According to a recent study by the Goldseker Foundation, “Great Neighborhoods, Great City: Strategies for the 2010s”, the secret to Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake’s goal of attracting 10,000 new families (which would equal 22,500 new people) to Baltimore by 2022 hinges on neighborhoods. Specifically, those neighborhoods the study calls “in the middle”: neither totally stable, nor totally free of “distressed block groups.” Focusing improvement efforts on these neighborhoods, so the logic goes, will give us the most bang for buck, as they are the neighborhoods that combine room for growth with likelihood for growth.
This is a strategy that the Goldseker Foundation began advocating more than a decade before Rawlings-Blake declared her ambitious goal in December. So far, results have been mixed. Over the past ten years some of these neighborhoods “in the middle” have declined to the point that all of their blocks are either “distressed or middle market stressed block groups.” These neighborhoods are Better Waverly, Charles North, Coldstream/Homestead/Montebello, Coppin Heights/Ash-Co-East, Brooklyn/Curtis Bay/Hawkins Point, Cylburn, Garwyn Oaks, and Mondawmin.
On the other hand, some middle neighborhoods have recovered to the point of having no distressed block groups, including Bayview, Ednor Gardens-Lakeside, Glen, Greektown, Lauraville, Levindale, Mid-Town Belvedere, Moravia-Walther, Morgan Park, Mt. Vernon, Old Goucher, Seton Hill, and Watherson.
Strategies for neighborhood improvement include offering more live-near-your-work incentives, focusing mortgage and home-improvement lending in these areas, and leveraging existing assets like universities, medical centers, and the Baltimore BioPark.
Efforts to improve neighborhoods always come with the anxiety of gentrification. Which the Goldseker study shrugs off, pointing to data that show many of the improving neighborhoods saw only marginal rises in their median household incomes. Enough for the authors to declare that “any fear that a middle-neighborhood strategy will lead to gentrification, forcing modest-income households out of the city, should be put to rest by what happened in this regard in the 2000s.”
What do you think? Is this a winning strategy?
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