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Daily Record investigation: All articles on East Baltimore’s redevelopment

DAY 1:

A dream derailed

The nation’s largest urban redevelopment, a projected $1.8 billion effort to transform 88 acres of East Baltimore into a world-class biotech park and idyllic urban community, lies derailed amid vacant lots, boarded houses and unfulfilled dreams a decade after it began.

The effort to give new life to a decaying community behind Johns Hopkins Hospital began with unbridled optimism. Then-Mayor Martin O’Malley and civic leaders promised that it would energize the economy and create thousands of permanent jobs. Full story >>

Elected officials short on financial details

Until recently, the last time an elected official raised any serious questions about the public funding of The New East Baltimore project was in 2003, when it was just getting started.

Hattie Harrison, a longtime state delegate from East Baltimore, wrote a letter to city housing commissioner Paul T. Graziano, raising questions about the city’s plan to divert money from the popular Community Development Block Grant fund to repay a $21.2 million federal loan. Full story >>

Renaming Middle East hits a sour note

What’s in a name?

That’s a loaded question if you ask people from Middle East, a community north of Johns Hopkins Hospital that is subject to an 88-acre overhaul.

Now the community may be getting a new name.

Middle East needs to be “rebranded,” says Andrew Frank, a former deputy mayor who now works as special advisor on economic development to the president of the Johns Hopkins University. Full story >>

DAY 2:

The muddled money trail

East Baltimore Development Inc. has spent $6.4 million per acre since 2002 to revitalize a largely vacant chunk of inner city bounded on three sides by slum and blight.

The money has gone to buy homes, demolish buildings, relocate residents and build underground infrastructure for water, sewer, state-of-the-art fiber-optic and electrical systems. Full story >>

EBDI salaries, staff increased during recession

As the nation headed into its worst recession since the Great Depression, staffing and salaries at East Baltimore Development Inc. skyrocketed between 2005 and 2009, Internal Revenue Service documents show.

The pay and benefits at the nonprofit increased by 46 percent, from $2.6 million in 2005-2006 to $5.6 million in 2008-2009, when eight employees made more than $100,000 a year. During that time the staff expanded from 43 to 72, according to Cynthia Swisher, EBDI’s chief financial officer. Full story >>

TIFs increasingly fuel city projects

What is a TIF?

The acronym stands for Tax Increment Financing, a little-understood form of public investment in urban redevelopment now favored by the city of Baltimore.

When City Hall approves a TIF to help finance a new development, bonds are sold to investors. The bonds are to be repaid not with city general funds but with future property taxes from the new development. Full story >>

DAY 3:

Seeking a new vision

It was a glass-half-full day.

It was a time to celebrate cranes in the air — four of them — towering behind Johns Hopkins Hospital, where the stalled $1.8 billion East Baltimore redevelopment project was getting a jump start.

None of the project’s uncertainty was evident at the Sept. 10 groundbreaking for a 20-story graduate student tower with 321 apartments. Full story >>

Jobs come slowly in New East Baltimore

In a desperate neighborhood like Middle East, where unemployment a decade ago was as high as 30 percent and drug dealers worked the corners, the lure of new jobs was a huge selling point in rebuilding the community.

When Baltimore began asking for federal funds in 2003 to tear down homes and relocate residents, city housing officials assured the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development that part of a $21.2 million loan would lead to the creation of thousands of jobs in a biotech park just north of Johns Hopkins Hospital. Full story >>

Wrecking buildings or lives in Middle East?

Did they have to destroy the community to save it?

Most of The New East Baltimore’s 88 acres remain undeveloped, with only 37 percent of the rental and for-sale homes planned for the first phase actually built.

East Baltimore Development Inc. projected, as recently as May 2008 in a bond offering to investors, that there would be 599 houses completed or under construction by now. But there are only 220 residences in four developments, ranging from five condos to 78 apartments, scattered among the vacant lots. Full story >>

DAY 4:

The education solution

After half a billion dollars of investment, the latest hopes of success for The New East Baltimore project are housed in three humble trailers on what used to be the playground of a now vacant and vandalized city school.

There, 207 students in kindergarten, elementary and middle school grades at the public East Baltimore Community School are being touted as symbols of the community’s rebirth and held up as examples of the potential for its future economic success. Full story >>

Principal sees hope in a work in progress

The day was “like Christmas” — optimistic, energetic and full of hope, recalls Cathleene J. Miles.

It was Aug. 31, 2009 and the temporary East Baltimore Community School was open for business.

No one was more optimistic, energetic and full of hope that day than Miles. The 53-year-old principal left the prestigious, private Gilman School to bring a new style and quality of education to the school now seen as the catalyst for the next phase of the nation’s largest urban redevelopment project. Full story >>

DAY 5:

An uncertain future

The New East Baltimore project stands at a crossroads as it enters its second decade.

After $564 million of investment, plans for a world-class biotech park have been shelved. Creation of new housing and new jobs lags far behind schedule.

Planners working on a new vision for the nation’s largest urban redevelopment project now hope that a state-of-the-art public school and more middle-class housing, a hotel, restaurants and stores will be the answer for the 88 acres north of Johns Hopkins Hospital.

The stakes are enormous. Full story >>

Editorial: Who’s minding the store?

The New East Baltimore, a projected $1.8 billion effort to transform 88 blighted acres north of Johns Hopkins Hospital, is a mammoth undertaking with more than $200 million worth of public investment after a decade and precious little public oversight.

That lack of accountability is a fundamental flaw that must be rectified now. Full story >>

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