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RESERVOIR HILL REVITALIZATION PLAN UPDATE

By Jack Simpson,2014-04-13 00:00
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RESERVOIR HILL REVITALIZATION PLAN UPDATEHill,Plan,plan,PLAN

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Executive Summary……………………………………………………………….. 2

    Section One: What Do We Mean By an Action Strategy

     and Why Do We Need One?...............................................4

Section Two: Background and Purpose…………………………………5

Section Three: The Community Input and Outreach Process…………..7

Section Four: Guiding Principles for Change…………………………...8

    Section Five : Creating a Language for Diversity

     and Social Balance ………………………………………..9

Section Six: A Market-Based Approach to Redevelopment………….10

Section Seven: Market Areas Analysis/Descriptions……………………..11

Section Eight : Building Leadership Block-By-Block……………………16

    Section Nine: A New Focus for the Reservoir Hill

     Improvement Council…………………………………… 18

    Section Ten: Education, Public Safety and

     Economic Development…………………………………..19

Section Eleven: A Three-Phased Approach to Revitalization

     Implementation Priorities for 2002-2007………………..21

Section Twelve: The Development Partnership…………………………...24

APPENDIX A: Community Profile

    APPENDIX B: The Reservoir Hill Housing Ladder

APPENDIX C: Reservoir Hill Strategic Work Plan 2002-2007

    Reservoir Hill:

     Strengthening the Bonds of Community to Create

    Neighborhoods of Choice -

    An Action Strategy for Change 2002-2007

    Executive Summary

     Reservoir Hill has long been considered a prime candidate for intensive revitalization and redevelopment. The historic grandeur and rich architectural character of much of its housing stock and its prime location near Druid Hill Park, the central business district and the interstate highway system, are assets that should make Reservoir Hill one of the most truly desirable neighborhoods in the metropolitan region. Despite these inherent strengths, the neighborhood has struggled with its identity and the challenges of many urban neighborhoodsunemployment, drugs, vacant houses and

    trash.

     Reservoir Hill: Strengthening the Bonds of Community to Create Neighborhoods of Choice, is an update and revision of the Reservoir Hill Revitalization Plan, completed

    by Reservoir Hill H.O.P.E., a faith-based community umbrella organization, in 1996. The document that follows was completed by the French Development Company, under contract to Reservoir Hill H.O.P.E., between December 2001 and June 2002. Reservoir Hill H.O.P.E. was the recipient of Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds from the Baltimore City Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) to:

―…move beyond the suggested implementation strategies (of the 1996 plan) and…map

    out implementation goals with detailed funding plans and realistic timeliness for the completion on the Plan.‖

     Reservoir Hill: Strengthening the Bonds of Community to Create Neighborhoods of Choice is more than an update of a previous planning effort. It lays out a strategy for change that is driven by the community, based on the realities of the market place and grounded in a belief in the power of collaboration and partnership.

     It acknowledges a restructured and refocused community umbrella organization. At its June 2002 Leadership Summit, the Reservoir Hill Improvement Council (RHIC)

    made a commitment to three overarching principles for neighborhood change

    embracing diversity, achieving a balance of housing options and strengthening the bonds of community through consistent community building efforts. Reservoir Hill:

    Strengthening the Bonds of Community to Create Neighborhoods of Choice, and the five-

    year work plan outlined in Appendix F, is premised on RHIC coming to the fore to accept the challenge of growing its organizational capacity to manage and direct change, bring together diverse elements within the community and provide the vehicle for linking investments in physical change with the mutually supportive goals of community building and leadership development. Over the next five years, RHIC will focus its

    mission around community organizing, facilitating strategically-selected Adopt-a-Block projects and in pursuing the creation of a new community development corporation so that it can be an effective partner in planned development activities, ensuring that the community has a stake in its future.

     In addition to giving RHIC a prominent role in the community’s future, the document that follows offers a development strategy that recognizes and incorporates the notion of Reservoir Hill as a collection of different neighborhoods with an array of housing styles representing a variety of current and potential housing markets. The challenge for Reservoir Hill will lie in recognizing its inherent market strengths and the opportunities for market-driven investment. The first phase of a proposed housing development strategy is outlined in Appendix B. This flexible, opportunity-driven strategy will involve the acquisition and rehabilitation of at least fifty vacant properties, as many as 30-35 in the center of the community and 15-20 on vulnerable blocks adjacent to areas of market strength which will create new, mixed income homeownership opportunities. Using $2 million already committed by the State of Maryland and an additional $1 million in the coming fiscal year, Reservoir Hill will build on and support ongoing investments in the Healthy Neighborhoods initiative, the Beth Am/Lakeside Neighbors area and in the Upper Eutaw-Madison Historic District. A complementary homeownership counseling and development component, the Housing Ladder, can be found in Appendix C, offering a mechanism to qualify homebuyers and a concept for ensuring that a balance of income and household types is achieved.

     Appendix F, the Strategic Work Plan for 2002-2007, provides a sense of the relative timing of actions and the linkages, interrelationships, and the multiple goals the actions are intended to achieve. The strategic actions are grounded in a belief that real and sustained change can only be achieved through the involvement of active and committed partnersneighborhood residents, community associations, faith-based

    institutions, state and local government, private and non-profit developers, area businesses and foundations. The final section suggests the establishment of a development partnership where RHIC would occupy a central role with technical advice, resource development and financial support being furnished by a team of development partners. While the idea of partnerships is not new, efforts to forge sustainable and effective relationships are often hampered when strong central management authority and a common vision of change is lacking. In Section Twelve, an attempt has been made to illustrate what a development partnership in Reservoir Hill might look like. Under the proposed model, RHIC contracts with a development consultant or a consortium of development advisors who are motivated by financial incentives to achieve the desired goal of redeveloping the neighborhood.

     Today, Reservoir Hill is the subject of renewed interest. Mayor Martin O’Malley has declared Reservoir Hill a high priority for showcasing his administration’s focus on neighborhoods where the opportunities exist to ―build on strengths‖. Special initiatives and development projects have been launched and private investment is slowly taking root as evidenced in renovation activity and increasing home values in portions of the neighborhood. There is a growing sense of optimism and a rekindled spirit among

    Reservoir Hill residents and community leaders that the tide is changing and that the community can offer residents -- current and potential -- a unique urban experience where diversity is celebrated and where all residents are welcome stakeholders willing to invest their time and energy to build cohesion and self-reliance. The document that follows offers a compelling vision to sustain that momentum, to strengthen the bonds of community and to create neighborhoods of choice. Reservoir Hill is poised to seize the opportunity and realize that vision.

Section One: What Do We Mean By an Action Strategy and Why Do We

     Need One?

     Past efforts at planning for revitalization in Reservoir Hill have been largely ineffective and have fallen short of affecting a significant and sustained turnaround in the neighborhood’s economic health and recovery prospects. Well-intentioned ―plans‖ for

    the neighborhood go back at least forty years. One of the early plans, the Reservoir Hill Urban Renewal Plan, approved in 1972, drew what many may consider an arbitrary boundary around a collection of blocks and streets bounded by McCulloh Street, Druid Park Lake Drive, Mount Royal Terrace and North Avenue.

     Fueled by relatively large sums of federal aid, renewal was largely viewed as a series of physical development and affordable housing-driven projects. One of the negative consequences of this period was that, what had been a series of separate and distinct neighborhoods were, over time, treated by City planners and development officials as a single neighborhoodReservoir Hill. Consequently, subsequent public

    sector development interventions were often one-dimensional, stressing subsidized housing investment, while failing to recognize the distinct needs and differences among Reservoir Hill neighborhoods.

     As a result, Reservoir Hill became notable for its balkanization into numerous autonomous neighborhood block club associations diminishing the community’s political clout. Urban renewal did little to promote diverse residential communities, build a sense of neighborhood identity or strengthen links between physical and social change. In many regards, urban renewal worked directly against those goals. Much has been learned since that earlier period and public sector thinking about how best to intervene and partner in neighborhood revitalization is slowly evolving toward a new model that considers market forces and relinquishes a certain amount of control to community-based organizations.

     The time is right to begin to translate this new thinking into writing in a clear and concise manner that will provide the community and its leaders with a vision and roadmap for change. In contrast to the typical neighborhood plan, this document is an action-oriented and phased development strategy created by the Reservoir Hill community in consultation with public sector officials, private foundation partners and a core group of consultants and advisors. Success in stimulating, sustaining and achieving

    the revitalization of Reservoir Hill will lie not only in building new partnerships and applying multiple financial resources to a coordinated block by block redevelopment strategy. It will be equally critical to nurture the bonds of neighborliness. For it will be the residents of Reservoir Hill themselves who, by becoming engaged with each other and forming bonds across boundaries that were formerly impenetrable barriers, will breathe life and energy into the revitalization strategies that are described in the following sections. It is that hope that will set the current initiative apart from those that preceded it.

     What is offered below is a realistic, phased, action strategy that can show tangible results in a relatively short five-year timeframe. If successful, community leaders can make the case for additional investment and display to potential funders and investors an image of a community with renewed vitality, dedicated to positive change and forward momentum.

Section Two: Background and Purpose

     Reservoir Hill: Strengthening the Bonds of Community to Create Neighborhoods of Choice offers a view held by Reservoir Hill residents and stakeholders of the possibilities that exist for capitalizing on existing momentum to forge a truly diverse and dynamic community that is able to exercise control over its future growth and development It grows out of a previous community planning effort that began in 1995.

     In June 1996, Allison Platt and Associates, under contract to Reservoir Hill H.O.P.E., Inc., a coalition of faith-based institutions and the local community organizations, completed the Reservoir Hill Revitalization Plan. That plan offered an

    overall vision and provided a series of key recommendations for housing, the physical environment, public safety, community empowerment and the delivery of human services.

     Table A. shows implementation priorities from 1996 and their status today.

TABLE A : A Summary of the 1996 Reservoir Hill Revitalization Plan Today

1996 Plan Implementation Priority Status Today

    1. Redevelopment of 900 block of City has placed disposition process on Whitelock Street for housing and hold;

    community center

    2. Environmental improvements to the Some garage demolition has occurred and

    alleys and rear yards environmental improvements have been the

    focus of community pride projects in the

    Healthy Neighborhoods area

    3. Traffic changes Current discussion focused on changes to

    accommodate the planned jogging path

    along Druid Park Lake Drive

    4. Preparation of design guidelines Sketches and design concepts produced for

    targeted blocks ( i.e. Arts and Entertainment

    District proposal)

    5. Ongoing scattered site redevelopment of Occurring mostly focused at edges

    housing for single-family homeownership

    6. The demolition of the Lakeview Complete disposition on hold

    Buildings at 735-753 and 827-845 Druid

    Park Lake Drive in the near term, and their

    replacement with four-story market-rate

    ;limited equity co-ops in the mid-term

    7. Conversion of some of the most troubled Some success with larger buildings along buildings in the community from low-Druid Park Lake Drive

    ;quality, poorly maintained rental

    properties to well-managed limited equity

    co-;ops or affordable multi-family housing

    8. Ongoing assistance to existing Some progress in Healthy Neighborhoods homeowners for home maintenance and target area and a proposal exists for improvements Community Legacy target block

     Changing trends, conditions, new development activity and reordered priorities

    require a refocusing of the 1996 plan. For instance, a number of the buildings identified

    in the plan for rehabilitation have been demolished. Probably the most notable

    recommendation was that vacant land and abandoned buildings in the 900 block of Whitelock Street be redeveloped for a community building, retail and new housing. The idea was rejected by city and state officials and, to date, these City-owned properties sit idle in a ―land banked‖ status. Perhaps, what was most lacking, was a neighborhood-

    based organization with the staffing capacity and resources necessary to carry out the former plan’s implementation.

     In 2000, Reservoir Hill H.O.P.E was awarded Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funding by Baltimore City’s Department of Housing and Community

    Development (HCD) to undertake a revision and update of the 1996 Plan. Reservoir Hill H.O.P.E., Inc. hired the French Development Company to work with Reservoir Hill community leaders, members of the Reservoir Hill Improvement Council and other stakeholders and create a document that would be bold enough to inspire a vision of real change yet realistic enough to provoke a thoughtful process of how, in specific terms, it should be achieved. Traditional neighborhood planning documents often fall short in this regard. The most comprehensive and detailed plans can have little impact if they fail to resolve important questions about changing a neighborhood’s image of itself and who, within the community, accepts responsibility for bringing about that change.

Section Three: The Community Input and Outreach Process

     Beginning in February 2002, the French Development Company talked to and met with over fifty Reservoir Hill residents and stakeholders. The consultant met with Board members of the Reservoir Hill Improvement Council (RHIC) and Reservoir Hill H.O.P.E., Inc., with Interim RHIC Executive Director, Carol Melvin and talked with a variety of residents and other non-resident stakeholders. (See Appendix D for the list of Interviewed Stakeholders)

     RHIC represents more than twenty block club associations within Reservoir Hill’s boundaries and played a key role in convening residents and other community stakeholders to offer input and suggest ways that this current plan update could lead to a clear articulation of community priorities that were based in an understanding of Reservoir Hill’s market strengths and weaknesses. These considerations go beyond solely physical development priorities to include more focused, comprehensive approaches that recognize the links between traditional development projects and the complementary goals of building healthy neighborhoods where outcomes are not measured in terms of the numbers of units produced or dollars spent but the less tangible and more complex goal of weaving together a set of relationships among residents that lead to community pride, a clear identity, neighborhood cohesion and self-sustaining improvements.

     In June, 2002, RHIC sponsored the first ever Leadership Summit that brought

    together existing resident leaders and emerging leaders from across the community to engage in leadership development training, networking and strategic planning. One of the explicit goals of the Summit was to establish RHIC as a viable and credible voice that

    could legitimately represent the diverse interests of the broader community.

Section Four: Guiding Principles for Change

     At the culmination of the Leadership Summit, Reservoir Hill community leaders

    agreed to direct all subsequent strategic actions to address the following three principles of community change:

    ? Reservoir Hill consists of a variety of residents and neighborhoods with mutual concerns and interests who share a desire to acknowledge and celebrate diversity as the foundation for building a healthy community.

    ? Reservoir Hill is a collection of neighborhoods, all with their own strengths, challenges and opportunities. Each neighborhood can be thought of as representing a distinct housing market whose proper functioning depends on attracting the right mix of investments so that community improvements can be sustained over the long term and a proper balance of housing opportunities achieved to meet the needs of all residents.

    ? Reservoir Hill can only be strong when residents feel an affinity for and pride in their surroundings. Through regular and consistent community building activity neighborhood stability can be enhanced while giving new leaders the opportunity to emerge.

     These principles grew out of an honest and frank dialogue designed to force participants to grapple with difficult issues of race, class and social diversity that have stymied previous attempts at revitalization. Focusing on such outcomes is a necessary step toward change suggesting that residents must first have a sense of community identity, connectedness and a hopeful image before they can be expected to initiate and sustain neighborhood improvement activities.

     Agreement on these fundamental principles of change is viewed as a necessary precursor to the kind of plan laid out in 1996 and to future discussions of neighborhood strategy. Failing to confront them might produce a compelling vision and a slick plan document, however, the chances for successful implementation are slim unless there exists a viable organization to oversee and push forward with plan recommendations. RHIC has expressed its willingness and readiness to assume that oversight role. Section Five: Creating a Language for Diversity and Social Balance

     At the Leadership Summit, participants took a bold step and affirmed their

    commitment to diversity as a common value and as the foundation for future neighborhood change.

     Diversity is a loosely used term and few disagree that it is a laudable goal. Putting the commitment into practice in a meaningful way is more difficult. Urban communities, like Reservoir Hill, are still coming to terms with the experience of urban renewal. To some, revitalization and neighborhood development conjure up suspicions and fears of being uprooted from their homes in the name of progress. These sensitivities are very real and, if they are not paid attention to up front, can undermine even the most well-intentioned community improvement efforts. The language and vocabulary we use can be emotionally-charged. Consider this familiar example. Calling an area ―historic‖ or pursuing historic district designation may be interpreted by some as an attempt to exclude a certain subgroup of existing residents. Instead of ―historic‖, they hear ―gentrifying‖ and the lines of battle are drawn.

     Barriers of fear and mistrust take time to overcome. Reservoir Hill, through the Reservoir Hill Improvement Council, is beginning to come to terms with these issues. As evidenced in the Leadership Summit, Reservoir Hill has realized it is a community that

    has great potential to set itself apart from other neighborhoods throughout the city by embracing the diversity of its current residents and declaring that all are welcome and invited to share in the benefits of a truly safe environment.

     Fundamental to realizing this potential is the ability of RHIC to take the lead in facilitating discussions and activities that build bridges and forge bonds. Reservoir Hill is made up of renters, homeowners, students, seniors, artists, young people, long-time residents and relative newcomers-- groups that typically have been drawn to a recognition of differences rather than a celebration of common hopes and dreams.

     Already, organizations such as Kids on the Hill, a neighborhood-based youth group that uses art and community action to build lines of communication, is demonstrating that barriers can be removed, positive relationships built and images transformed when young people of differing backgrounds are brought together to work on block beautification projects. Other groups such as the Reservoir Hill Artists Alliance have shown that, through its application for an Arts and Entertainment District designation and subsequent gallery openings, artists can be a powerful force for overcoming historic divisions and revitalizing the community. If offered the proper incentives, artists will move into more challenging blocks and occupy buildings creating life and serving as the advance guard for more traditional investors.

     These are just two examples of successful ways to bridge gaps in understanding. By committing to the celebration of diversity and the pursuit of social balance, Reservoir Hill can allay the fears of many current residents and send a message of inclusion. It can do so by making a promise that future development proposals and projects be evaluated and judged based on whether they conform to the overriding goal of furthering diversity

    and social balance. Some suggested actions for addressing diversity and social balance are suggested in the Strategic Work Plan for 2002-2007 in Appendix F.

Section Six: A Market-Based Approach to Redevelopment

     Reservoir Hill is often talked about as if it is a single neighborhood. In fact, it is a collection of smaller neighborhoods defined by distinctive housing types, unique physical characteristics, natural boundaries and varied identities. The architectural style and period, size of buildings, density, mix of uses, availability of open space, similarity of demographic and market trends and the perceptions of residents all help to distinguish different places or neighborhoods within Reservoir Hill. For example, a comparison of two areas of strength the Callow Avenue Co-ops and the Upper Eutaw-Madison

    corridor--- demonstrate how two neighborhoods within Reservoir Hill function differently.

     One of the challenges when designing any revitalization initiative is to recognize differences and to identify the strengths, challenges and opportunities that each area presents. In many ways, Reservoir Hill can be thought of as a collection of ―market

    areas‖. The similarity of housing stock within an area appeals to a certain segment of the population who exercise choice and consider factors related to size, price, location, style comparing the offerings of one neighborhood or area with another before making a decision to buy or rent. Certain blocks or areas, for instance, may attract a particular market nicheyoung professionals, artists, working families, or students. The challenge for Reservoir Hill lies in recognizing the 11 ―market areas‖ within the community and assembling a set of strategies to preserve, expand or create new market niches. Clearly, some areas offer greater market challenges than others creating opportunities for new investment and redevelopment.

     An attempt has been made below to describe Reservoir Hill’s market areas and

    the strengths, challenges and opportunities associated with each. Strategies and likely tools for intervention are listed that recognize market possibilities and limitations. The exact boundaries are less important than an understanding of the general concept and how tools and strategies need to be tailored to address the unique set of trends and conditions operating in each. A criticism has been made that previous government-led attempts to revitalize Reservoir Hill have failed to recognize these differences pursuing approaches that, almost always, emphasized the provision of large subsidies for low and moderate income housing development which had negative consequences for achieving the necessary balance required for a vital and healthy community. The market areas analysis approach should overcome this previous failure. The Strategic Work Plan for 2002-2007, outlined in Appendix F, puts some of the strategies listed below into action.

Section Seven: Market Areas Analysis/Descriptions

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