21 July 2009

Homeward Bound

On 7 July, I learned my job as director of communications had been excised as of that day. I had an inverse reaction to this sudden surgery, not unlike what so often happens in a shiva house, the bereaved comforting those who come to offer comfort. How could I not? - the person bearing the blade was the one I'd followed to EBDI for the most satisfying job I ever had outside of my own enterprises.

I worried how we'd communicate to our residents minus the newsletter. Not well, I was told, his continued clinical delivery a cover-up, not an incapability, to care - about me and about the void-to-be. Less is not more when the most is sometimes not enough for those caught up against their will in the re-imagination of the part of the world they happen to call home.

I traveled light, relative to my professional and emotional investment, needing to gather not much more than a 1954 Jacob Glushakow pen and ink portrait of a collapsed rowhouse at Monument and Bond streets (black on white, yet somehow full of colour); a circa 1880s coffin top for a New Home sewing machine, the company's name still big and bold in Eastlake lettering across the front; and the RE-INVENT YOURSELF tank top found in a thrift store an hour after learning the EBDI job was mine. The shirt sports the number 8 - a mobius, an endless ribbon, a mark of infinity; I pondered the symbolism as I hung it in my sewing room above a pile of unfinished patchwork, strangely thrilled to have been pushed off a cliff, grateful for the enormous opportunity at my feet, and oddly relieved that nothing less than the full complement of my creative resources would be required to conjure and fuel a new adventure, one ideally based from home.

EBDI's relocated residents were also pushed, but with apparatus not only to cushion the blow, but at their option, to go home again, too. On my last full day at EBDI, I had the pleasure and that aforementioned satisfaction of photographing a mother and child do just that.

26 June 2009

North and South and East and West of Your Life

That’s the second line of "What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?,” best-recorded by Barbra Streisand and the title of my post on this date last year, my most favorite thing I’ve ever written. I hadn’t planned to post again this 26 June, referencing, or not, the man from whom I inherited a great love of old buildings, but today, on what would have been my daddy’s 80th birthday, I ran into Bill Struever and lucked into a tour of another personal number one, and his masterpiece, the American Brewery, now home to Humanim, a visionary healer of humans and now maybe a neighborhood. I was the keyholder for the American Brewery when I worked for the City of Baltimore and unexpectedly first toured my beloved building three years ago on 9 May, the anniversary of my daddy’s death in 1973, the year the building was last used, but am absolutely astonished tonight to learn the American Brewery was listed in the National Register of Historic Places on the day my daddy died.

In 2006 the magnificent mansard-roofed towers were declared near death and with them would go years of dreams and schemes. From my window at Baltimore Housing I watched and I prayed because I knew if Bill Struever couldn’t save this building, no one could, and moving on to EBDI I more closely witnessed that for which I and so many others waited, crying when the scaffolding came down and the bandages came off this asymmetrical, eccentric, outrageous old lady, for she was perfect.

Today from the top I looked north and south and east and west and saw maybe this city’s craziest quilt of streets crashing into each other at the oddest of angles, only adding to the sense of dysfunction, yet I also easily picked out and prayed for those who have staked their proud claim as this city stitches its fabric back together, needle and thread poised at the ready, waiting for EBDI, already lightly but securely patched with running stitches to Oliver and Johns Hopkins and Patterson Park, to send progress bolting straight up Gay Street.

20 January 2009

A Mile A Minute

Arriving home Friday from work, I was greeted by/confronted with an invitation to join the former American Association of Retired Persons, now the AARP. At that moment, with my 50th birthday only six months and two days away, I somewhat irritatingly murmured Robert Frost’s most famous line about miles to go before I sleep. Doesn't AARP know 50 is the new 30, or for someone like me, newly untethered, maybe the new 20? With 401Ks in freefall, the concept of retirement doesn’t even seem feasible, but at this awesome occasion in history, long-overdue and so rife with hope and possibilities, it’s nonetheless unimaginable for those of us intent on guaranteeing this as an era of significant social change.

