A City Council member recalled how a decade ago, a street was so swarmed with drug dealers that you could barely drive down it.
On Friday, Democratic Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke returned to Tivoly Avenue with city officials from the mayor on down to announce a plan to line it with homes built with the latest construction techniques and selling for quarter of a million dollars.
‚ÄúThis is the promised land here today,‚ÄĚ Clarke said of a neighborhood that in its earliest days offered residents yards and more space for their families as they moved up from East Baltimore. ‚ÄúIt‚Äôs always been right here. We celebrate finding it again in this moment.‚ÄĚ
The ambitious development proposal would transform a section of the Coldstream-Homestead-Montebello neighborhood dubbed Tivoly Triangle. Officials and the developers are banking on the area‚Äôs proximity to some good schools and access to jobs at Morgan State University and the Johns Hopkins Hospital to support the asking prices, which will be vastly higher than those for existing rowhouses nearby.
Michael Braverman, the city‚Äôs housing commissioner, is confident the new houses can sell and that the proposal is in line with a vision long held by neighborhood leaders.
‚ÄúThis is the aspiration of this community,‚ÄĚ Braverman said.
The event Friday was to announce the selection of a partnership between Urban Green and LNW&A Development to carry out the first stage of the project.
The developers want to build 39 houses along the 2700 block of Tivoly Avenue, a mix of two- and three-bedroom homes. They call the project an ‚Äúeco-village‚ÄĚ that would generate the energy residents need to run their homes.
Mark James, the president of Urban Green, which is based in Washington, said the idea is to ‚Äúcreate a new future.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúSome people look at development based on the historical side of what the real estate is doing. In our case, we‚Äôre really talking about recreating the market,‚ÄĚ James said.
That means attracting people to the area. James said residents in the neighborhood will see new faces, families he expects to be drawn to the modern houses themselves, as well as to the schools and Clifton Park, which is just on the other side of Harford Road.
Some current residents attended Friday‚Äôs announcement and lingered afterward to inspect the architect‚Äôs renderings and a plan for a second phase of the project. They saw illustrations of two-story homes, topped with solar panels, forming an ‚ÄúL‚ÄĚ around a park and connected by tree-lined streets and alleys.
Currently, the triangular area bounded by Harford Road, the Alameda and East 28th Street is mix of grassy lots, vacant houses awaiting demolition and a scattering of occupied homes. Rowhouses nearby are listed for sale at prices between $40,000 and $100,000.
Lena Horne, who said she was among the first African Americans to move to the area in the 1960s, asked representatives from the developers whether a proposed clubhouse would be open to existing residents. They didn‚Äôt know.
Horne, 68, said the prices the developers are pitching were ‚Äúa lot of money,‚ÄĚ but she hoped attracting people to the area might drive up the value of her home, which is across from the area being considered for redevelopment.
‚ÄúIf it looks right and they clean up the neighborhood, it will be alright,‚ÄĚ she said. ‚ÄúI can see myself selling my home and making something off it.‚ÄĚ
Already, $10 million has been spent clearing the old vacant houses from the site and relocating the residents. If the second phase of the project gets going, more will have to be moved.
When Michelle Kane looked at the renderings, the 53-year-old saw that the area of the new park would include where her home stands. Won J. Lee‚Äôs store was nowhere to be found either. The two women sought answers from city officials and businessmen who were on hand.
Davin Hong, the architect for the project, told them the second phase was still ‚Äúspeculative.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúIt‚Äôs all to be determined,‚ÄĚ Hong said. ‚ÄúWhat‚Äôs shown is just ‚ÄėWhat if.‚Äô ‚ÄĚ
Kane approached Braverman, who promised to connect her with someone from his team.
‚ÄúI would expect those conversations to have happened with somebody,‚ÄĚ he said.
‚ÄúNothing, we‚Äôve had nothing,‚ÄĚ Kane said.
While the second phase ‚ÄĒ 40 more homes, including some detached houses the developer hopes to sell for almost $300,000 ‚ÄĒ is still in the works, even the first part of the job could be a long time coming.
Jay Greene, the housing department‚Äôs chief of operations, said the award to the developer begins a period of negotiation over the terms of the transfer of the land. James said he still needs to determine the financing for the project, and it could be 18 months before ground is broken.
Nonetheless, community leaders were excited by what they saw Friday.
The officials credited Mark Washington, the director of the Coldstream Homestead Montebello Community Corp., for advocating for the neighborhood. Braverman told the crowd who had gathered for the event that Washington was ‚Äúthe hero of the day.‚ÄĚ
Taking his turn at the podium after the politicians had spoken, Washington said the neighborhood‚Äôs leaders had reached this point because they ‚Äúdared to dream and dared to believe.‚ÄĚ