Best Reminder of What Gentrification Really Looks Like: East Baltimore Development Inc.

The Station North Arts and Entertainment District, created by the state in 2002, is typically Exhibit A in local gentrification discussions. Here is a 100-acre region of the city spotlighted for the creative labor of its residents and habitués, where young white arrivistes decry the influx of development for pricing them and other legacy residents out. During this same time over in East Baltimore—where white creative arrivistes don’t congregate—the city, state, and local businesses and institutions completely gutted 88 acres of the city. In 2002 the city council approved the city’s use of eminent domain to acquire about 3,000 properties in the area just north of Johns Hopkins’ East Baltimore campus for a revitalization project, displacing roughly 750 mostly African-American households. The East Baltimore Development Inc., the nonprofit public-private partnership founded in 2003 to oversee the project, has been complicated and fraught from the start. Residents felt EBDI’s promises for development transparency, community participation, and job creation were misleading. Today EBDI is the site of a new school, about 600 new housing units, and a $170 million laboratory for the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, with plans for a 15-story hotel. The area has been radically remade to serve the self-interests of local power. White allies infrequently speak about gentrification’s violence in this area, perhaps because they rarely set foot there in the first place.

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