Two years ago, Catholic Charities opened a town center that many hoped would spur neighborhood development. Two months ago, the center lost its anchor, and the area's only grocery, when Super Pride Markets went out of business. A few weeks later, a beauty salon folded. Both were painful losses for Cherry Hill.
Alonzo Brown, who owns Bird 33 Sportswear Inc. in the center, said walk-in traffic at his shop is down considerably since the market shut its doors.
But at a time when being informed is crucial, Brown said he had not heard about the Main Streets program, which is designed to help the city's neighborhood commercial strips.
"We're back at square one," he said. "If there's funding out there for other neighborhoods, I would like to see Cherry Hill get some to put us on the map."
Sister Loretta Rosendale, who is on the Catholic Charities' board of directors, said she does not deal with city government often, and has almost no relationship with City Hall.
"I look at Cherry Hill and see a town center with a grocery store missing that's vital to community," she said. "I haven't felt there's a city that's interested in helping us."
Cherry Hill hasn't seen any of the urgency that O'Malley used to calm fears in Hamilton, where in early October an angry crowd nearly rioted in protest over a plan that would have moved more subsidized housing into the neighborhood.
Northeast Baltimore residents shouted down then-Housing Commissioner Patricia J. Payne. But when O'Malley strode into a packed Hamilton Middle School auditorium, the crowd fell silent. Many knew him from his eight years representing the area on the City Council. On this night he talked to them about race and fear. He promised to pull back from the subsidized housing plan. People cheered.
"Thank heavens he came," said Jack Ray, president of HARBEL, the association serving the Harford Road-Belair Road community. "He worked his Irish magic on the audience."
In Southwest Baltimore, O'Malley has not needed to make any dramatic appearances. Pigtown residents point to a new, $52,000 skateboard park as a sign of the mayor's attention.
The project had been slated as one of several improvements for Carroll Park. In April, O'Malley learned that some of the neighborhood children were skateboarding in the street, then on a tennis court. The nearest skateboard park was in Lansdowne in Baltimore County. By August, the Pigtown kids had their own skating park.
"He made it happen with a personal phone call," Lane said.
Neighborhood leaders know their community needs more than a skateboard park. Pigtown is beset by substandard housing and open drug dealing.
The intersection of Washington Boulevard, West Cross and West Ostend streets is one of the 10 city corners O'Malley vowed to clear of drug dealers and users during his first six months in office. The police swept the area clean, but residents say the dealers are back."[They're] more abrasive and out in the open," Lane said. "There is less police presence. It's much worse."
Residents lament the loss of a mobile police substation. The Police Department moved its Winnebago to East Baltimore as part of a highly publicized campaign to loosen violent crime's grip on that impoverished part of town.
Yet Pigtown did not give up on O'Malley.
"City residents are learning to be patient," said Lane. But, she added, "They'll want to see some impact soon."
Like Pigtown, the neighborhood around Patterson Park had also waited for a long-promised project to begin. More than $2 million in grants and city bond funds had accumulated over five years. Plans called for draining the park's 2.5-acre boat lake, installing lighting and fixing the landmark 60-foot-high pagoda.
But no work had been done. The project was stalled in the city's bureaucracy. This year, O'Malley transferred management of park improvements from the Department of Public Works to the Department of Recreation and Parks. Last month the lake was drained and made ready for work next spring.
"A boat lake might not seem like a big deal, but for a community that's been waiting for years, it is a big deal," said Nancy Supik, president of Friends of Patterson Park.
In Hampden, residents and business owners are learning to accept the mayor's decisions, especially those they don't like. As part of his plan to close some city fire stations, the neighborhood lost a hook-and-ladder firetruck. Then, to the dismay of many, O'Malley vetoed a measure that would have given the business district a 27-space parking lot.
"It would be lying to say there weren't bad feelings over the fire station and the parking," said Sharon Price, president of the board of Hampden Village Main Street Inc., which is overseeing a program to improve the area's business district.