Henson fans fears in Cherry Hill South Baltimore: Tenants apprehensive about plan to raze public housing complex.

October 07, 1997

COMMISSIONER Daniel Henson finds himself under fire from two fronts in another dispute. Department of Housing and Urban Development bureaucrats think he may have jumped the gun in trying to demolish 192 public housing units in Cherry Hill. Meanwhile, tenants of that South Baltimore complex fear replacement housing would lead to displacement of the poor.

Mr. Henson's dispute with HUD will resolve itself. The impatient housing commissioner will either satisfy the feds or slow his plans to raze the 1940s buildings. After all, Washington controls the money. Cherry Hill residents' fear about gentrification is another matter. Their apprehension is deeply emotional.

Several years ago, when nearby subsidized apartment complexes not owned by the city were converted into market-rate rentals, many Cherry Hill residents believed the units would become condominiums. It never happened.

Similarly, any thought that Cherry Hill, which contains the city's highest concentration of public housing, would draw yuppies because of its proximity to the water is utter nonsense.

Nevertheless, Cherry Hill is changing.

When it was constructed in 1945 to alleviate the post-World War II housing crunch, Cherry Hill was a working-class neighborhood. After racial barriers in housing came down and suburbanization began, working-class families moved out. Today, some 80 percent of the 10,000 residents receive public assistance.

Would a Cherry Hill that is more balanced socio-economically be a stronger community? We think so. Diversity is nothing to fear.

Pub Date: 10/07/97

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