtown-Winchester. About half the of demolition clusters are inside historic districts, including Baltimore East/South Clifton Park, Old West Baltimore, Franklin Square, Old East Baltimore, Coldstream Homestead Montebello, and East Monument. Other affected neighborhoods include Mondawmin, Upton, Coldstream Homestead Montebello, and Central Park Heights

CORE 2016 Demolition clusters by Historic District

Additional details on the proposal and affected properties are available through the Baltimore Housing demolition map (showing CORE and other funded demolition) and the Baltimore codeMap which shows past demolition projects funded by the 2012 National Mortgage Settlement (labeled as the 2012 AG Demo Cluster) and other sources.

Why are these buildings selected for demolition?

Over a decade ago, Baltimore Housing moved from tearing down individual vacant buildings to tearing down whole blocks. Arguably, this approach saves the city money by avoiding the cost of rebuilding concrete block party walls adjoining still occupied homes. Similarly, the city avoids displacing homeowners or renters where possible—avoiding the cost of relocating residents and purchasing replacement homes.

Baltimore Housing has argued for demolition not only for “blight elimination” (removing groups of buildings that may threaten public safety) but also on removing houses in neighborhoods where they believe that the demand for housing is never going to return to a level where private developers can profit from the rehab of distressed vacant buildings. 64 of the 74 CORE demolition clusters are located in these “stressed” markets according to the City’s housing typology.

2016-Project-CORE-market-type

In addition, the city’s demolition strategy is intended to complement other community planning efforts. For example, the buildings in the Shipley Hill neighborhood are targeted for demolition in part to try to improve the safety of students walking to nearby Frederick Elementary School.

301-307 S. Catherine Street. Courtesy DHCD.
301-307 S. Catherine Street in Shipley Hill. Courtesy DHCD.

What can Baltimore Heritage do about vacant houses?

The first step in our efforts on CORE and vacant houses more broadly is to understand the issue and make sure that Baltimore residents have a clear and complete understanding of the proposed demolitions. Vacancy is a complicated issue and community residents deserve a voice in what we do about it.

Unfortunately, many of the traditional tools or incentives used to promote historic preservation—landmark designation or state tax credits for private homeowners—simply don’t help when owners don’t have the money to fix up vacant houses. We must take a more comprehensive approach that acknowledges the necessity of demolition in some cases, fights to fund preservation where possible, and advocates for broader policies (such as investments in public transit) that build opportunity for residents in neighborhoods suffering from decades of discrimination and neglect.

3208-3210 Elgin Avenue. Courtesy DHCD.
3208-3210 Elgin Avenue in Walbrook. Courtesy DHCD.

The state funding for demolition comes with the requirement that Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) lead a preservation review process that offers Baltimore Heritage and our statewide partner Preservation Maryland an opportunity to comment on the plans and advocate for “mitigation” to offset some of the impact of demolishing historic houses in historic neighborhoods. Of the millions in city and state funds allocated to demolition in the next four years, we are asking CORE to spend 10% on preservation-based approaches to vacant housing. This funding could support:

  • Stabilization of vacant buildings with potential for reuse
  • Grants or low-interest loans for private developers to reuse vacant buildings in stressed markets
  • Support for community partners to work with residents on vacant housing issues

Later this week, we are meeting with DHCD, the Maryland Historical Trust, Baltimore Housing, and our partners Preservation Maryland and the Baltimore National Heritage Area to discuss mitigation and the next steps in the review process. We expect the state to complete this first round of review in the next few weeks.

Moving forward, we plan to follow this issue closely and we welcome your comments, suggestions or questions on vacant housing and preservation and Project CORE.

Update: DHCD has removed two of the demolition clusters from the list. 4116-4118 Hayward (2 properties) and 1113-117 N Collington (3 properties) are now expected to be rehabilitated instead of demolished.

Fire devastates Public School 103 in Upton

Early this afternoon we got a call from a neighbor in Upton’s Marble Hill, alerting us that Public School 103, Thurgood Marshall’s elementary school, was on fire. The Baltimore City Fire Department is still working to contain the fire but the damage is clearly devastating. The roof is destroyed across large portions of the building and the interior has suffered terrible damage.

Photograph by Eli Pousson, 2016 April 6.
Photograph by Eli Pousson, 2016 April 6.

Public School 103 was built on Division Street in 1877. The school changed from serving white to black students in 1910 when it was first used for students from nearby Public School No. 112. In March 1911, the school was officially designated Public School 103. Thurgood Marshall began attending the school just three years later and continued as a student up through 8th grade in 1921. Today, many Baltimoreans remember it as the “Division Street School” or Henry Highland Garnet Elementary School. After the school closed in the early 1970s, the Upton Planning Committee moved in. The Upton Planning Committee continued to use the structure for arts and cultural programs and community meetings up until they vacated the building in the 1990s.

While the building had stood vacant for many years, Baltimore City and the Baltimore National Heritage Area had been working to promote the reuse and rehabilitation of the building. Building on the work of a Mayoral Commission established in 2008, the Heritage Area led efforts to repair the building’s roof and remove asbestos. Baltimore Housing solicited development proposals for the building last year as part of the Vacants to Value surplus surplus property sale.

Photograph by Eli Pousson, 2016 April 6.
Photograph by Eli Pousson, 2016 April 6.

 

Photograph by Eli Pousson, 2016 April 6.
Photograph by Eli Pousson, 2016 April 6.
Photograph by Eli Pousson, 2016 April 6.
Photograph by Eli Pousson, 2016 April 6.
Photograph by Eli Pousson, 2016 April 6.
Photograph by Eli Pousson, 2016 April 6.
Photograph by Eli Pousson, 2016 April 6.
Photograph by Eli Pousson, 2016 April 6.
Photograph by Eli Pousson, 2016 April 6.
Photograph by Eli Pousson, 2016 April 6.

Read more about today’s fire from the Baltimore Sun or read the PS 103 Commission reports for more on the history of the building. We are will continue working with the Baltimore National Heritage Area, Upton residents, and supporters of Baltimore’s Civil Rights heritage to preserve Public School 103 and recover from this difficult setback.

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Resident concerns are shaping revisions to the B&P Tunnel Project Learn more about recent changes at April open house meetings

After a year of input from Baltimore residents and our continued work through the Section 106 preservation review process, we are seeing real changes to the B&P Tunnel Project. Two public meetings this month are an opportunity for you to get an update on the project including new alternatives for the ventilation plant sited for Reservoir Hill.




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Archaeologists return to Herring Run Park this spring Sign up to volunteer from April 23 to April 30

The Herring Run Park archaeology project is back for a second year of field work at site of Eutaw Manor from Saturday, April 23 to Sunday, April 30. If you want to join the dig as a volunteer, you do not need any previous experience with archaeology. Please go sign up online today to pick the dates that work best for you. You can expect to hear back from the project team within the next two weeks with more details on the spring schedule.

Photograph by Eli Pousson, 2015 May 13.
Photograph by Eli Pousson, 2015 May 13.

Local archaeologists (and northeast Baltimore residents) Jason Shellenhamer and Lisa Kraus started the search for remains of the former country estate in Herring Run Park back in 2014. Last spring, Jason and Lisa worked in partnership with Baltimore Heritage and the Northeast Baltimore History Roundtable on a week-long dig that brought dozens of volunteers and over a hundred visitors to Herring Run Park to learn about the history of the site and join in the hands-on search for Baltimore history. You can read their Field Notes from Herring Run chronicling the exciting finds on our blog.

This year, you can follow the dig on the dedicated Herring Run Park Archaeology project website and Facebook page. You can also buy a 2016 field season t-shirt to show off your support for the dig and help raise funds for equipment, supplies and outreach materials.

Sign up for updates on Herring Run Archaeology

If you are interested in bringing a school group to the site for an hour-long field educational field trip, please contact Jason and Lisa by email herringrunarchaeology@gmail.com. We are also planning a community open house on April 30 where anyone interested in the project is welcome to come out and learn more about the dig.

Upton Mansion and Druid Health Center awarded to developers through the Vacants to Value Surplus Sale Find more development opportunities on our new interactive map

For the past two years, Baltimore Housing has worked to find developers for unique vacant properties through their Vacants to Value Surplus Sale. In 2015, Baltimore Housing listed 18 properties for development including historic school buildings, firehouses, and rowhouses located in neighborhoods across the city.

Earlier this week, we learned that the city has issued awards for seven properties including the former Druid Health Center/Home of the Friendless in Marble Hill and the Upton Mansion. In a press release, Deputy Commissioner of Land Resources Julia Day praised the variety and care the city saw from the selected developers: “From rental and market rate housing projects to a music & arts complex for youth and studio space aimed at Baltimore’s budding music scene – the applications were well thought out and sure to enhance our City assets.”

There is plenty of work ahead for the developers putting these vacant historic buildings back into use but the announcement is still encouraging news. The properties and developers include:

  • 2200 block of E. Biddle Street awarded to Cross Street Partners, City Life Builders, and Chesapeake Habitat for Humanity (seven row houses in the Middle East neighborhood)
  • 1401 E. Biddle Street awarded to Redbrick LMD (a former charter school connected to the Madison Square Recreation Center in the Gay Street neighborhood)
  • 1313 Druid Hill Avenue awarded to The Aziz Group (the former Home of the Friendless/Druid Health Center in Upton)
  • 24 N. High Street awarded to Leon & Dorothy Wigglesworth (a commercial storefront in the Jonestown neighborhood)
  • 811 W. Lanvale Street awarded to C & A, Inc. (the former Upton Mansion in the Upton neighborhood)

Baltimore Housing is encouraging developers interested in  any of the remaining 2015 surplus properties to send in an unsolicited bid by March 31, 2016. These remaining properties include:

  • 800 block of Edmondson Avenue
  • 800 block of Harlem Avenue
  • 3101 Presbury Street
  • 4701 Yellowwood Road
  • 4800 block of Pimlico Road
  • 5002 Frederick Avenue
  • 5837 Belair Road
  • 707-713 E. 34th Street
  • 1315–1327 Division Street (Former Public School 103)
  • 1500-1600 blocks of Edmondson Avenue
  • 1749-1757 Gorsuch Avenue (Former Engine Company No. 33)
  • 2950-2966 Mosher Street

You can find more information about any of these properties from Vacants to Value or contact Baltimore Housing at 410-396-4111. To help encourage the development of these buildings, we created a new map highlighting auctions, real estate listings, and development opportunities in Baltimore City. Please take a look at the opportunity map and get in touch with your thoughts on how we can keep improving this new resource.

baltimore_city-_development_opportunities_for_historic_properties_by_baltimore_heritage_02_05_2016_11_12_20