Tag: West Baltimore

Storefront Improvement Grant Program Kicks Off

In July, we joined our nonprofit partners the Neighborhood Design Center and AIA Baltimore to kick off a new program through the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development to rehab and improve commercial storefronts that were damaged during the civil unrest in Baltimore last April. The program, called the Storefront Improvement Grant Program, is providing $650,000 to fix storefronts along main streets from Pennsylvania Avenue in Sandtown Winchester to Eastern Avenue in Highlandtown.

From a pool of 145 applications, 26 projects were selected to receive funds. Each business will get up to $10,000 for improvements, as well as an architect volunteering through the American Institute of Architects Baltimore Chapter. After working out a design with the owner and architect, youth training teams from Civic Works and Living Classrooms will do the actual construction. We at Baltimore Heritage are helping by providing assistance on meeting historic preservation standards to ensure the redesigned storefront helps the owner and the surrounding neighborhood.

In addition to Sandtown Winchester and Highlandtown, the following other neighborhoods are slated to have storefront improvement projects: Pigtown, Waverly, Park Heights, Hollins Market/Union Square, and Market Center/Downtown. With project design work beginning this month, construction for the first set of storefronts is expected in the early fall.

1232 Druid Hill Avenue is saved from demolition… for now

On January 12, the Baltimore Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation (CHAP) voted unanimously to add the George W. King/Abraham Briscoe House at 1232 Druid Hill Avenue to the city’s historic potential landmark list. Baltimore Heritage worked closely with the Marble Hill Community Association to prepare the landmark nomination. CHAP clearly saw how important it is to save places tied to Baltimore’s African American and Civil Rights heritage—especially after tragic loss of the Freedom House at 1234 Druid Hill Avenue this past fall. The experiences of Abraham Briscoe and the generations of Baltimoreans who lived at 1232 Druid Hill Avenue reflects the history of the Great Migration, racial segregation and the Civil Rights movement in the late 19th and early 20th century.

1232 Druid Hill Avenue, 2016 January 15
1232 Druid Hill Avenue, 2016 January 15

Fortunately, potential landmark designation protects 1232 Druid Hill Avenue from demolition for the next six months. But because this is only a potential landmark nomination, these protections run out in July unless the Baltimore City Council takes action first. If a member of the City Council introduces an ordinance to list the property as a full city landmark before July, the protections are immediately extended for another eighteen months. If the City Council votes to approve the ordinance and the Mayor signs it into law before the end of that period, the city gives 1232 Druid Hill Avenue landmark status forever.

Last week, we reached out to Councilman Eric Costello (who represents the Upton neighborhood as part of the 11th District) to ask him to join us in protecting this landmark and introduce a landmark designation ordinance. If you are resident of the 11th District, we urge you to reach out to Councilman Costello and share your own support for preserving 1232 Druid Hill Avenue by emailing eric.costello@baltimorecity.gov.

1200 block of Druid Hill Avenue, 2016 January 15
1200 block of Druid Hill Avenue, 2016 January 15

Saving 1232 Druid Hill Avenue from demolition is an important step forward in our efforts to preserve Baltimore’s Civil Rights Heritage. We are interested in working with Bethel AME Church to see 1232 Druid Hill Avenue redeveloped for use as a home or community space. We are working residents to expand the Marble Hill Historic District and protect other properties at the edges of the district. We are supporting neighborhood activists fighting for the stabilization of the Harry S. Cummings House at 1318 Druid Hill Avenue. Please subscribe for updates on Baltimore’s Civil Rights heritage for ongoing updates on these efforts and share your own thoughts in the comments.

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Preservation review of the B&P Tunnel project—an important opportunity for community input

As we shared earlier this year, the planned replacement of the B&P Tunnel is a project with major consequences for historic West Baltimore neighborhoods. The current set of proposals could require the demolition of the American Ice Company, the Ward Baking Company building or whole blocks of rowhouses in the Midtown Edmondson neighborhood. When demolition is unavoidable, the preservation review process known as Section 106 can secure an agreement that mitigates the harm the project may bring – by investing in community resources, preserving nearby buildings, or telling the stories of the history lost to demolition. If you live in West Baltimore, your comments on these alternatives are critically important to determining the future of the buildings and community around the proposed rail line.

What is Section 106? Since last fall, the B&P Tunnel project has been working through a review process required by the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) and National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA). Section 106 of the NHPA requires the Federal Railroad Administration to meet with the Maryland Historical Trust and a variety of interested parties and consider the effects of the proposed project on historic buildings and neighborhoods. A Citizen’s Guide to Section 106 Review (PDF) from the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation explains:

Section 106 requires federal agencies to consider the effects of projects they carry out, approve, or fund on historic properties… Section 106 review encourages, but does not mandate, preservation. Sometimes there is no way for a needed project to proceed without harming historic properties. Section 106 review does ensure that preservation values are factored into federal agency planning and decisions.

In meetings in July and August, the Federal Railroad Administration asked Baltimore Heritage and other consulting parties to consider the two remaining alternatives for the B&P Tunnel(with a total of five variations)  and submit comments. What of these alternatives does the least harm? How can the effect of these proposals be mitigated? We’re asking your help in answering these questions by reviewing the alternatives below and sharing your comments with us and with the B&P Tunnel project team.
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Speak up for historic West Baltimore at the B&P Tunnel Open House next week

We are continuing to pay close attention to the Baltimore & Potomac Tunnel project where the possible replacement of an existing railroad tunnel threatens to blocks of historic rowhouses and industrial buildings in West Baltimore. An open house meeting next week provides the latest opportunity to learn more about the project including new details on the project engineering and the environmental impact on Baltimore.

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