Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

A challenging art project about urban revitalization in Baltimore

For quite awhile, I've always contrasted the opportunities available to revitalizers in comparatively strong markets in cities like Washington, DC, versus much weaker real estate market cities like Baltimore, which has tens of thousands of vacant properties and neighborhoods with tough revitalization issues.

That being said, Baltimore has some great assets and a strong civil society and network of neighborhood organizations complemented by citywide capacity building and advocacy organizations like the Citizens Planning and Housing Association, so there are a number of interesting revitalization initiatives across the city e.g., in the past I've mentioned various efforts by the Reservoir Hill Improvement Council.
Whitelock Community Farm, Reservoir Hill neighborhood, Baltimore
Food for sale at the Whitelock Community Farm, Reservoir Hill neighborhood, Baltimore>

The Baltimore Sun has an article, "Art project uses vacant home to bring neighbors together: MICA students project film onto boarded-up house on Mount Royal Terrace," about a project by Sabrina Chin & Melissa Crisco, students at the Maryland Institute of Contemporary Art (this blog entry "Engaged civic/planning efforts" discusses a variety of other interesting urban planning related initiatives by other students) where they are projecting scenes from an active inhabited house on the windows of a vacant house at 2110 Mount Royal Terrace, which, yes, is in Reservoir Hill too, and one of many vacant houses there.
video being projected on 2110 Mount Royal terrace.
Photo by Sabrina Chin. Kim Forsyth is in the video.

From the article:

The hulking white duplex at 2108-2110 Mount Royal Terrace — a vacant eyesore for 20 years — is a financial and emotional drain on neighbors, who maintain a five-block stretch of historic homes that overlooks the Jones Falls Expressway and acts as the eastern border of Reservoir Hill.

But for two nights this past weekend, residents gathered on the sidewalk in front of the empty house, watching it and imagining what it would be like if someone lived there.

The occasion was an exhibit by two students at the nearby Maryland Institute College of Art, who used the 120-year-old home as a movie screen, with videos projected onto the plywood that covers the first-floor windows. The videos, of neighborhood residents performing household tasks, made it appear as if the house were lit up and bustling with activity.

"It reminds me of those murals you used to see, that kids would paint on boarded-up windows: a painting of a flower box, a cat sitting in the window," said neighbor and Baltimore City Councilman Nick Mosby as he and about 15 others stood in the chilly air Saturday night, sipping hot cider.

It definitely provides us with an opportunity to consider disinvestment and the difficulty that residents can have when it comes to "forcing" other property owners to maintain properties.

In Ohio, it's possible to get receivership control over habitual nuisances like this one. But you still need people willing to buy, renovate, and live in the property.

It happens that Mount Royal Terrace is beautiful. But that doesn't matter when you can't get particular properties back into productive use.
Mount Royal Terrace, Reservoir Hill neighborhood, Baltimore
Walkway, Mount Royal Terrace, Reservoir Hill neighborhood, Baltimore.

Other photos of Reservoir Hill which put working on revitalization in weaker markets in stronger perspective.
Reservoir Hill neighborhood, Baltimore

Attractive green boulevards, Reservoir Hill neighborhood, Baltimore

Vacant properties, Reservoir Hill neighborhood, Baltimore

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