Baltimore Work Models Responsible Redevelopment

Posted March 26, 2010, By the Annie E. Casey Foundation

Blog baltimoreworkmodelsresponsibledevelopment 2010

When the city of Bal­ti­more and the busi­ness com­mu­ni­ty sought Casey’s sup­port for an ambi­tious project to revive a long-trou­bled East Bal­ti­more neigh­bor­hood, Doug Nel­son made it clear that the Foun­da­tion was not inter­est­ed in urban renew­al as usual.

Too often urban renew­al projects force long­time res­i­dents out or do lit­tle to improve their life prospects. Nel­son saw the East Bal­ti­more project as a unique oppor­tu­ni­ty to pur­sue respon­si­ble rede­vel­op­ment” in part­ner­ship with res­i­dents to ensure that they benefit.

I’ll nev­er for­get his words: If all we’ve done is build brick hous­es or struc­tur­al facil­i­ties and have not touched the lives of indi­vid­u­als who have been a part of this com­mu­ni­ty for gen­er­a­tions, we have failed,’” recalls Joseph Hask­ins, Jr., Har­bor Bank of Mary­land pres­i­dent. I said Doug, I need your voice at the table to remind me and oth­ers of the impor­tance of the human side.’”

Begun in 2001, the $1 bil­lion-plus East Bal­ti­more rede­vel­op­ment, led by a pub­lic-pri­vate coali­tion, is designed to phys­i­cal­ly trans­form a dis­tressed 80-acre neigh­bor­hood into a mixed-income com­mu­ni­ty anchored by a life sci­ences tech­nol­o­gy and research park.

It also aims to trans­form the lives of about 800 fam­i­lies, help­ing them find hous­ing, edu­ca­tion­al and career oppor­tu­ni­ties, health ser­vices, trans­porta­tion, and oth­er supports.

As a board mem­ber of East Bal­ti­more Devel­op­ment, Inc. (EBDI), the non­prof­it orga­ni­za­tion man­ag­ing the project, Nel­son pro­vid­ed great insight and input,” says Hask­ins, for­mer EBDI board chair. He also met evenings with com­mu­ni­ty lead­ers, morn­ings with busi­ness peo­ple, and after­noons with polit­i­cal leadership.”

Nel­son made a strong com­mit­ment to res­i­dents who had mobi­lized to have a voice and role. He sought their involve­ment, from shar­ing ideas at meet­ings to mak­ing pol­i­cy as key com­mit­tee mem­bers. He attend­ed many gath­er­ings with res­i­dents, some wary and frustrated.

It was a risk for him to sit in those meet­ings and ini­tial­ly have res­i­dents telling him off,” says long­time res­i­dent Nia Red­mond. But he explained that he respect­ed res­i­dents and what he was try­ing to do, and he hoped that the res­i­dents would respect him too. Some things res­i­dents said weren’t very kind. But he weath­ered the storm with us.” Grad­u­al­ly, she says, res­i­dents bought into Mr. Nelson’s mes­sage — that peo­ple are going to be all right.”

Nel­son invit­ed young reporters from an East Bal­ti­more children’s news­pa­per to inter­view him about the project, and spent much of the time inter­view­ing the reporters about what they want for their neigh­bor­hood He ensured that res­i­dents helped plan a long-desired new school. We felt like our opin­ions were being heard,” says Red­mond, who became a res­i­dent rep­re­sen­ta­tive to the EBDI board.

Among the project’s results to date, 730 house­holds have been relo­cat­ed to neigh­bor­hoods with low­er crime rates, bet­ter schools, more eco­nom­ic diver­si­ty, and bet­ter hous­ing. Those res­i­dents are being tracked and are report­ing that they’re quite sat­is­fied,” says Tony Cipol­lone, Casey’s vice pres­i­dent for civic sites and investments.

And many res­i­dents who relo­cat­ed — and got first dibs to return — are return­ing. Many are tak­ing advan­tage of the project’s job training.

Most of the things that Mr. Nel­son said would hap­pen have panned out,” says Red­mond. It let us know that per­haps res­i­dents in blight­ed neigh­bor­hoods can work with the Estab­lish­ment. We nev­er expe­ri­enced that.”

Our site is in East Bal­ti­more and the res­i­dents we serve are in a bet­ter posi­tion because of the EBDI work,” says Doreen Jor­dan, direc­tor of the Bal­ti­more Casey Fam­i­ly Ser­vices Divi­sion. Casey’s sup­port for a state ini­tia­tive to pro­vide per­ma­nence for fos­ter care youth cre­at­ed a favor­able cli­mate for a pro­gram that ensures young moth­ers in fos­ter care are placed with their babies in their com­mu­ni­ty, Jor­dan notes.

Casey’s sup­port for Bal­ti­more through a com­bi­na­tion of grants to sup­port local orga­ni­za­tions and ser­vices to work direct­ly with fam­i­lies through Casey Fam­i­ly Ser­vices has been crit­i­cal, Jor­dan says. The inter­sec­tion between work being done on the ground and through grant mak­ing is key.”

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