Disgrace on Howard Street

Walking downtown yesterday, camera in hand, I was struck by the lack of architectural character, and the lack of people (more about that later). Moving further along Howard Street, I was awestruck by the beautiful buildings — oh here’s where they’ve been keeping the good stuff — and then a sinking feeling hit me.  I was on the outskirts of Baltimore’s development black hole.

Much has been made of the City’s plans for Baltimore’s “Superblock” area, with grandiose plans for large box stores and shiny new office buildings.  (And yes, sadly — probably some overpriced condos as well.)  If you walk up Howard to the 300 and 400 blocks, towards Mt. Vernon, you’re struck by the beauty of the buildings — and the few businesses that remain.  Wig stores, a clothing store, carryouts..Planned Parenthood, and an abandoned theater that should cause the City’s government nothing but shame.  The vast majority of the buildings have been long-abandoned, flipped, condemned, sold by the City, and abandoned again.

Howard Street ruin

What a wonderful neighborhood this would be for artists and musicians — close to the light rail, close to downtown and MICA, and tons of empty buildings begging for repair.  Instead, the neighborhood is being held hostage by the City and developers who don’t give a damn.  It makes you wonder if this demolition-by-neglect is being done on purpose.

Some of the buildings along Howard are viable, and should be preserved — some, unfortunately, have been allowed to rot to the point where they’re probably structurally unsound, and will need to be destroyed.  It would be nice, however, to see the City start to think creatively about its downtown, and stop with the “box store and condo” development model.  Workforce housing, artist housing, housing for real people who pay taxes and want to stay in Baltimore long-term — that’s what Baltimore needs.  That’s what Howard Street could become.  That’s what we should demand.

10 comments

  1. Robert J. Strupp

    Just as H St NE, U St, NW and other hard hit areas in DC have been revitalized, Baltimore can do it too-it just takes a willingness to collaborate with all stakeholders (including residents!) to make it happen.

    • Baltimore Slumlord Watch

      Absolutely. Doing things on the sly with nonprofits and developers is no way to redevelop a city. Taxpayers, especially when you have so few, deserve to have a stake in what happens.

  2. Melissa

    Is that the Town Theatre? Everyman is taking over that one, at least. It is the big marble-y one at W Fayette and Howard/Eutaw Sts.

      • John Bennaman

        Now it’s a Baltimore City Historical Landmark for being the oldest and longest standing surviving theatre ever since the 1880’s as being Baltimore’s oldest theatre especially being the first operating theatre In Baltimore.

  3. Pingback: Three Years and Counting « Baltimore Slumlord Watch
  4. Megan

    I just did the same yesterday, and found your post today. I’ve always loved Howard Street for how I imagined it used to be. My family grew up around here, and while I am too young to know this, it used to be the shopping destination of the city and surrounding suburbs. My great grandmother worked in the department stores, my family to this day still goes to Lexington Market every new years day. But it’s not what it used to be and it’s hard to think it ever will be. It has so much potential, but little is being done, outside of the mentioned “superblock” and high end condos. What about the vacant buildings!? The streets were dead except for the intersections around the Lexington Market and University Center Light Rail stops. I don’t know how it will change, but it has to, and I’d love to be a part of that!

    • Baltimore Slumlord Watch

      I’d love to be a part of that, too — can you imagine what a great area downtown would be if the city officials would stop with the overpriced condos and start thinking of regular taxpayers?

  5. Vivian Needum

    Baltimore city is stealing people property but they have let who they want have building stay vacant for over 10 yeas on downtown Howard Street in the 300 and 400 block they take what they want and mistreat the tax payers I am very sad it is Xmass time.

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