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.

No comments: