Hope for Whitelock Street

January 10, 1991

Baltimore City housing officials deserve strong support for their plan to acquire the 900 block of Whitelock Street -- and offer the site for redevelopment. This plan finally gives some real hope for a Reservoir Hill corridor that for years has been identified as a major drug and crime area.

Fifteen years ago we would have hesitated to recommend surgery that may include demolition of a mixed-use block of businesses and residences that is the heart of a community. But passage of time has persuaded us that nothing short of giving the dilapidated stretch a new identity is going to turn the neighborhood around.

At stake is not Whitelock Street alone but the future stability of Reservoir Hill, a residential neighborhood which at the turn of the century included some of Baltimore's best addresses. Over the years, many of the stately Victorian town houses along Eutaw Street and Madison Avenue, above North Avenue, have been rescued and restored, but too many still remain vacant eyesores.

Yet those once-magnificent streets, with their view of the downtown skyline and proximity to Druid Hill Park, are not the problem.

The problem is the steady decline over the past decade of some blocks on such side streets as Brookfield Avenue and Reservoir Street. The wholesale boarding up of what could be affordable homes on those streets has become a burden that is dragging the whole neighborhood down. Blight now endangers the viability of nearby town houses that have been rehabilitated into low-priced cooperative apartments.

By taking control of the entire 900 block of Whitelock Street, the city could remold a stretch that has become a problem-plagued gathering place for addicts, drug dealers and alcoholics. A redevelopment plan would signal to everyone -- from neighborhood residents to passengers looking at the area from transit buses -- that Whitelock Street is finally changing and that there is hope for a brighter future.

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