Hogan, Rawlings-Blake announce plan to tear down vacants

Gov. Larry Hogan and Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, two politicians who have often been at odds, stood together in West Baltimore to announce a joint plan to demolish blocks of vacant buildings and turn those lots into green space.

The program, called Creating Opportunities for Renewal and Enterprise, or C.O.R.E., includes $600 million in financing for private sector developers to build affordable housing, retail, and other developments in blighted parts of the city.

Along with a group of political leaders that also included Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford, State Sen. Catherine Pugh, and City Council President Bernard C. "Jack" Young, Hogan and Rawlings-Blake addressed members of the media and a group of community members at the 1000 block of North Stricker Street in Sandtown, Freddie Gray's neighborhood.

The houses were all abandoned, with blue Vacants to Value signs adorning the even side, and yellow demolition notices on the odd. An excavator, a piece of heavy machinery that will be doing the demolition, sat just in front of the house at 1005 N. Stricker.

"Maryland's largest city should serve as the cultural and economic heart of our state," said Hogan, whose hair is beginning to sprout back now that his non-Hodgkin's lymphoma is in remission. "It can and it will."

Rawlings-Blake said the program would help expand the vision of her Vacants to Value program which, she said, has been "heralded nationally and internationally as an innovative way to remove blight."

While she did acknowledge an Abell Foundation report that raised questions about Vacants to Value's numbers, Rawlings-Blake noted that the foundation concluded the program was "hindered only by a lack of funding."

"This makes the state's commitment, announced today by Governor Hogan, even more important and even more impactful," she said.

As for her relationship with Hogan, Rawlings-Blake said not to believe media reports: "We do get along."

Twenty blocks are expected to be torn down in the first year of the program, the state estimates. The city will contribute $75 million over the next four years, and the city will match $1 for every $4 coming from Annapolis—bringing the total to nearly $94 million.

City and state officials will identify the vacant structures that should come down, and the Maryland Stadium Authority, which is also managing the $1.1 billion overhaul of city schools, will oversee their demolition.

Maryland Stadium Authority Chairman Thomas Kelso said his department prides itself on being "on time and on budget," and that they would find efficiencies to "stretch these very valuable dollars."

Following the prepared remarks, Hogan said it was time for the "fun part," and the politicians, officials, and members of the press were shepherded to the even side of the street so a construction crew could tear down part of 1005.

The machine's arm extended and the shovel dug in near the middle window of the second story, pulling brick, wood, and glass to the sidewalk. It then went higher and started pulling down the third story.

As the building's front continued to fall, Hogan turned to Karlyn Broy, who was raised in 1005 and now lives just down the street.

"Are you glad it's coming down?" he asked.

She nodded yes as the excavator loudly did its work.

"Cleaning up the neighborhood a little bit?" he asked.

She nodded again.

They posed for a few pictures for news photographers.

In an interview with City Paper, Broy said she was happy with the green space that's slated to be put in this part of North Stricker Street once all the buildings are torn down and the rubble is moved away.

"It'll be an improvement for our neighborhood," she said. "It will be an improvement to have a green space in our neighborhood."

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