I thought about the week that was at EBDI – the high of Citi Foundation granting $100,000 on MLK’s real birthday to help us more affordably renew and green up classic rowhouses, and the challenges and sometimes intense emotions accompanying seismic neighborhood transformation. I suggested January 15th as the event date to commemorate the riotous response to Dr. King’s death that devastated and then for some, in an instant, defined a large segment of East Baltimore. And today, a day after an MLK federal holiday many of us would agree was by far the most moving and meaningful ever, at noon, in an instant, we’ll witness a major piece of Dr. King’s dream come true - though in reality, it happened in the calendar year 2008, when 40 years after cataclysm, America rose up in revolution, forcing history into uncharted but certainly glorious territory, and selected Barack Obama as the incoming leader of the free world. I pray the souls of slaves are somehow resting more easily today. Should I be blessed with the great gift of good health, there’s too much to do to rest, or retire, anytime soon.

11 November 2008

Dumpster Diva

It's closing in on five months since I wrote Honeysuckle Rose on a very frustrating day, yet yesterday, as my camera and I documented the arrival of greenhab dumpster number one, it felt exactly like the right moment. "The time is always right to do something right," said Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Not to discount our September kick-off or the vital work of the number-crunchers and the financiers, but yesterday's dumpster signaled the public beginning of our project, and for EBDI and our past, present, returning and future residents, that dumpster was a triumph of hope and faith, particularly in light of our close-to-cataclysmic economy. But we made a promise and we're keeping it and after welcoming our relocating and relocated residents, Hopkins employees and students will follow as they harness the $17000 Live Near Your Work incentive. Others having or needing no incentive will also help re-populate this neighborhood that will reflect the collective diversity of every American home, clear up to the Obama family home-to-be. Now, indeed, is the right moment.

This morning, I watched and photographed as dumpsters number one and two changed places. The gutting of what will be the first of two model homes is a microcosm of the EBDI project: remove the unfixable pieces - as much as it might hurt - then put the puzzle back together, prioritizing health, sustainability, and always, the gift of the future. Dumpster number one contained the rotting remains of a home where numerous families found sanctuary and comfort and I had a thought, despite my Judaism, to cross myself as the detritus was lifted onto the truck and covered for its journey and landfill burial. But a few moments later, in my last (alas, camera-less) sighting, the load morphed to glorious and triumphant as it sailed to its destiny past the new Hopkins bio-tech building, where the future is already here.

18 July 2008

Parallel Construction

I'm not an obsessed railway enthusiast, a trainspotter, but the associated sights and sounds always command my attention. Serpentine tracks help shape our piano footprint and from my new, blessedly quiet (thank you Chris and Robin) second floor Ashland Avenue carriage house digs (an accessory to the now-attached Victorian jewel box built as a police station), I've got a front row seat to trains snaking by four blocks up, past rows in repose and large lots bordered with bunting staking our claim. How I wish they could already stop in EBDI-land, and were maglevs, whizzing by at warp speeds so common in Japan, capable of rocketing us to daily jobs in D.C. and Phillie and even NYC, but no matter - they still confirm the sloganed scrim stating "My New East Side is Innovative" or "Vital" or "Exciting" and so on.

But my favorite is "My New East Side is The Future" and even without bullet trains, we are still boldly bound in the right direction. So was the police officer on his horse this morning, trotting beneath my perch as Amtrak ambled by. Other than his uniform and the street furniture and cars, etc., it could have been 1890 and he and his mount could have just emerged from this carriage house. It reminded me that as a preservationist, I am particularly proud to be part of the driving force committed to carrying this neighborhood's rich and proud past into the future.

01 July 2008

New Lease On Life

Twenty-seven years ago today at Johns Hopkins Hospital, after six weeks of lingering, my mother lost her eight year struggle. I visited her almost daily until the end, but with no budget for parking, I often wound up depositing my car on Madison Street.

