Pennsylvania Ave. task force presents revitalization plan

Activists hope investors, $260,000 grant can help revive area businesses

April 13, 2001|By Neal Thompson | Neal Thompson,SUN STAFF

Pennsylvania Avenue may never be the cultural heart of Baltimore's black community that it was decades ago, when music filled the night and names like Billie Holiday and Cab Calloway lighted up the marquees.

But a group of community activists and politicians said yesterday that "The Avenue" doesn't have to be a prime example of urban decay, either.

After spending a year looking at ways to spruce up the strip near where Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall grew up, a Pennsylvania Avenue task force released a report yesterday that seeks to spark economic redevelopment along a 1.55-mile stretch of the West Baltimore street.

The task force, which recently became the Pennsylvania Avenue Revitalization Collaborative, presented the 18-page report to Mayor Martin O'Malley at the Shake and Bake Family Fun Center, a community and youth center in the heart of the area targeted for redevelopment.

O'Malley, flanked by community leaders and state and local legislators, listed the recent renovation of 82 buildings, new street lights, and the relocation of 26 businesses to Pennsylvania Avenue and its side streets as hopeful signs that a slow rebirth of the strip is under way.

Pennsylvania Avenue is one of seven city streets picked last year to receive funding from the national Main Streets program and will receive $260,000 over five years. The report unveiled yesterday was part of the process.

Authors of the report - "The Historic Pennsylvania Avenue Development Guidebook" - also hope private investors will begin to see the avenue as ripe for redevelopment.

Del. Verna L. Jones, a Baltimore Democrat who chaired the task force, said the Main Street funds will be one part of a broader effort to gain public and private funds to renovate buildings, attract new businesses and help existing businesses. She said the report is an attempt to make sure Pennsylvania Avenue isn't forgotten as other parts of the city are redeveloped.

"The community has a vision, and we're very, very strong. We just didn't have the access," Jones said.

In other business, O'Malley announced yesterday a second citywide spring cleanup - the Super Spring Sweep Thing - from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. April 21. Trash bins will be delivered to 45 neighborhoods to allow residents to clean up their parks, alleys and sidewalks.

O'Malley is encouraging neighborhood groups to organize trash pickup events for April 21. The city will provide rakes, brooms, gloves and garbage bags. Information: 410-396-4511.

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