Thursday, July 1, 2010

Re: Gentrification and Redefining Neighborhood Displacement

I have lived in Baltimore for nearly three years and development is certainly a double-edged sword. Revitalization is critical for our deteriorated neighborhoods, but the technique is equally important to not displace neighborhood culture and their long term residents. I enjoyed the piece, “Cruel Neighborhood Displacement: An Antidote at Last,” provided by Neal Perice for thecitistatesgroup, because the article focuses on unique techniques that proved successful in the gentrification of one East Baltimore neighborhood.

The Middle East neighborhood lies just north of the Johns Hopkins Medical campus. According to the article, Middle East is Baltimore’s second poorest neighborhood with only a 35% homeownership. And like many neighborhoods in Baltimore, Middle East suffers from physical decay and home abandonment.

The Casey Foundation had their doubts when then-Mayor Martin O’Malley asked for assistance to create “an 88-acre community for life sciences research facilities, retail development and market-rate housing.” Casey, the city of Baltimore and Hopkins agreed on the “primary objective of improving lives for the neighborhood’s families.”

The East Baltimore Development Inc. (EBDI) was formed to consult with the residents of Middle East. Establishing EBDI was a bold move. EBDI held over 300 community meetings to help the 630 families during the relocation and reestablishment three years after the move.

Granted these resources may not be available to many communities experiencing gentrification, I feel it is important to have one-on-one assistance for those being relocated. Casey has coined their response as “Responsible Redevelopment” by effectively negotiating between residents, developers and city officials. Since relocation, there has not been one lawsuit filed. In a recent post-relocation survey, residents gave an 8.5 satisfaction rate with 10 being the best. Overall, the pros far outweighed the cons in this Re: Gentrification project.