I'm hypersensitive to color - I see hairs of difference between hues - but the houses I passed and parked in front of always seemed the exact same, appropriate to my mood, lifeless shade of grey, no matter how and when the sun settled upon them. In the ensuing years, they still appeared drained of color every time I encountered them. And I say this as a person who never met a house she didn't like.

Five years ago, when my niece was treated and cured of a rare disease at Hopkins, I had another two-month round of daily sightings. The EBDI project had just come alive with plans to slay these blocks of boarded-up buildings. Ask me what I do for a living, and for decades I've unceasingly defined myself as an historic preservationist, but knowing there wasn't must else to be done, I put my professional opinion in stasis. I didn't watch. I just didn't want to know. And when I needed to know, it was OK. I pay no mind to those who think I've lost my mind, my ideals, my standards, my soul.

Today, as I ponder my mother's all-too-short life and my niece's miraculously normal one, I think about the life and near death, and then again, life, of one of Baltimore's great neighborhoods, and how grateful I am to be alive to participate in its rebirth.

22 June 2008

Honeysuckle Rose

I've been a rabid rose freak since age six, even when each slice of a thorn compels me to say my garden will be the death of me. But honeysuckle is my favorite fragrance - maybe because it is so fleeting, but also because the scent simply brings me to peace - lately, a rare commodity, as I'm challenged and frustrated too often by the questions we didn't even know needed asking as we herk and jerk our way to what I'm calling Dumpster Day.

So nothing was going to stop Thursday's shoe-imperiling journey through an urban thicket into a hellish McDonogh Street backyard to grab at honeysuckle cheerfully rambling round a rusty ramshackle fence. This rear yard couldn't be more different than my clipped, symmetrical, immaculate, practically perfect (something in my world has to be!) formal rose garden, but even amid the weeds and the critters and the collapsing houses, I found beauty and sanctuary.

It reminded me of what I wrote in I Surrender on my Steamed Female blog: "Maybe it was something in the stillness and the quiet that freed my mind and let it roam - made possible by surrendering to something exactly opposite of my perfectly-planned spaces and not at all under my control." I will endeavor to keep this in mind with the next challenge.

19 June 2008

Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer

Actually, it's more like Donna got run over by a Range Rover.

Looking both ways - heck, any way - before crossing streets in our bull's eye has been unnecessary for so long that it was entirely my bad for practically getting flattened.

But seemingly overnight, traffic's resumed. Eager Street is open for business. Big bulldozers busily move dirt. A foundation flies out of the ground. People are walking. The sense of motion, of progress - of regeneration - is palpable. Naysayers are clearly outnumbered.

I've said for months now that it's the night before Christmas here in EBDI-land. Commencement of greenhabbing is still maddeningly a few weeks off, but to paraphrase Grandpa - I believe.

15 June 2008

Happy Father's Day

Last month's 35th anniversary without my daddy was the first I was not distraught or depressed and I attribute it to my job at EBDI. Being busy doing something so important quite simply crowded out the pain.

In this job, there's an element of homage to my father, who conveyed his great affection for Baltimore City to me. Every day on my way to work, as I pass through the intersection at Biddle and Maryland, I am at or within one block of at least half a dozen of his many enterprises, all housed in the old buildings he loved so much. His entrepreneurial, promotional spirit has motivated me for the twenty years I've operated various businesses and continues to inspire me as EBDI steams toward developing and hyping green, historic rehabs - the most profound act of tikkun olam (repairing the world) with which I have ever been associated. If Daddy were here, there's no doubt we'd be doing green rehabs as a private enterprise - and making a circus of it.

Sam Shapiro was reknowned for his perennial mayoral and congressional campaigns, highly publicized capers and hijinks, and the compulsion to express himself; there's no doubt I am my father's daughter and I am grateful for all that DNA. My tribute to him in Dan Rodricks' 2007 Father's Day column - that he taught me to love and revere old buildings; to be self-sufficient in case something happened to him (it did); to promote a cause (or myself) with humor and style; to be a Renaissance woman (otherwise known as giving in to your ADHD); and (inadvertently) that life is short, so have as much fun as possible - never rang truer.

