First came Sandtown-Winchester, an ambitious plan to pool together public and private resources to revitalize a declining West Baltimore neighborhood. Now it's the eastside's turn.
A plan being developed targets the decrepit area around the Johns Hopkins Hospital and the Kennedy Krieger Institute for massive changes. Bounded roughly by North Avenue and Biddle Street on the north, Patterson Park and Montford avenues on the east, Fayette Street on the south and Broadway, Eden and Asquith streets on the west, the area is twice the size of Sandtown-Winchester. It is home to some 47,500 people. Nearly a half of them live in poverty.
A consultants' report gives an idea of the scope of efforts planned for the next five years:
* Eliminate 1,340 vacant buildings through re-use or demolition and create new homeownership opportunities for some 850 families.
* Improve existing rental housing and have it stringently inspected to maintain standards.
* Cut the overall residential density of the community by 50 percent -- to no more than 25 dwelling units an acre. Rearrange existing square blocks by creating center courts of greenery to make older or brand-new housing more desirable.
* Encourage residential and commercial redevelopment along such thoroughfares as Monument, Madison, Wolfe and Washington streets by returning them to two-way traffic. Eliminate all traffic on Gay Street, from North Avenue to Broadway, and turn it into a sliver of greenery.
* Rezone parcels along the Amtrak rail line for commercial and light-industrial uses to increase job opportunities for residents.
Is all this talk about "creating value" in the area pie-in-the-sky stuff?
It better not be. Much of the future of Baltimore depends on a successful revitalization of the area around Johns Hopkins Hospital, a major employer for the city. If the current deterioration cannot be reversed, it will spread further into East Baltimore and endanger the viability of adjoining areas, such as the Patterson Park neighborhoods.
We are encouraged by signs Johns Hopkins and its neighbors are finally working together, forgetting past mutual distrust. If a new community development corporation is to be successful, the difficult effort requires total community cooperation.
The city is proposing that the Hopkins area be included in an empowerment zone proposal seeking $100 million from the Clinton administration. But the revitalization project must move forward even if the city fails to get a federal windfall.
The futures of Baltimore and the Johns Hopkins medical institutions are intertwined.