Dilapidated vacant houses and abandoned lots will soon become a distant memory for residents of the Barclay/Old Goucher community in East Baltimore. On Sept. 20 Mayor Rawlings-Blake, city officials, residents, neighborhood organizations and local developers broke ground on a $85 million redevelopment plan to revitalize the neighborhood and restore its luster in hopes of attracting homeowners and businesses to the area.

In 2007 Baltimore Housing gave Telesis Corp., a Washington D.C.- based developer, the right to develop 268 parcels into mixed-income and mixed tenure housing including affordable home ownership opportunities and market-rate and affordable rental opportunities. Ninety-four of those parcels are vacant lots.

Telesis also plans to coordinate with other local initiatives in rebuilding the area with improvements to Calvert Street Park, a new neighborhood park and 12,000 square-feet of community and retail space. “This 10 year plan came out of a community effort,” said Catherine Stokes, senior project manager. “We placed a bid on the RFP put out by the Housing authority, but we were selected by the community and housing. We are planning to be here for the long haul.”

Project development is planned in four phases. The first, currently under way, primarily focuses on the construction of 72 units of affordable housing in 28 buildings. This $19 million phase of the project began in June and Stokes said construction for 35 units of for sale housing will begin by the end of the year.

“There’s an overarching plan to bring forth a balance of rental and homeownership. But more importantly there is great potential to impact and foster change,” said Stokes. “This is a huge effort from the neighborhood and community organizations. The project is going well. There was a wonderful turnout for the groundbreaking because so many of the people who were there had a hand in this and had been involved since day one.”

Telesis partnered with Healthy Neighborhoods to secure $4.7 million for the first wave of ‘for sale’ housing construction and rehabilitation of vacant and foreclosed properties.

The redevelopment of the Barclay neighborhood is part of a larger city wide effort to rid Baltimore of an increasing number of vacant houses throughout the city. “We received total of $26 million from the federal government through NSP2 (Neighborhood Stabilization Program2) for Baltimore City,” said Rahn Barnes, a consultant with the direct purchase program run by Healthy Neighborhoods. “Through the direct purchase program potential buyers receive money to help towards the acquisition, rehabilitation, and closing costs of an abandoned or foreclosed property in neighborhoods like Barclay/Old Goucher, Patterson Park and Belair-Edison among others.”

According to Barnes the funds must be used within three years of receipt. The organization was awarded the money in January 2010. “The city has shrunk, not unlike some other cities in the Northeast,” said Barnes. “But the goal is to get new home owners on the tax roll and for them to become engaged neighbors and citizens in city life. There is a significant base of affordable housing, if you are interested in city living.”


Melissa Jones

Special to the AFRO