Daddy, you sure did know how to have fun and corral others into having fun watching you having fun - and we sure could use more of that levity today. Thank you for being you and cluing me in on how to be me.

31 May 2008

What Is Home?

I'm still digesting Wednesday night's housing and relocation subcommittee meeting re: if/how to bring up to code the houses owned by those preservation block occupants who do not want to relocate, not even possibly next door to one of our ever-closer-to-reality green rehabs. The discussion was dense and difficult, and at times surprisingly tender. There were tears - mine - and someone else's (doesn't matter who) - as talk turned towards the notion of home, as opposed to house.

Home is where you grew up. It's the dining room table your friends and family crowd around for birthdays and holidays and Scrabble. Home is getting knocked over by the fragrance of a chicken roasting in October or roses tumbling over the trellis in May.

Home is pride in an unbroken familial chain of ownership. It's the hug you feel crossing the threshold after a bad day. And if you're lucky, home is where you're comfortable, safe, and loved.

House is the envelope, the four walls - Patterson Park vernacular and regimented or Reservoir Hill drop-dead over-the-top - it doesn't matter. It's just the vessel.

In 1985, I had to sell the home in which I lived and grew up. Though I endured the worst days of my life there, I also had the comfort of some memories so precious and beautiful that the house remained a refuge. Despite all mental preparations and the Victorian awaiting in Charles Village, Menlo Drive felt ripped from me and settlement ground to a half-hour halt as I desperately worked to collect myself. But I mentally moved on almost as soon as taking up residence in that circa 1887 frame house. Then after 14 years - and a wrenching goodbye to my roses in a driving thunderstorm - I moved on again.

In the past nine years, I've learned a lot about pitching things, both material and mental, in order to make way for other things and I know I could give up this fabulous (OK, maybe one day after a lot more work) Bolton Hill house for a shanty - as long as there's a place for my Grandma's dining room table, around which I've had and still have the best times of my life, and I'm lucky enough to be going someplace where I'm comfortable, safe, and loved.

And today, as residents - both those who must relocate, as well as those on preservation blocks - toured houses rehabbed by our short-listed general contractors to get a sense of what our rehabs might look like, even folks who an hour earlier remained dead-set against moving were eager to sign the green dotted line. I actually heard several musing about where to put their dining room tables. When one gentleman leaned out the second story front window of his favorite floor plan house and called below to his wife "We're home," my tears flowed again.

20 May 2008

Right of Return

I've been rung up repeatedly, even visited (unannounced), in the past two weeks by displaced residents wanting to move back to EBDI-land. Most were homeowners and purchased houses elsewhere with their relocation benefits - in some cases, much closer to their places of employment. It's not stunning to me that they want to "come home," as so many of them put it. I'm a typical Cancerian - home is and has been everything to me, even in pre-Bolton Hill days, when issues beyond my building envelope challenged my patience, safety, and investment.

Each call, each visit, is yet another affirmation that burning down the forest was the only solution to saving the trees. Yes, as a preservationist, I occasionally speak euphemistically about demolition on a scale still a bit unfathomable - for reasons obvious, and also because I did not watch it - but each caller and visitor has given me the same subset of answers when asked how he or she feels when passing by the site of his or her former domicile - that it was sacrificed in the name of progress.

Many relocatees moved on to houses far more comfortable, and I can say this in the context of living within construction sites for the past twenty-five years (what can I say? - I take my time when hemorrhaging hundreds of thousands of rehabilitation dollars), of having too many moments when a brand new house - or any house other than mine - seemed the only verifiable route to sanity and a room finished enough to buy a couch or hang a picture or cease apologizing. So it is truly humbling and gratifying to hear from folks who believe, thanks in part to EBDI, that you can come home again.

