Best Area We’d Like to See Revitalized
The New East Baltimore
Published: September 21, 2011
Used to be, most of the 80-plus acre redevelopment area being managed by East Baltimore Development Inc., was a neighborhood known as Middle East. That started to change about a decade ago, when plans for a $1.8 billion remake of the area—the biggest of its kind in the country—took shape amid great excitement, hope, and controversy. With the city’s eminent-domain powers as a tool, more than 1,300 households were relocated from the community and more than 30 acres of homes and commercial properties were demolished, essentially wiping Middle East off the map and replacing it with a vast, depopulated blank canvas of cleared land on which to imagine a whole new future. The deep pockets of the Annie E. Casey Foundation and the Johns Hopkins University—whose medical campus, just south of the area, is the project’s chief beneficiary—pitched in, and somewhere along the line, it was named “My New East Side.” Today—after the project stalled with the bursting of the real estate bubble and the apparent rudderlessness of the project’s management, exposed by this year’s Daily Record investigation—it’s called “The New East Baltimore.” So far, more than a half-billion dollars, more than a third of it public funds, have been spent, so finishing the project seems the only option. Let’s hope it works, lest the ambitious promises made a decade ago turn out to be empty ones, further disillusioning former Middle Easterners and undermining the perhaps misplaced faith the public placed in this sad project.