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A New Place to Call Home
Residents are relocating. Shovels will soon be in the ground. Baltimore’s new Eastside is starting to take shape at last.

Pat Tracey, who once lived on Rutland Avenue in East Baltimore, moved out to make way for the biotech development. Now she’s the proud owner of a brand new townhome.
For 23 years, Pat Tracey lived in a small, three-bedroom house in the 900 block of Rutland Avenue. She could easily walk to her job at the Bloomberg School of Public Health, where she is a community relations coordinator in the Department of Environmental Health Sciences. And though her neighborhood was seriously drug-ravaged, Tracey had learned to roll with the punches. When she had friends over, she would step outside and tell the dealers to cease business until her guests departed. They always complied.

Last September, Tracey, along with her daughter and two grandchildren, moved into Frankford Estates on the eastern edge of Baltimore City. She has an end-of-group, three-bedroom townhome with a front porch, landscaped yard and off-street parking. She has an eat-in kitchen with faux granite countertops and an island, a bath on every floor, a third-floor master suite, and a home office with Internet access. And in her new “green-friendly” community developed by Struever Rouse Homes, there are no drug deals going down.

Tracey was among the first to move out of East Baltimore to make way for the massive, $800 million redevelopment project that is expected to transform the blighted area just to the north of the medical campus into a vibrant urban environment, chockablock with residential units, high-tech businesses, shops and plenty of green space. The project has been in the works for five years, and now it is taking shape.

A total of 365 households are slated for relocation during this, the project’s first and largest phase. So far, 146 households and five commercial establishments have moved out. Until recently, relocation was controversial. “At first we were anxious and afraid,” recalls Ava Warren, an EKG tech at Hopkins Hospital and Tracey’s neighbor on Rutland. “We were being asked to do something we didn’t want to do. But they allowed us to share our concerns, and they always listened,” Warren says, referring to the project leader, East Baltimore Development Inc.

“Some who have lived on Rutland all their lives have found their dream house. It’s giving hope to those of us who are still here,” says Warren, who is preparing to move into a townhouse community nearby.


Arlene Conn, EBDI’s senior director of acquisition and relocation, believes residents were fearful primarily because they did not initially understand the benefits package. Essentially, what the package provides is comparable replacement housing equal to or better than residents’ current housing.

EBDI’s relocation assistance is provided under federal laws that protect people when they are displaced by a federally assisted project such as this. The process is quite complex. At its most basic, it begins with linking residents with their own family advocates and relocation counselors. Ultimately, homeowners like Tracey receive a replacement housing payment, which represents the difference between the cost of a comparable house in a stable neighborhood and acquisition price of their home, or its fair market value, which they receive from the city.

Because real estate values have escalated enormously in Baltimore, costs of comparable houses now are quite high. It was determined that in another neighborhood, Tracey’s Rutland house, for example, would be worth $129,900. That minus its fair market value of $35,000 equals $94,900, the amount of Tracey’s replacement housing payment.

Residents who remain within Baltimore City, as most have done, are eligible for supplemental benefits. In addition to the family advocacy services, these include a $1,000 resettlement benefit, funds to pay for an appraisal and home inspection, and a tax subsidy that provides for a grace period for adjustment to increased property tax bills. EBDI partners Annie E. Casey and Johns Hopkins each contributed $5 million to fund the supplemental benefits. “The supplemental benefit has really made a tremendous difference,” says Conn. “We don’t know of another place in the country where this is this being done.”

According to Edna Kane-Williams, EBDI’s vice president of community services and outreach, Baltimore’s new east side will begin to take tangible shape late this summer when some buildings are demolished under a new and revised protocol that maximizes the safety of the community, and construction begins on residential units and on “L-1,” the first of five planned life sciences buildings. L-1 will rise on the corner of Madison and Wolfe streets. It will be anchored by the Institute of Basic Biomedical Sciences, which unites scientists in the School of Medicine’s eight basic science departments, and connected by a sky bridge across Madison to the Hunterian building. A model of the EBDI project now is on display on the ground level of Ross.

—Anne Bennett Swingle

 

 

 

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