Urban Fields of Green

Autumn adventures beyond Baltimore City limits took me to areas I assumed were somehow protected and would always remain pristine - shocking me with vista after vista sullied with inappropriate, poorly designed, cheaply constructed, non-contextual, cardboard crap. On those journeys north, I encountered very early to mid-morning unbroken lines of traffic resembling nothing short of a mass evacuation into Baltimore City.

All the newfangled light bulbs, high-tech solar hot water systems, and single-stream recycling can never stamp out the carbon footprint resulting from the plowing under of farm after farm and the aftermath of this ultimate form of anti-green violence.

Developers seek a blank page, but that's also available in the center of Baltimore City - witness more-fabulous-by-the-minute Harbor East; modular housing construction in the Oliver neighborhood; the in-progress restoration of the city's most fanciful Victorian brickpile, the American Brewery; and, of course, EBDI's on-going, staggering transformation within our piano - with an eye to jump the piano in the not-too-distant future.

One developer friend refers to large-scale rehabilitation and build-from-scratch projects as urban farming, and with tens of thousands of vacant buildings and lots, there's no shortage of opportunities. The recent challenge of trying to find a reasonably safe walking/biking route between my house in Bolton Hill and my job at EBDI - all of two miles, past some abandoned rows similar to Bolton Hill, save for the dearth of people to love them - made me realize the need to insure we go beyond developing random parcels to farming the ribbons in between so the city can grow more quickly back together.

When - not if - the scarcity of energy pushes and freezes a gallon of gas north of five dollars, commuters fighting their way into the City of Baltimore and armies of developers will recognize that acres of abandonment are the next green pastures.

07 May 2008

You Can't Currently Get There From Here

Scheduling a recent truck repair proved problematic, not for the lack of a good mechanic, but the impossibility of finding a realistically safe walking/biking route between Bolton Hill and EBDI-land.

It's exactly two miles from my front door to our rehabs, but a smidge less than half of that traverses areas of intense abandonment, including Oliver, with a reported 44% of the buildings blocked or boarded and a much higher percentage blighted. My morning jolt's provided not by Woodworker's Espresso, but an unpleasant change of scenery as Mount Vernon's cozy Biddle Street crosses Fallsway. In my prior job with Baltimore Housing, I regularly walked through here, but I nonetheless psychically exhale as I slip east into our footprint - my other home, my other safe harbor.

Our rehabs are, of course, but a small part of EBDI’s $1.8 billion, 88 acre redevelopment – no, make that, re-imagination, of our swath of East Baltimore. And EBDI is driving other development. M.J. “Jay” Brodie, president of the Baltimore Development Corporation, noting that “EBDI is not just a dream now,” has launched another attempt to revive Oldtown Mall. New modular houses are being erected at Caroline and Preston Streets and a rehabbed house in the 1500 block of Biddle Street is on the market for $205,000. Response to our RFP for a general contractor was intense and I have received numerous, almost panicked calls from prospective buyers asking how to assume a spot on the waiting list for one of these classic, yet ready-for-the-future, homes. Odd to say, but for EBDI, there’s a silver lining in the energy and housing crises.

Still, I’m impatient for the healing in my native city to fan out further and faster.

At the end of the workday, I ride home west on Preston Street, past some rows grand and identical to Bolton Hill, save for a heartbreaking dearth of humans to love them. Eutaw Place's (former) Temple Oheb Shalom looms large; home is such a comforting sight that it's almost a guilty ache.

26 April 2008

Robin Saw the Same Movie

Robin Carter, EBDI's Director of Operations and Asset Management, and I sat down yesterday to discuss her crew helping me with greening projects, but we quickly sidetracked to the bigger picture, including the moving picture (yes, read that both ways) she saw, too - except hers was a double feature, with two boys on bikes.

I meditated on this today in my garden, reveling in tufts of green emerging from plants requiring savage pruning to make them grow again.

22 April 2008

Happy Earth Day

We're suddenly in the embrace of all things green, and certainly, our impending green rehabs could not be more timely. I sit here at this desk, excited and impatient, building a little more of the foundation each day, frustrated that there's no time to blog - and my head couldn't be more full. But I can't let Earth Day go by without some commentary, so here are links to two pieces I wrote in December (before I was an EBDI employee) in Steamed Female, one of my two (sorely neglected) other blogs:



11 April 2008

The Opposite of Cecil B. DeMille

Tidying my desk at 6 PM, I thought about what seemed like a cast of thousands paving, planting, and potchkying (Yiddish for puttering) all week long in anticipation of today's Hopkins' life sciences building dedication. The tent overflowed with hundreds upon hundreds of attendees who heard rousing speeches and humble expressions of thanks. It was a lovely event, yet I wanted to end today blogging about something else. But what?

Still pondering, I got in my truck parked out back, and a few seconds later reached the front of the building on Ashland Avenue, where a beaming boy, riding the most unusual red, green, and yellow bicycle, pedaled east in front of me on the days-old sidewalk bordering the equally fresh and immaculately landscaped parking lot. It was as if this child, enjoying the warm Friday afternoon in a thoroughly decent, clean, and safe place, was sent to star in a video just for me. Pass the popcorn - I want to see it again and again.

A Walk In The Park

That's not how one might have described a stroll through the EBDI footprint for the last number of decades - until yesterday.

For the past week, in final preparation for today's biotech building opening, our neighborhood has swarmed with a gargantuan amount of activity. Huge muddy parcels have almost instantly become landscaped parking lots and planting beds now teem with blooming daffodils and deep chocolate mulch. Years of planning and laying infrastructure funneled down to this seemingly instant payoff.

With the huge construction vehicles all but gone, I was greeted to work yesterday with a clear path and the almost sound of silence. Rolls of sod, stacked with beautiful precision, formed a low wall along Ashland Avenue. A tent resembling a mini-Pier Six loomed ahead. Workers were absolutely everywhere. What a happy way to begin my day.

I stepped outside a few hours later, completely startled by the newly-laid lush living carpet and tall blooming cherry trees that implausibly emerged from the earth. It was just like a movie set, except that this set will not be struck at today's end. This is the New East Side.

08 April 2008

Mending Our Quilt

A glimpse of East Baltimore from the roof of the vacant, splendid Art Deco, six-story Highlandtown Middle School reinforces the well-loved notion of our city as a patchwork quilt of neighborhoods, as compelling from above as it is at street level. From on high, it's all sprawling, colorful geometry; on the ground, a familiar, comforting vernacular, even in areas disquieted with dysfunction.

I still wonder if my statement to the interviewers at Baltimore Housing, apropos to nothing - that I never met a house I didn't like - helped or hurt me, though I suppose it couldn't have hurt too much, because I was hired as the asset manager. But there was little I could do about row after row in decline, except tell myself these faded ladies, even the ones practically beaten to death during the riots and beyond, were merely in repose. I had to wait my whole professional life, until now, to do something significant about it.

Sort of. Truth be told, much of the worst of the worst were already gone by the time I landed here. It was the only thing to do. Most were not built to last; with no footers and party walls one brick thick, no reasonable amount of money could secure their future long-term. The riots had not ruined these particular houses, but more so time and gravity.

These houses and their residents were an integral puzzle piece of this neighborhood and they are missed and will never be forgotten. We'll honor them by building well-considered, energy-efficient, and appropriate structures sure to be filled with a lively mix of residents, merchants, and workers from all walks of life. But handsome, functional buildings - new or perfectly restored - are besides the point for some unless filled with people intent on building on the community still extant within the EBDI footprint.

The bird's eye view will remain captivating, thanks to restoration of the old, exemplary design of the new, and the diagonal trajectory of Gay Street that forever insures East Baltimore's crazy quilt template. It's a perfect metaphor for the history we make every day as we zig and zag into our future.

