Community meeting focuses on Greektown improvements

Business sales are up, crime down, official says

September 20, 2002|By Laurie Willis | Laurie Willis,SUN STAFF

Nitsa Morekas is happy about a reduction in violent crime in her Greektown community and thinks a safe neighborhood is more likely to attract tourist dollars.

But Morekas, who owns a store that specializes in Greek statues, ceramics, music and magazines, wants to see other improvements in the East Baltimore community. For starters, she wants the facades of businesses along Eastern Avenue - Greektown's main thoroughfare - renovated.

Sprucing up the community's businesses is among goals set by the Greektown Community Development Corp., said Executive Director John E. Gavrilis. At a meeting Tuesday night, Gavrilis told nearly 100 residents about the CDC's progress on matters such as devising a strategic plan and restoring the Karpouzie baseball fields.

Yesterday, while walking along the sidewalk on Eastern Avenue, Gavrilis talked about the improvements the CDC has made in his community. A former Baltimore police officer, Gavrilis is proud of the 38 percent reduction in violent crime reported by police during the first six months of this year. He attributes that to the off-duty police officers the CDC pays to patrol Greektown at night.

He also talked about parking spaces, which once went unused but are now hard to find on weekends in Greektown, a neighborhood known in part for its restaurants.

"We've got cleaner streets now, and new businesses are coming," Gavrilis said. "Our housing prices are rising, too."

And Morekas might get her wish to have blue and white - Greece's national colors - incorporated into business facades. Gavrilis said the CDC has requested money from the community legacy board of the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development for business and home renovations.

"We're looking to acquire nuisance properties and vacant properties," Gavrilis said. Greektown residents are tired of tenants who fail to maintain their homes, he said, and will not tolerate people who conduct illegal drug activity from their residences.

The Greektown CDC has been successful in having one family removed, Gavrilis said.

Gavrilis, who retired 2 1/2 years ago as a colonel, chief of detectives, doesn't rely only on the police and courts to weed out unwanted neighbors. He has knocked on a few doors, told tenants they were a neighborhood nuisance, and threatened to take court action if they didn't move.

Dimitrios Avgerinos, who came to Greektown as a chef in 1971 and now owns Acropolis, one of the area's most popular restaurants, said he is thankful for the work Gavrilis has done.

As a result, Avgerinos said, crime and the rodent population have decreased, and business sales have improved.

"The neighborhood was real bad," Avgerinos said. "Drug dealers used to be out on the corner, but not anymore. The neighborhood's now very safe. People are coming out more now."

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