Baltimore Rowhouses Redeveloped to Own

From Baltimore Sun writer Scott Calvert, an article on the tribulations of large-scale rowhouse redevelopment in the Johnson Square area: "Four East Preston Street rowhouses were overhauled.  On the rest of the block, and another nearby, 30 more boarded-up rowhouses will soon be rehabbed.  Those houses will then be sold to lower-income buyers at steeply discounted prices.  The city housing authority is rehabilitating 36 other rowhouses scattered around the neighborhood. "The work on Preston Street is led by Washington-based Mi Casa, a well-regarded nonprofit developer chosen in a competitive process by the Housing Authority of Baltimore City, which owns the properties.  Elin Zurbrigg, Mi Casa's deputy director, said her group sees potential where private developers may not. She hopes to begin work on the first for-sale houses later this summer.  Zurbrigg pointed to Johnston Square Manor, a 1980s townhouse development directly across Preston from the vacant houses Mi Casa plans to restore. Of its 50-plus houses, four out of five are owner-occupied. The 30 for-sale houses on Preston will build on that 'cornerstone' of ownership, she says.

"All told, more than $30 million worth of housing investment is under way or planned for Johnston Square, a battered neighborhood below Green Mount Cemetery where islands of homeownership are surrounded by vacant lots and empty or run-down houses.  'We really think this will jump-start some things,' city housing commissioner Paul Graziano said in an interview.  Brett Theodos of the Urban Institute in Washington said while reviving Johnston Square might be a laudable goal, these housing projects likely won't succeed without a broad, coordinated strategy.  Graziano added, 'The question is, what's the alternative? Do we just sit here and let these neighborhoods further decline?'"  Full article here.