04 April 2008

I Have A Dream

Baltimore's collective heart and spirit was broken forty years ago today with the assassination of Dr. Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. and the rioting it touched off. Seared into my mind is the surreal presence of National Guard tanks patroling eerily silent Reisterstown Road, just up from my parents' idyllic Menlo Drive home. In the very safe distance, the sky was dark with smoke, but the wind carried air thick with the smell of destruction. I was eight years old and in the third grade, but already a voracious reader of the Baltimore Sun's morning and evening editions, and I was glued to the TV news. My parents told me not to venture beyond the front porch. I thought the world was ending.

But, of course, I had no idea that for many Baltimoreans and their neighborhoods, some already battered, it was or would be damn near close.

Swaths of the city were all but left for dead in the years following the riots. All but - but the lights never totally went dark. I wondered what made some people stay on blocks where only a few lights shone. As the city's asset manager, I met plenty of citizens with the means to move, but stay they did, and do. Familiarity and faith in the future, they said, and say.

I'm curious about the inordinate attention paid to the riots on this particular anniversary. Maybe it's that even amid the stalled boom, rehab continues apace. Washingtonians are still discovering us and hopefully BRAC refugees are on track to do so, too. We're not about to loosen the grip on our hard-won self-confidence. In the immortal, misquoted, and therefore parodied words of Sally Fields' 1985 Oscar acceptance speech, "You like me. You really, really like me." In civil rights parlance, our eyes are still on the prize.

Maybe it's just coincidence, but the Hebrew sages declared forty as the minimum age for wisdom and spiritual maturity. The Hebrew word for soul is comprised of the letters that also form the number forty. Noah and his ark withstood trial by flood for forty days and forty nights and Moses took up residence on Mount Sinai for the same length of time. And so close to Passover, we remember that his followers wandered in the desert for forty years.

Whatever the reason for this year's focus on what forever altered our social, psychic, and physical landscapes, I am moved beyond belief (think about those words) to be a partner with the residents still remaining within the EBDI footprint. I will in large degree measure my success by the number who choose to relocate to the classic rowhouses that together we are making green and new for that future in which they have placed their faith.

03 April 2008

Who We Are

I had planned to begin this blog yesterday on Maryland's Arbor Day; we're about to make history with our green rehabs and the symbolism was irresistible. I knew what I wanted to say, but I hadn't come up with a blog title, or should I say it hadn't come down - and I invite you to interpret that however you like - I'm not religious, but I'm full of faith.

Since commencing my responsibilities on Saint Patrick's Day (yes, more green) as the Director of Housing Programs for East Baltimore Development Inc. (EBDI), I've thought about little else than the profound task in front of me and how grateful I am to have it. I turned in too tired last night to obsess that the admittedly limited amount of time spent conjuring a blog title yielded no fruit.

My first thought upon awakening this morning, more than half an hour early at 3:57 AM, was that an apt description of the EBDI footprint, which not so long ago might have been "decaying East Baltimore" or "grim East Baltimore" or "dangerous East Baltimore" is now more accurately "changing East Baltimore." But changing could only be used as an adjective here because we're also employing it as a verb: we are changing East Baltimore.

EBDI is just a part of the "we" - the guiding hand making sure we're all holding hands. Certainly, the residents - both the relocatees and the ones still residing on the preservation blocks - bore and bear a hard-to-imagine burden. I never lose sight that hundreds of family homes became rubble and that uncertainty in places still reigns - but I think not for too much longer, possible only because of the extraordinary commitment, investment, and vision of the balance of the "we" - the Johns Hopkins Institutions, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the Goldseker Foundation, the Greater Baltimore Committee, the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation, Enterprise Community Partners, the City of Baltimore, Baltimore Housing, the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development, the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development, and others.

The reasons are infinite for what took so long and why it's taking so long, but my spiritual side never fails to inform me that things happen when they're supposed to. The beginning of my blog is a day late, but it's not a dollar short.