Reclaiming Reservoir Hill

August 11, 1994

One of the great mysteries of Baltimore is that Reservoir Hill has never quite become as stable as such other restoration neighborhood as Butchers Hill or Federal Hill. Yet that community south of Druid Hill Park has superb housing stock, ranging from turn-of-the-century Victorian mansions on Eutaw Street to well-constructed and spacious rowhouses on nearby side streets.

It is accurate to say that Reservoir Hill today is worse off than it was a decade ago. Happily, the community, bounded by Druid Hill Park, Madison Avenue, Jones Falls Expressway and North Avenue, now has an unusual opportunity to reclaim itself.

This opportunity arises from a number of construction projects that within the next years will change the face of the neighborhood.

Overlooking the lake in the park, three landmark apartment towers -- the Esplanade, Emersonian and Temple Gardens -- are undergoing a $35 million modernization.

In the 2400 block of Lakeview Avenue, six properties will be completely rehabbed and sold to low- and moderate-income residents.

Rehabilitation is also scheduled for five properties on Linden Avenue and eight condominium units in the 900 block of Brooks Lane.

The most visible activity, however, is taking place in the 900 block of Whitelock Street. Deteriorated commercial properties in one of the city's most notorious drug bazaars are being bulldozed. By the end of the year, the city hopes to select a redeveloper for the area.

"Demolition of this site gives Reservoir Hill a chance at a new identity in the shortest period of time, while providing stability by eliminating a drug strangle-hold. Whitelock Street is changing, finally, and the future of Reservoir Hill and this block now is much brighter," says city Housing Commissioner Daniel P. Henson III.

None of this has come about without time-consuming controversy. Existing property owners and users had to be bought out and some of them, particularly St. Francis Neighborhood Center in the 900 block of Whitelock Street, resisted mightily. Since 1963 that center has been providing a variety of badly needed social services, ranging from dental care to counseling, in addition to serving as a religious center.

Despite its decay, Reservoir Hill has a lot going for it. The current wave of construction ought to make it more desirable to residents, who in turn can bring new vitality and activism into the neighborhood.

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