Monday, April 18, 2016

How much and what housing in Baltimore?

A post about the Nelson Kohl apartments on Lanvale Street just North of Penn Station created an interesting discussion on David Troy's Facebook page about the upcoming Baltimore elections. I have previously reported about the project here.

My take-away points from the Facebook discussion are these:

  • We should increase the tax base in Baltimore by having more housing and more residents. In spite of the enormous amount of apartments in the construction and planning pipeline some people still think Baltimore is under-invested 
  • Baltimore had once near a million people (in 1950) but then it was super-crowded and with today's household sizes (less people on more space) such population density would possibly not be desirable. Between land area, zoning and the existing infrastructure, the City has a certain "carrying capacity". In spite of some attempts of determining what that capacity would be in terms of population, there is little agreement what that number should be.
  • There is a perilous need for quality affordable housing but the need for affordable housing should not be all met in the City but in the entire region
  • Affordable housing cannot simply be created by asking for it, subsidies and funds are needed to make housing affordable since development costs outstrip affordable rents
  • Local workforce development should be an ingredient of local projects. Wendell Pierce has spoken out for such investment and is part of Ernst Valery's team for the Lanvale Street project
  • Contemporary architecture remains to be a challenge in Baltimore. People still call it simply ugly, some others ask for being contextual (which in the environment at Lanvale can mean a lot of things)
Even thought the Sun article causing the post is a year old, the discussion is fresh and relevant. So I copy it below in full:

Klaus Philipsen, FAIA

Details on the apartment building being built in Station North by Ernst Valery and partners including Wendell Pierce.
Construction of an eight-story apartment building sheathed in contemporary metal with gallery space and a Milk & Honey market on the ground floor could start in Station North by the end of the year, said developer Ernst Valery.
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David Troy This HuffPo piece highlights Pierce's involvement, and the jobs/community aspect.
LikeReply21 hrs
Alice Denise Ike Thank you for posting, David Troy.
LikeReply120 hrs
Jen Fischetti The biggest problem with "market rate" apartments is the "market price" is based on current demographic trends juxtaposed to supply. It is only because of an utter lack of rental units (due to an unwillingness to invest and buy in Baltimore) in the pipeline coupled with a low interest in commitment by younger residents that such projects enjoy a higher demand. If one accepts the article's premise, this project's value is in its proximity to the MARC station one block south, for it will serve as housing stock for DC workers looking to relocate. 

What we need in our planning for market rate housing is to retain and continue to attract those who want to LIVE in Baltimore, and WORK in Baltimore. I've driven 395/695 in DC through the SE quadrant. ALL of that new construction near the Navy Yard and the market is still not sated.

However, once again, we ignore the more pressing need in this city and that is affordable housing for low and moderate income individuals and families.

The investment by Wendell Pierce is important for the sake of construct labor on the project. That aspect can be transformative. Yet when will be see the sort of commitment to low to moderate housing which is mixed within market rate projects which will turn the tide?

As to the "ugliness" of the project, I do not think it is singularly ugly, however think it is out of context in the surrounding neighborhood. IF its LEED scorecard is anywhere near the Angelos Law Center, the architectural style could be excused. Still to be seen.

While Kunstler is a bit of a whiner in his crusade against contemporary architecture, his points are valid. Building and other structures should be in communication with their surrounding. The kids should all play nice together. Given that potential Penn Station TOD is back on, the relationship this project has will change as a result of THAT project.

Hard to be excited about 100 units in a city of 620,000 wherein a large percent live in substandard housing or spend too much of their slender resources in acquiring basic housing.
LikeReply920 hrs
David Troy  I concur with your points, Jen. Was gonna wait for someone else to say it. 
wink emoticon I guess my feeling is that this is nice enough for those MARC commuters, and it probably will fill up, and it will probably contribute some vitality to the neighborhood. Thearchitecture will probably be workable enough (though it looks a bit like a Jawa Sandcrawler).

