Developers Agree To Pitch In To Maintain Homeless Encampment Outside City Church

August 27, 2009|By Julie Bykowicz | Julie Bykowicz,

A project to clean up a homeless encampment outside a church in downtown Baltimore recently received an infusion of cash from two developers who have long complained about the area.

Khaled Said and Sanket Patel, who are developing hotels along the Fallsway, have committed $30,000 to nearby St. Vincent de Paul Church. The church's park, at the Jones Falls Expressway and Fayette Street, has been a destination for the homeless for four decades. In recent years, tents, lean-tos and leftover food collected on the lot, making it particularly unsanitary and angering neighbors.

After years of resistance, church officials agreed this summer to beautify the property and as of Aug. 1 closed it to the homeless. When it reopens next month, the park will be cleaned daily by the Downtown Partnership and church volunteers.

But that's expensive. The pastor, the Rev. Richard Thomas Lawrence, expects to pay about $30,000 for the initial renovation and $15,000 per year to the Downtown Partnership for upkeep.

Lawrence called the hoteliers' contributions "very generous and much-needed" because the annual church budget is about $250,000.

Brick pillars and a fence are under construction. Then the lot will be filled in with mulch, flowers and trees. The homeless will be able to sleep in the park but must leave, with all belongings, each morning from 7 to 9.

Said's Holiday Inn Express in the 200 block of N. Gay St., in the Old Town National Bank building, is slated to open within weeks. Patel is developing a Sleep Inn inside the former Furncraft building at 301 Fallsway.

J. Kirby Fowler, president of the Downtown Partnership, said the developers were happy to contribute.

"They, on the one hand, wished to be a good neighbor," he said. "And on the other hand, they want the best possible environment for their new properties."

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