Town center for Cherry Hill Unusual deal: Catholic Charities will revitalize community's aging shopping center.

February 01, 1997

REVITALIZATION takes many forms. Even so, the acquisition of the Cherry Hill Shopping Center by Catholic Charities for $1.1 million represents an unusual turnaround strategy in community development. The plan is to spend $1.6 million in a major renovation effort and to turn the aging facility into a town center for Cherry Hill, a black South Baltimore neighborhood not far from the Anne Arundel County line.

Although Cherry Hill has always been more diversified than it looks, most outsiders associate it only with public housing. This is easy to understand: With 1,597 units built between 1945 and 1956, it is the largest public housing development in the city. Yet there have always also been homeowners in Cherry Hill, including a prominent judge.

Cherry Hill history has always had odd twists. In the 1720s, the banks along the Middle Branch were the preferred site for Baltimore Town, but the major landowner was not interested in selling. Cherry Hill's transformation into a black community also happened largely by accident. Initially, temporary housing for African-American war workers in the 1940s was to be built around Herring Run in East Baltimore. But after opposition from white neighborhoods, Cherry Hill locations were selected for the barracks.

The shopping center, built in the 1950s, was an early venture of William L. Adams, the legendary numbers kingpin who became a real estate developer. In recent years, the center has fallen on hard times and been pockmarked with vacancies. Catholic Charities, using a successful shopping center revitalization in Newark (N.J.) as a model, hopes to turn it into a town center for Cherry Hill.

A key attraction will be an 8,000-square-foot branch of the Enoch Pratt Library, which is scheduled to move to the center from nearby Arnett J. Brown Jr. Middle School and will occupy its space free of rent. The center is also slated to have an improved supermarket.

Many good things have been happening in Cherry Hill in recent years. Rental apartment complexes have been upgraded and the Cherry Hill Homes public housing project is being renovated. The shopping center, under a non-profit ownership, promises to strengthen the community further.

Pub Date: 2/01/97

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