Development plan announced for Greenmount West; residents given short notice of meeting

A crowd of city officials, including Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, urban planners, and consultants, packed into the first floor of the City Arts building last night to announce the launch of a new project called Leveraging Investments in Neighborhood Corridors (LINCS), which will "revitalize the major corridors that connect neighborhoods and communities throughout the City." The Greenmount Avenue corridor, from Eager Street to 29th Street, is the first of five corridors to get a face-lift, and officials say this change will take place over the course of the next five years.

Rawlings-Blake delivered her usual buzzwords about vibrancy and growing the city by 10,000 families, but also said the plan is "more importantly, about giving those residents who are here more reasons to stay." It goes beyond aesthetics, she said, to also making the areas more attractive for small businesses, to enhance economic growth.

Housing Commissioner Paul Graziano reflected on how the City Arts building was the first thing to revitalize the area and attract more investment, which led eventually to the Baltimore Design School. He did not mention any of the artist-run spaces and resources that have arguably done a great deal adding to the area's "vibrancy" as well. Graziano recounted other recent and upcoming housing developments in the area, including City Arts 2, which will break ground in September.

Karen Stokes, CEO of the Greater Homewood Community Corporation, spoke about the importance of investing in neighborhoods that are next to each other and stressed the importance of actually talking to residents of the area to find out what they want to see in their neighborhoods.

This meeting was billed as a community meeting, implying that residents in the neighborhood knew about it in advance. But the majority of the attendees, it seemed, were developers and city officials, rather than people who live in the area. Several residents who were present said afterward that they just found out about it two days ago. Comments on the Facebook event page, which was posted on Monday, reflected the same sentiments.

After the announcements, there was a breakout session where groups of people could play musical chairs to speak with consultants from the Urban Land Institute for 15 minutes at a time about transportation, urban design, and development and market opportunities. The short notice and lack of genuine community engagement made it seem like the decisions had already been made.

There will be a follow-up meeting tonight from 5 to 7 p.m. in the same place to discuss "the findings" of last night's discussion.

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