By Kara Thompson,
Northwood Plaza used to be a segregated shopping area located next to Morgan State University, a historically Black college. Starting in the early 1950s, hundreds of Morgan State students participated in sit-ins and other peaceful protests in the name of equal rights, culminating with the arrest of more than 415 students, most from Morgan State, during their protest to desegregate the plaza’s Northwood Theatre in 1963.
In 1975, the Plaza was sold to its current owners: Paul Diamond, David Diamond, Ben Schuster and Sam Gloger. The partners attempted to redevelop the shopping center, including major renovations in 1992. But in 2018, it was decided that the shopping center would undergo a $50 million redevelopment plan, through a partnership with Morgan State University.
“Morgan State University is proud to serve as an anchor institution in the city of Baltimore and is strongly committed to the surrounding community. The redevelopment of Northwood Plaza expands upon that commitment, creating a vital retail center that fulfills a number of needs for the university and the residents of northeast Baltimore,” said Morgan State University President David Wilson upon the announcement of the redevelopment plan. “This project is a great start to revitalizing the area and offers advancements that are widely praised. We are pleased with the prospect for the future.”
The 2018 plan for the new development allocated 20,000 square feet of office space housing Morgan State University’s Office of Police & Public Safety, as well as space for a Barnes & Noble college bookstore with a Starbucks across from it.
This newly developed Northwood Commons is now 80 percent occupied with businesses, the most recently opened of which is Harbor Bank of Maryland, a Black-owned bank. President Wilson attended the event.
“On this day, here is my definition of Juneteenth. It is having a Black-owned bank provide $20 million in New Market Tax Credits to enable this project to take shape. Further, it is having a Black developer as the lead firm,” he said in a Facebook post following the event. “Next, it is having the entire development constructed by a Black construction firm. And fourth, it is to ensure that there are many Black-owned businesses in the Commons owned by Morgan alumni. And last, it is making all of this happen in the backyard of the nation’s top HBCU– the National Treasure, Morgan State University.”
One of the businesses coming to Northwood Commons is Tropical Smoothie Cafe, run by Alesha and David Magby. This location will be the franchisee owners’ fourth location, and is set to open sometime in August or September. Both Magbys are graduates of Morgan State University.
“We want to be examples to the young ladies and gentlemen in the area,” said Magby. “For our staff, we stress the importance of education being important and whether pursuing higher education or educating yourself on an entrepreneurial idea, self-doubt does not bring you closer to your dreams and patience brings wisdom and virtue.”
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