Two new leaders working to implement Greater Homewood 'Renaissance' plan North Baltimore group has ambitious agenda

July 08, 1998|By Jamie Stiehm | Jamie Stiehm,SUN STAFF

On the front of her blue and white striped seersucker jacket, Barbara Bonnell sported a button reading "Future Leaders of Greater Homewood" as she and William P. Miller had lunch in Charles Village yesterday.

For Bonnell, 67, and Miller, 58, the new leaders at the Greater Homewood Community Corporation, the future is now.

The duo is taking charge of implementing the group's five-year ++ master "Renaissance" plan, which calls for raising $32 million from public and private sources. The major goals are starting a community development corporation, strengthening an environmental program for restoring the Jones Falls, and forming partnerships with local elementary schools.

The recently "reinvented" North Baltimore nonprofit organization binds Union Memorial Hospital and the Johns Hopkins University with 35 neighborhoods ranging all over the socioeconomic spectrum: from Guilford to Hampden, Waverly to Roland Park. An estimated 77,000 people -- more than one-tenth the city's population -- lives in Greater Homewood.

"It's like Baltimore in miniature," said Bonnell, volunteer president of the board of directors. Miller became the GHCC's new paid executive director in May, succeeding Sandra Sparks.

While he is a transplant fresh from Philadelphia, Bonnell is a born and bred Baltimorean.

The team of two has a lot of work to do to carry out the carefully written five-year plan, which arose after a series of community "visioning" meetings last year.

"This is the voice of the people, a grass-roots document," said Bonnell. "Our marching orders are right there."

The carefully crafted "quality of life" plan also vows to "aggressively attack" empty and deteriorating housing and poverty in five neighborhoods, including Barclay and Greenmount.

City Planning Director Charles Graves said he looks forward to working with the new team. "They [the GHCC] have been very helpful in articulating the views of the community."

Though the ebullient Bonnell knows the city backward and forward, she's discovering it anew. "I'm learning so much I didn't know before!"

A graduate of the Bryn Mawr school 50 years ago, she taught political science before beginning a career in urban economic development, leading to her current post as director of research at the Baltimore Development Corp.

Bonnell said she uses the decades of downtown and Inner Harbor redevelopment as "my model in life for bringing people together."

Miller, who lives in Tuscany-Canterbury, said he sees parallels between his old and new cities: "Baltimore's comfortable to me because Philadelphia's the same concept, of a city of neighborhoods." Yet, he added, he was amazed at the volunteer energy he has seen here.

He formerly directed the Campus Boulevard Corp., a community revitalization effort in Northwest Philadelphia involving several schools, employers and neighborhood assistance programs. Outside of work, he sails -- another reason for moving here.

Both believe in partnerships between the private, public and philanthropic sectors as the magic formula for preserving and enhancing neighborhoods.

Pub Date: 7/08/98

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