Last month, we posted about a classic rowhouse in Roland Park — and received a slew of comments from folks objecting to the neighborhood designation. (The house was at 39th St. and Beech Ave., which is technically a part of the Roland Park Historic District, but more closely associated with Hampden, according to our intrepid readers.) And remember when some folks tried to rechristen beloved Pigtown as blander-but-more-expensive-sounding “Washington Village”? Now you can add another neighborhood rebranding effort to the list: The East Baltimore neighborhood known as Middle East is being referred to as “Eager Park” in new marketing materials — and the renaming attempt is making some residents hopping mad.
The Middle East neighborhood has long been a pawn in Johns Hopkins’ attempt to refashion parts of the city to suit its needs. Supporters point to the influx of money, attention, schools, and poverty-fighting programs in the area as evidence of the university’s good will; opponents argue that the powerful institution has both directly and indirectly disenfranchised the historically African-American community. There’s way too much history there to fit into one blog post, but suffice to say this neighborhood re-naming is upsetting people on both sides.
According to an extensively reported article in the Baltimore Sun, the neighborhood’s name dates back to 1978, and hasn’t gained much traction in the neighborhood. That doesn’t mean that people aren’t bristling at Hopkins’ attempt to rebrand the area with new brochures, flags, and a website. “They want it to sound like there’s no history here until they got here,” neighborhood activist Donald Gresham told the Sun. “Eager Park is just another slap in the face. Nobody cares about what this community represented. It’s all about the glamour.”
Of course, it’s hard to argue with Scott Levitan, development director of the Forest City-New East Baltimore Partnership (the company “contracted to renew the neighborhood,” according to the Sun), when he points out that the name “Middle East” isn’t exactly the most marketable, considering today’s economic climate. But is renaming a neighborhood really the best way to effect lasting change?
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