Thursday, May 31, 2012

I Don't Agree with the EBDI Opposers

Recently in the news there has been increased opposition to the EBDI development adjacent to the Johns Hopkins Hospital. It has grown to the point where local representatives are going to seek to block any further development or changes to the plan, including seeking an injunction to halt the new Public Health Lab already under construction (which I doubt will happen). They contest that not enough of what was promised will come to fruition, and too many of the original residents have been displaced. While I am disappointed that the original plans for EBDI are unlikely to happen. I don't see the benefit of stopping what is happening. Moreover, I dont agree with their stance.

The Mid-East neighborhoods surrounding JHH have long been in shambles, with most of the housing abandoned and dilapidated. What has occured over the past few years has been a significant improvement, new market-rate and affordable housing (which many former residents have moved into). New office and lab space, a new residential tower for JHU students, the new public health lab which will add jobs, a new home for the Berman Bioethics Institute is now in an old police station which was completely rehabbed, a small new park. There are three new retail spaces set to open this summer, with a Wahlgreen's in the near future. How do you not call this progress? The new life in the neighborhood will only seek to improve the chances of development on neighboring block. There is already more street traffic with the buildings that have opened. Can these local officials not see the what will happen in the next few months? years?

I'm not in favor of bulldozing the past, but the cold reality is that the neighborhood surrounding JHH was long gone, and the rowhomes in terrible condition after years of neglect by both the city, and yes by the residents of the community. EBDI and JHH are trying to make something new and jump start what can be the new community, that is much more diverse with the influx of newer people who might actually want to take care of their new neighborhood.

Just something to think about.

1 comment:

  1. Actually, what has been missing in all this is the history of the past. Because we do not know the past, we continue to repeat it.

    This gentrification process occurring in Middle East Baltimore is the same process which occurred in the 1950's with the Broadway Redevelopment Project. Then more than 1000 families were displaced with no opportunity to return. After demolition of their homes, a dormitory for Hopkins students, apartments for Hopkins staff and doctors, a hotel, and retail targeted for the new residents were built. Two additional blocks were acquired by the city and sold to Hopkins for their future expansion. More families were displaced. All this after a plan presented to city hall and the planning commission was approved which promised affordable housing for residents forced to be displaced. The land sat vacant, there was a cry from the city that there was no money to build affordable housing anymore, and guess who swooped in to save the day? Yes, Hopkins! And wala, we had a 50-acre expansion of the campus as stated above.

    And yes, no one would have argued then or now, that the areas needed rebuilding. Yes, the area was also abandoned and disinvested by the city and the Hopkins community; through neglect of services and continuous buying and boarding by Hopkins until they were ready to demolish and expand.

    So we have been missing the causes of the 'eyesore' of poverty in these discussions. The current eyesore did not appear from neglect by residents only. The current eyesore has been decades in the making and will continue to exist in parts of Baltimore and other cities until there is real intention around rebuilding our disinvested communities.

    Tax breaks to powerful institutions and developers who swoop in and benefit from 'poverty zones' are not new to Baltimore. The current project in East Baltimore is not new to East Baltimore, Baltimore, or American cities.

    However what may be new, if continued with clarity and real intention around addressing poverty, is someone or some institutions having the backbone to stop this 'business as usual'.

    Think about it!

    Do you want to continue to see this same pattern of rebuilding disinvested communities where the powerful become more powerful and the least powerful become scattered and hidden from the eyes of the powerful- supposedly in the name of 'progress'.

    We need to spend some time knowing our history of community development so we can stop repeating the same thing- putting off the inevitable issue of the widening gap between the rich and the poor.