It used to be you couldn’t walk through Uplands — my high school was right near it and driving there we’d have to arc around the whole complex, it was just too dangerous. Since their abandonment in the late 90’s and before the massive renovation began in ’09, the 100-some acre west-Baltimore property between Edmonson Village and Irvington was the largest vacant area in the entire city, with close to 1,000 units, empty except for squatters and trash. When they finally started knocking the buildings down, surrounding neighborhoods started worrying about all the rats that would have to find new areas to infest.
Development company Bozzuto Homes is hoping to turn Uplands into a green-friendly, mixed-income community. It’ll have a combination of stand-alone, semi-detached, and townhouses, to accommodate families of different sizes and different economic situations. The community is set to open in 2013.
But even with the rats gone, Uplands faces some challenges convincing people to buy homes. It sits right next to Edmonson Village, which sees daily crime. My house is right in that area and a few years ago someone broke in to hide after killing two policemen. My little brother found the gun in one of our bushes a few weeks later – it still had a bullet in the chamber.
The vision for Uplands has a lot of potential. If the mixed-income housing strategy works, it may help eliminate the de-facto segregation that has become characteristic of Baltimore neighborhoods. By putting attractive housing at a variety of market prices in the same neighborhood, Bozzuto hopes to create a racially diverse, economically stable area. (Check out the photos on their website to see what I mean.) But their plan might make these goals hard to realize. The developers are planning to sell the lower-cost homes first, presumably with the idea that they can make some of their investment back quickly — but this might discourage more affluent clients, the ones that will really decide if the community works, from moving in at all.
However it ends up, it’s good to see people putting some monetary faith in Baltimore’s rougher areas. Best of luck, Bozzuto!