Southeast Baltimore at a Crossroads

December 10, 1993

If Baltimore is to thrive in the future, this shrinking city has to find ways to assure the continued stability of its residential neighborhoods from Patterson Park to Highlandtown and its industrial base along the Canton waterfront. Much creative energy will be required to achieve this as well as such goals as revitalizing the once-thriving commercial strip of Eastern Avenue.

These goals are doable, thanks partly to an 18-month planning effort by area communities which has produced a comprehensive development blueprint covering 67 communities.

"Southeast Baltimore is at a crossroads," the 74-page plan declares. "Over the past 20 years, southeast Baltimore neighborhoods have experienced changes in population, business and commercial areas, and houses. While many of these changes have had a positive impact on life in southeast Baltimore, there are many longer-term trends that threaten the continued vitality of southeast Baltimore neighborhoods."

As old smokestack industries crumbled over the past couple of decades, the Canton industrial area lost almost half of its job base. As a result, southeast Baltimore now has some 300 acres of vacant or underused industrial land. Meanwhile, many once-solid rowhouse neighborhoods are beginning to experience abandonment. The housing stock is good, the houses affordable but not enough families are interested in buying them.

The Southeast Community Plan proposes no fewer than 23 "priority" recommendations to strengthen the area, along with numerous less urgent measures. They range from the creation of a new industrial park to efforts to aid small businesses and community development.

This smorgasbord of often overlapping priorities reflects the southeast area's many dire needs. But trying to address all of them simultaneously may prove to be too taxing for the community activists and their limited resources. We recommend that they choose a few top priorities, work hard on them and produce results. As momentum builds, additional concerns can be targeted for action.

Southeast Baltimore rowhouses represent some of the best housing values in the metropolitan area today. The recently inaugurated real estate marketing effort, Patterson Park Neighborhood Initiative, enables purchasers to buy a house with extremely modest out-of-pocket expenditures.

The area desperately needs jobs. Revitalization of its industrial base ought to be a top city priority.

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