Last winter, 26 students in the Introduction to Real Estate Planning class at Morgan State University began work on a theoretical design project with a very down-to-earth goal.
The students were challenged by their professor, Herschelle Reed Morris, to design a plan aimed at maximizing the positive economic impact of the pending redevelopment of the landmark American Brewery building at the corner of Gay Street and North Patterson Park Avenue in East Baltimore.
The blocks surrounding the brewery were filled with decaying homes, trash-strewn vacant lots and other signs of blight.
Neighborhood residents told the students they wanted less trash, increased safety, better housing, more stores and jobs for those living in the community.
By the end of April, the students had produced a plan for the area immediately surrounding the brewery that included a landscaped bus transportation center, a strip retail center designed to accommodate a bank, restaurants and other service businesses, and an innovative block of new housing that would mix detached, single-family homes, more affordable townhouses and a park.
The students said their aim was to spark retail development by taking advantage of foot traffic between the brewery and the new bus center served by two Metro lines. The housing and park were designed to increase the appeal of the neighborhood for brewery workers and visitors to the community.
The students pointed out that the brewery is just seven minutes from Penn Station and five minutes from the Johns Hopkins medical center.
At two meetings in May, they presented their work to Humanim, a large human services nonprofit that will bring 250 jobs to the brewery; Struever Brothers, the principal redeveloper; and an array of city housing and planning officials.
The students' vision received enthusiastic response, but the challenge of finding the means to achieve the ambitious goal still looms.