Wandering Eye: The 'planning vacuum' in City Hall, Delia's returns online, and more

Gerald Neilly at the Brew has a modest proposal: stop the auction of the old Social Security Administration complex on North Greene Street in West Baltimore. The federal government moved out about a year and a half ago, moving its offices to Northwest Baltimore. It had always planned to auction the now-surplus, 1.1 million-square-foot office building. Neilly, a former transportation planner for the city of Baltimore, says the auction ought to be part of, well, a redevelopment plan. "Twenty months and one riot later, the Westside is in even more dire shape and the city has made no known progress in crafting a plan for re-purposing the massive facility," he writes. "The planning vacuum created by City Hall inaction has allowed the GSA to proceed with a plan that, if successful, is liable to saddle the city with a real estate albatross for decades to come." We wrote late last year about the apparent lack of coordination and planning in the city as billions of dollars are spent on infrastructure. The city does seem to have a blind spot when it comes to long-term, big-picture stuff, which puts Baltimore at a disadvantage when negotiating with deep-pocket developers. Neilly predicts "years of stalled progress and/or extortionist deals as the city struggles to work with developers who have the upper hand. (We have seen the ruins of chronic ongoing delays at 'Superblock' on Howard Street and, more recently, Poppleton in West Baltimore.)" It's hard to argue with him. (Edward Ericson Jr.)

 

Young women of a certain age were bummed late last year when Delia's, a retail store marketed to teen girls that was something of a cultural touchstone in the late '90s, closed its doors. If you have no idea what I'm talking about, here's some Buzzfeed content to catch you up. Those same young women will be heartened to know the brand will soon return as a web store and catalog thanks to a group of investors hoping to cash in, according to the Wall Street Journal. For $2.5 million, Steve Russo and his partners were able to buy the intellectual property of the brand as it was liquidating its assets. With a bolstered web store, Russo says he hopes to pull in $250 million in annual revenue and employ 200 people. Other groups are trying this with brands that shuttered their brick-and-mortar stores, including women's retailer Coldwater Creek, lingerie store Frederick’s of Hollywood, and kid's clothier Naartjie Kids. (Brandon Weigel)

 

Dan Barry at the New York Times writes this heart-warming, though cautious, piece about a truce in Paterson, New Jersey, between the "Up the Hill" and "Down the Hill" informal youth organizations—"they are more neighborhood clusters than traditional gangs...This does not mean they are any less violent," Barry writes, paraphrasing Paterson police director Jerry Speziale. Feuding since the days of Hurricane Carter, they—the story doesn't say who, though a suspect is in custody—recently murdered a promising basketball star named Armoni Sexton, age 15. Old heads called meetings and, as Barry writes, "now it's over." One hopes. There seems to be no agreement to stop selling heroin, a common pastime among the informal youth groups featured here (and one engaged-in by the basketball star before his death). There seems to be no provision for social services or straight jobs. Barry sees the kids, "their faces masks of smoldering boredom" "as community leaders tried to both scare and encourage them. . . . What will they do next?" There is one striking fact about this story, and the Paterson crisis, though: Paterson's population is about 140,000, Barry writes. Last year there were two dozen murders. That means Paterson's homicide rate is about half of Baltimore's. (Edward Ericson Jr.)

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