Designers propose ways to revive neighborhoods

Winning entries suggest innovations to increase diversity among residents

May 15, 1999|By Edward Gunts | Edward Gunts,SUN STAFF

Designers from Florida and New Jersey won the top awards in the international competition held to find strategies for improving "undercrowded" Baltimore neighborhoods such as the Middle East community near the Johns Hopkins medical campus in East Baltimore.

After reviewing more than 85 entries over two days, judges gave awards to Ed McKinney of Gattling Jackson in Orlando, Fla., and Graciela Carrichia of A. Nelessen Associates in Princeton, N.J., yesterday.

The competition was begun last fall to find ways to help reverse abandonment and disinvestment in "depopulated" neighborhoods with high rates of vacant housing.

It was coordinated by the nonprofit Neighborhood Design Center of Baltimore and the Historic East Baltimore Community Action Coalition, which sought design proposals for a 16-block area bounded by Biddle, Chester and Madison streets and Broadway.

Cheryl O'Neill, one of the five judges, said many of the entries suggested conservative approaches that preserved housing patterns in the Middle East community -- typified by a grid of streets and traditional rowhouses.

She said the winning entries were selected because they suggested "ways of adopting the urban grid to create more diversity of housing types" to help attract residents representing a broader range of income levels and family types.

Combining rowhouses

One of the winning plans proposed removing every third rowhouse on a block as a way of decreasing density, then combining the two remaining houses to make one dwelling with a yard and off-street parking.

"Creatively rethinking the pattern" of streets and housing in East Baltimore was the common theme of the winning projects, O'Neill said.

Baltimore planning director Charles Graves and Housing Commissioner Daniel P. Henson III said the best of the ideas might be incorporated into the city's comprehensive plan for guiding development.

Henson said his department has been working for years to eliminate abandoned houses and needs strategies for improving deteriorated areas. About one-third of the 3,000 homes in the Middle East area are deteriorating or abandoned.

Eager for a plan

"I'm not one of those people who believes we need to slow down," Henson said to more than 200 designers, planners and others at the awards ceremony yesterday on the Hopkins campus.

"I believe we need to speed up. But we need to move ahead with a plan. If you show us a good idea, we will work hard to implement that idea. It won't just sit on the shelf."

The East Baltimore coalition hopes to hire one or more of the entrants to prepare a comprehensive plan that can guide redevelopment of the Middle East area.

"This is where the rubber meets the road, on specific streets and blocks," Graves said.

Schmoke sees opportunities

The winners received cash awards of $7,500. In addition, $3,750 merit awards were given to Scott Scarfone and Bo Sun, landscape architects with LDR International of Columbia; and designers Chris Parts, Victor Burbank, Monica Robertson and Russ Robertson of Hord Coplan Macht in Baltimore.

A student honor award of $1,000 was given to Roger Schwabache, Larry Brady and Jenny Spitz of the University of Maryland's School of Architecture and Planning. Merit awards went to students from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and North Dakota State University.

The many entries "clearly demonstrate the spectrum of opportunities that exist to revitalize our neighborhoods," said Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke. "The city will benefit from this type of imagination not just in Middle East but in all our neighborhoods."

Pub Date: 5/15/99

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