Rebuilding Park Heights – Part 1

Like it or not, the City of Baltimore (“City”) has entered the renovation business.  Why? The City is desperate to turn Park Heights around.   If you drive up Park Heights Avenue or Reisterstown  Road, you will see boarded up house after boarded up house.   How did this happen?  One can certainly question the “questionable leadership” in the city.  For decades, the city has been a case study in failure and decay and what happens when a blind eye is turned to crime, violence, and the targeted importation of drugs.   And it’s not just crime, violence, and drugs, but many of these boarded up properties have bad titles and are caught up in numerous city liens and tax sales.

So, what’s the cure?

GET AGGRESSIVE WITH ABSENTEE OWNERS.  For starters, the City must address absentee property owners who have let their properties go to waste.  These properties are hurting the neighboring property values and in some instances are preventing sales and transfers as some lenders will NOT finance a property that’s next to a board-up.   In effect, by their own neglect, the absentee owners are inflicting financial distress on homeowners who are trying to exit their investment.

One must ask “How can the City do this in a time efficient manner without wasting judicial resources? ”  Currently, the City has a process via its code enforcement legal section to take property owners to court, put the property into receivership, and get a Court Order to transfer title.   The City has ONE auctioneer that handles their auctions.  For years, One House At A Time has had a monopoly and arguably, a very cozy relationship with the City’s “in crowd”.   The One House At A Time approach may take houses to auction, but is it fast and efficient enough to rebuild a neglected section of the City?  No!  Not even close.   One House At A Time is NOT working. 

The solution in part is that the City was get very aggressive on absentee owners.  It might mean a one-year notice to cure for property owners.   And during this one-year notice period, the City should then pass legislation, to take aggressive action to rid the City of problem properties.  In addition, State law must be changed to support whatever changes in the City law to support more efficient legal actions to change titles from disinterested absentee owners to qualified property buyers and owners who must make the properties PRODUCTIVE in a very strict period of time.   This is a start.

DEAL WITH CRIME AND VIOLENCE.  First, there’s NOT a section of the City that has been without crime and violence.  See the homicide map as evidence.   Arguably, most of the “crime and violence” is happening in the suites and not necessarily the streets, but that’s another conversation for another time.  What’s not arguable is that there’s a genocidal violence trend in the City that has existed for decades.  In fact, the City’s homicide rate is 10 times the national average.   So, what do we do?  Five things:

  1.  Absentee Fathers.  Without question, if we can cure the issue of absentee fathers, then we can cure part of the issue with crime and violence.  I’d submit that when father’s are involved in the lives of their children, their children are a lot less likely to be involved in street crime and violence.   Father’s MUST step up and create a better path for their children than they have enjoyed for themselves.
  2. The Church.  There are way too many churches that are NOT open during the week.  I don’t think we can argue that if people are guided by God and are praying, they are a lot less likely to be pushing poison and killing.    What happens when the church opens up after-school and on Saturday’s providing a resource, outlet, mentoring, and additional instruction to neighborhood children?  The children can’t help but to grow, get stronger, better, and smarter.
  3. Education.  I’m willing to bet that if we go into the prisons and issue reading and math tests, we will find prisoners who are illiterate and struggle with math.  When people can’t read and count, they are not employable.  When people are not employable, they find alternative methods to feed themselves and “survive”, even if it means pushing poison and killing.  The sooner we make education super cool again, the better off we all will be.  To its credit, the City has made excellent investments in education with its 21st Century Schools Initiative as evidenced by Forest Park High School, Pimlico Elementrary/Middle School, and the soon to come Arlington Elementary School.
  4. Good Grocers and Entertainment.  With all of the people and money in Park Heights, its an indictment on current and past leadership that Park Heights is without a good national grocery store and lacks a solid entertainment district.  Another solution to this issue, is for the City to sell land to a developer to cure this very issue.
  5. Public Safety.  Saving the best for last, the City has been working hard to find a suitable Commissioner to the lead the embattled police department.  Is Commissioner Michael Harrison the answer?  Who knows!  That remains to be seen. But what should be a given for ALL residents and not “some”, is public safety.  The City can no longer allow half its residents to live in squalor, failure, and decay and the other half to live in “peace, quiet, and luxury”.    It truly has become a tale of two cities.  This can no longer be.  What must happen is the people of Baltimore must be safe from crime, violence, prostitution, and frankly, suite crimes.  The streets need to be properly paved.  The lead lines should all be replaced.  The alleys must be cleaned.  There must be one standard in Baltimore City, clean and safe. 

MONEY!  While people spend much of their time complaining about President Donald J. Trump, one thing is for sure, he is green-lined Park Heights.  Under the Trump Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, Federal Opportunity Zones were created.  Baltimore has 42 Opportunity Zones.   The Opportunity Zones are going to cause investors to pour millions of dollars into Baltimore City.  A part of Park Heights happens to be in an OZ.   The OZ map shows which sections of Park Heights are included.  This is a very good thing.

In addition to Opportunity Zones, both the City and State must kick in the Benjamins.  As stated before, there are needs in Park Heights, including, but not limited to  public safety and entertainment.

PRIVATE INVESTMENT.  In order for Park Heights to have a chance, there must be significant private investment.  At DCHB, we’ve been making serious and monthly investments in various parts of Park Heights.  We’ve recently acquired properties on Rogers Avenue, Ridgewood Avenue, Liberty Heights Ave, Beaufort Ave., and we are looking for more properties to acquire.

On 4015 N Rogers Ave., we are building and selling a  new home.

At 4110 Ridgewood Avenue, we are demolishing the existing building, and building 5 new homes.

 

On Liberty Heights Avenue, we are taking a vacant lot, subdividing it and building 5 new homes.

On Beaufort Avenue, we are demolishing the old frame houses, keeping the stone foundations, and building new homes on the old stone foundations.  This is the type of investment Park Heights needs and what we are doing our part to rebuild.

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