Todd Scott lived in east Baltimore’s Latrobe Homes public housing as a child. Standing in Eager Park, about a mile from there, Scott could hardly believe the difference in the area since he was a kid.
Speaking during a ceremony celebrating the start of construction on town homes in the second phase of The Townes at Eager Park on Wednesday, Scott, who lives with his wife and children in a home built during the first phase, was still in disbelief of the building going on in the East Baltimore Development Inc. area around Johns Hopkins Medical Campus.
“We have a Starbucks. A Starbucks!” Scott, who works for the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development, said with a smile.
The second phase of construction will deliver 34 single-family town homes between the end of this year and 2019. The houses, like those in the first phase, will cost between $280,000 and roughly $300,000 depending on options selected by owners. The homes in what’s now called Eager Park feature one-car rear entry garages, brick fronts and, depending on finishes, will provide roughly 2,000 square feet of space.
The 49 town homes in the first phase started construction in late 2015, delivered last year, and have all sold. Forty of those units sold on a single day, Michael Greenebaum, of developer Greenebaum Enterprises said, as part of Johns Hopkins’ Live Near Your Work program. There’s already a waiting list for the second phase, some of which will front onto park area.
Townes at Eager Park is Greenebaum Enterprises first major development in Baltimore. The Baltimore County-based company has primarily tackled projects in Baltimore’s suburbs and Washington. Greenebaum Enterprises’ most prominent work in the area is the massive mixed-use Maple Lawn community in Howard County.
The east Baltimore project has a sentimental tie for Greenebaum. His father, the developer and philanthropist Stewart Greenebaum, who died last December, started his business with rental homes in the city. He recalled his father telling the story about having to evict a tenant in Baltimore, where with tears in his eyes he removed a crib from a house, and vowed “never again.” Bringing new investment to an area of the city once burdened with blight, he said, “brings a tear to your eye.”
“Now it’s really a high-quality of life here and it’s pretty remarkable to see this renaissance,” Greenebaum said.
So far about 500 new and rehabbed housing units have been delivered, EBDI President and CEO Raymond Skinner said. Another 400 units, including the 34 town homes under construction, are expected to be built in the next three years. About 30 percent of the residences, he said, will be categorized as affordable housing.
Johns Hopkins, the Annie E. Casey Foundation and the city are partners in the EBDI project. The EBDI nonprofit, which on its website states the organization’s goal as aiming to “re-energize and rebuild the East Baltimore,” is shepherding redevelopment efforts. The project is backed by more than 30 financial partners including Bank of America, Baltimore Community Foundation and M&T Bank. Forest City-New East Baltimore Partnership is the project’s master developer.
Developers have already built 600,000 square feet of office space and 38,000 square feet of retail with tenants, such as Walgreens, Atwaters, and the aforementioned Starbucks. Last October, LSH GE Gateway 2 LLC, Greenebaum Enterprises, Pyramid Hotel Group and the Marriott Corp. opened the $84 million, 15-story, 200,000-square-foot Residence Inn Baltimore at The Johns Hopkins Medical Campus.
At full buildout, the $1.8 billion project on roughly 88-acres of land in what was called the Middle East neighborhood is expected to provide 1.25 million square feet of commercial space, 1,850 housing units and 130,000 square feet of retail space.
EBDI has not been without its share of problems and controversy. The project started in 2001 but work all but halted following the 2008 financial collapse. Meanwhile, the relocation of more than 700 mostly poor black residents and the demolition of roughly 600 homes to make way for new building resulted in activists calling the project gentrification.
Lawrence Brown, a professor at Morgan State University, has been a vocal critic of the EBDI development and the city’s development strategy overall. Despite some differences in how the reshaping of the neighborhood happened, such as less traditional market forces being in play because of subsidies to Hopkins employees to live in the area, he said the result is still gentrification.
“It’s everything you would say gentrification is classically,” Brown said.
In 2011, The Daily Record published an investigative series by Joan Jacobson and Melody Simmons highlighting issues with the project’s transparency, the displacement of residents and the struggle to attract bio-tech park tenants. EBDI responded in a letter alleging the series was flawed by “an unfortunate lack of understanding of the facts and a lack of openness to information.”
Following the ceremonial shovel turning, Scott said he believes the development is paying off for the neighborhood. His school-age children attend the Henderson-Hopkins Elementary School built as part of the redevelopment, they’re friends with kids who live in nearby affordable housing, he said, and residents are building an economically blended community.
“This is something that should be used for an entire case study that other communities from across the country can use. It’s phenomenal,” Scott said.