Sandtown blueprint drafted Big changes for better foreseen

May 09, 1993|By James Bock | James Bock,Staff Writer

After nearly three years of brainstorming, an ambitious battle plan has emerged for transforming West Baltimore's poor Sandtown-Winchester neighborhood by making a frontal assault on residents' poverty and its root causes.

The Sandtown blueprint endorses many familiar proposed remedies for urban ills, including job training, drug treatment, preventive health care, community policing, preschool education and local control of schools.

But its ambition lies in trying to bring all the remedies to bear at once, by coordinating delivery of services and hiring Sandtown residents to recruit their neighbors to take part in the various programs.

Patrick M. Costigan, an Enterprise Foundation project manager and an architect of the plan, said the effort is to "create a human service delivery system that is equivalent to what the 911 system is for emergency services."

The 2-inch-thick document, drafted by city officials, Sandtown residents and Enterprise Foundation staff, is expected to receive Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke's formal approval soon. The mayor has already gone beyond the plan's provisions by vowing to renovate all the area's 600 vacant houses within a year.

"If things work out the way it's laid out on paper here, there's going to be a big change in Sandtown for the better," said George Boston, a longtime Sandtown resident and a member of the advisory committee that oversaw the planning process.

"If just half of it gets done, it would be a success for many people in Sandtown," Mr. Boston said.

The need for change in Sandtown -- a 72-square-block area bounded by North Avenue on the north, Pennsylvania and Fremont avenues on the east, Lafayette Avenue on the south and Monroe Street on the west -- is undoubtedly acute.

Half the 10,305 residents live in poverty. Almost three-quarters of the housing stock is substandard. Students score below city averages on standardized tests and often drop out. Drug use and crime are "epidemic," says the document.

The plan only hints at the cost of transforming Sandtown, but it is clear that many millions of federal, state, city and foundation dollars would be needed. For example, the plan calls for raising $62 million over the next five years for housing programs alone.

More than $30 million has already been spent in Sandtown to build or rehab 227 townhouses and modernize 571 units of public housing. Another $10 million has been earmarked for community health programs over the next five years, and more than $3 million is being poured into job training and other projects for neighborhood youth.

The document estimates that government already spends nearly million a year in Sandtown, including Social Security and welfare payments, just to maintain the status quo.

"There is considerable opportunity with the Clinton administration to promote the Sandtown-Winchester

transformation vision and plans as an example of what can and must be done in an inner-city neighborhood," the plan says.

Henry G. Cisneros, U.S. secretary of Housing and Urban Development, has already toured the neighborhood. Mr. Cisneros is a Schmoke ally and served on the Enterprise Foundation board for three years. Enterprise was founded in 1981 by James W. Rouse, the developer of Columbia and Harborplace, to create affordable housing and attack poverty.

The plans for Sandtown range from sweeping housing rehabilitation to holding poetry contests and raising Christmas trees on a vacant lot.

Among the major goals are to:

* Create a nonprofit corporation, Community Building in Partnership Inc., to manage transformation of the neighborhood. Sandtown residents would form a majority on the board.

* Establish a "coordinating council" of community groups and churches to organize the neighborhood. Set up a clearinghouse for volunteers.

* Create a Neighborhood Development Center to plan and finance housing programs, especially those that make homeownership possible for families earning as little as $10,000 a year.

* Form a nonprofit corporation to redevelop the city's Lafayette Market as "The Avenue Market" and to revitalize the Pennsylvania Avenue shopping area.

* Establish a Neighborhood Employment and Training Center and pay residents for doing community fix-up work while they are in job training.

* Make the Mount Street Community Support Center a "one-stop shop" for government services. Send "family support teams" composed of

a social worker and a resident home visitor out into the neighborhood to link residents with services.

* Put health clinics into local elementary schools, train residents as outreach workers to promote preventive health care and expand drug abuse treatment programs.

* Sponsor full-day kindergartens and after-school care for children of working parents, and expand adult education programs.

* Organize community policing and block watches, expand recreation programs and provide summer jobs for youth.

About 100 Sandtown residents have found jobs as a result of neighborhood initiatives already under way, and others are volunteering.

"I think what really is going to make this last is more residents being involved in the process," said Barbara Bostick-Hunt, Mayor Schmoke's chief Sandtown aide. "The change is slow, but they're feeling a part of this."

NEW 'HABITAT' PLANS

Sandtown Habitat for Humanity plans to renovate 20 vaacant houses this year in the West Baltimore neighborhood. It will kick off its 1993 project with a brief service at 4 p.m. today in the 15oo block of N. Stricker St.

The group has announced a July 19-24 "blitz-build" week in which more than 200 volunteers will rehab Sandtown houses. Last year former President Jimmy Carter spent a day in Sandtown working on a similaar project.

Sandtown Habitat has renovated 15 vacant houses and plans to complete 100 houses over five years. The group uses private donations, volunteer labor, donated materials and 300 hours of "sweat equity" by each new homeowner to rehab houses and sell them at cost to low-income neighborhood residents. Information: 669-3309.

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