Wednesday, December 10, 2003

The New Urbanism

Citizens fighting overdevelopment, poorly conceived development, and environmentally-harmful projects in the Baltimore metropolitan suburbs are often so deeply involved in piecemeal battles against developers or the County government in their own communities that they lack the time or energy to wage battle on fronts outside their immediate vicinity. This can make it difficult not only to build broad coalitions, but also to see the bigger picture of growth and development in the region.

While redevelopment projects in Annapolis begin to gain some traction (e.g., the Johnson Lumber site on West Street) and the Parole redevelopment continues to founder, a truly innovative, and quite courageous effort is taking place in some of Baltimore City's most disadvantaged neighborhoods. Tens of thousands of homes sit vacant in the city, deteriorating, serving as outposts for drug dealers, and blighting the cityscape, yet green space grows more and more scarce in the surrounding counties, and home prices continue to escalate.

Rather than give up on Baltimore, like it seems so many have done, one young man, Adam Meister, and several cohorts have decided to try to reclaim Charm City one block at a time. Spending between $15,000 and $50,0001 to purchase and renovate formerly vacant homes, these individuals are attempting to re-infuse the city with young (and old) professionals committed to working with neighbors in existing communities to bring Baltimore back to its better days. It's important that we support these projects, both in word, and in deed, and that we make it clear to County government that part of "smart growth" is working with other municipalities in the region to help foster growth where infrastructure and services are already in place.

While we all certainly have our own local initiatives to wage, it's important that we step back from time to time and recognize that one of the most promising ways to halt suburban sprawl lies at the heart of the region. As goes Baltimore, so goes our green space.

1 The median price of homes in Anne Arundel County was $220,000 in October 2003.

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