Home runs on city's east side Revitalization: From Patterson Park to Highlandtown, creative community projects provide uplift.

October 17, 1998

THE TOUGH redevelopment ball game is far from over. But East Baltimore has scored an impressive number of home runs recently: With skillful use of $1.6 million in state, city and foundation grants plus private money, a nonprofit partnership has acquired two abandoned movie theaters and two other buildings along Eastern Avenue's troubled retail stretch. Plans call for their eventual redevelopment.

The National Football League, through the Baltimore Ravens, has given $100,000 for construction of bleachers and a scoreboard at Patterson Park's football field.

The Abell Foundation funds a program that guarantees families buying homes in Patterson Park neighborhoods will not lose money if they resell. The foundation pays tuition of homebuyers' children at area Catholic schools.

More is to come. The future of the hulking, abandoned Esskay meat-packing plant on East Baltimore Street is near a resolution. Meanwhile, state plans call for the construction of a MARC commuter train station near Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center on Eastern Avenue.

This progress is encouraging. Too often community revitalization plans consist of announcements that heighten expectations but produce little.

Success in East Baltimore is still uncertain. But after two years, these comprehensive community redevelopment efforts must be ranked as the most promising anywhere in the city.

All this has taken hard work, diplomacy and imagination. In the end, various community interests have joined under the leadership of state Sen. Perry Sfikas, the Southeast Development Corp. and the Highlandtown Merchants Association. No single group has monopolized power; instead, the diverse groups came together and used their political influence to the benefit of their community.

Pub Date: 10/17/98

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