The first phase of the Equality Equation in the Broadway East Community is underway. (Photo by Sean Yoes)
By Sean Yoes
An area of East Baltimore notorious for drug use and drug dealing is ground zero for the first phase of an ambitious $200 million community development project.
A groundbreaking ceremony near the corner of E. North Avenue and Belair Road in Broadway East on Sept. 28, marked the physical incipient stages of the Equality Equation Project, a three-phase development some city leaders are describing as potentially transformative for East Baltimore.
“This has the potential for changing people’s lives. That for me is the biggest piece,” said former Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon, who was officially attending in her role as director of the Maryland Minority Contractors Association. Dixon was one of several speakers who addressed a crowd of interested onlookers and stakeholders during the ceremony. Afterwards, the former mayor pointed out nearby areas of blight and distress that could be immediately impacted by the new sprawling development. “It’s bigger than just bricks and mortar. If you look at the drug treatment place over there, people selling drugs, people hanging out and vacant properties. It’s about transforming people’s lives for the better so that people can see that they have an opportunity that they have not had in years.”
After the speeches were given during the groundbreaking ceremony, a massive earth mover dug into the dilapidated McGarvey Industrial Park building at 1940 Belair Rd. Tearing down the structure, which has been abandoned for years is the first physical step in the possible rebirth of a community that, like the building has been in many ways abandoned.
The razing of the McGarvey building will make way for the first anchor of the Equality Equation Project, the Industrial Park for Workforce Development. Subsequent phases of the project will implement the Broadway East Affordable Home Development, the Baltimore Athletic Live and Learn Center and the New Broadway East Wellness Center.
“Today, I believe, is the first blow against systemic racism in America right here in Baltimore,” said Pless Jones Jr., co-founder of the Equality Equation Project alongside his wife Elizabeth Jones. The Joneses believe the ongoing process of manifesting the Equality Equation Project despite a city bureaucracy antithetical for generations against authentic Black development tears at the foundation of systemic racism.
“It is moving forward the work that our ancestors have done and people that have come before us in hopes that we are creating access points for this community, for individuals, for a better future,” said Elizabeth Jones. “And that this is just a spark. We want to throw gasoline on this and we want to see it transform this community. That is what this is about, transforming the community and the lives of the people in the community,” she added.