But the notion that this project, besides for the construction jobs aspect, is particularly transformative seems suspect. It seems just like a safe bet.
LikeReply20 hrs
Nathan Dennies Jen Fischetti very well said. Long-term affordable housing must be a priority. It is not sustainable for development to focus on "young professionals" and other transient demographics who are targeted because they are the most willing to pay $1,500/mo. for less than 400 SF of space (10 Light Street). The largest unmet need for housing is for people living below 30% AMI ($25k/year), representing 25% of our population.
LikeReply220 hrs
Klaus Philipsen
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Quentin Williams How long has this area been called Station North?
LikeReply120 hrs
David Troy "The Baltimore city government's 2002 designation of the area as an arts district has furthered the neighborhood's transformation." Per Wikipedia page, I think this was when this name came into common usage. Other renovations in the neighborhood, such as the Charles Theater were underway as early as 1998-1999.
LikeReply119 hrs
Klaus Philipsen
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Sarah McKittrick Developers choose to invest in projects because they will make money. I don't see anybody making much money from building apartments for those who make less than $25,000/year, so it isn't going to happen unless it is funded with public money. Criticizing development for not meeting utopian goals is not going to pave a way towards a better future. Increasing Baltimore's tax base so that the city can better afford to invest in utopian goals is. I'm all for bringing some of those DC dollars to fund our Baltimore needs.
LikeReply619 hrsEdited
Gus Sentementes The city has a rule that says new apartment developments have to set aside portion of units at lower rate. The city is falling short.
LikeReply119 hrsEdited
David Troy Sarah McKittrick Agreed. This seems like a fine project that will lead to reasonable incremental gains. I think the only reason anyone has criticized it is that the social component may be a bit overstated. But this by itself seems like a fine project.
LikeReply119 hrs
Klaus Philipsen
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Timothy Pula Baltimore is in a position to be a great "value play" for residents. DC is hugely expensive. Baltimore is a less expensive alternative and despite it's warts has a good quality of life. Some may not like to hear it but we need to grow this City. We are carrying the infrastructure of a 1.0 m person city on the backs of 650,000 people. I welcome DC workers living in Baltimore and commuting. They move here rent for a year or two and find out that it's a pretty awesome place and potentially stay.
LikeReply819 hrs
Jen Fischetti I hear that "we are a 1.0M person city with only 650K residents" arguments a lot. It is invalid. During our peak, in the middle of the 20th century we were one of the most dense city in the country. In fact, we only recently were knocked out of the top ten by Seattle. We have approximately 80 sq miles.

When we were in the 950K range we, like Detroit during that time period, were living in high occupancy units. The extreme demand of housing in the lead up to, and during the Second World War, had single family units being subdivided into multifamily units. So our infrastructure, which was built out to accommodate 1910-population levels which was 558K (and a smaller square mile footprint for our final annexation was in 1918 to our current boundaries). By the boom of WWI and the explosion of textile industry jobs, he had 733K by 1920, nearly 200K over the prior decade.

We were ill equipped to handle 950K, let alone the 733K for any extended period of time. Additionally we had a robust public transit infrastructure which was dismantled as we were witnessing the white flight that began as early as the 1930.

YES, we need to increase the population with more HIGHER income earning residents , renting or buying higher priced housing (which increases the city tax base).

YES that must come in the form of high occupancy structures like this 103 unit project and also from even larger ones like 500 Park to accompany 520 Park.

But NOTHING about those needs negate the utter lack of affordable housing which only creates further income divide AND further decline in the neighborhoods which currently house many folks earning a fraction of these new residents. This only further creates a divided Baltimore.

Transit Oriented Development with low to moderate income housing as PART of the mix of total units so ALL income strata can benefit from easy transit access to major job centers is needed.

The surrounding counties do little in low income housing because they DO NOT WANT "THAT" element in their communities. THIS is the very same driver of white flight over the last 80 years in the region. It's commonly identified by its proper name : Racism.

This is most assuredly a state level issue and speaks to the disdain Annapolis has had for Baltimore since before that last constitution was created in 1867.
LikeReply312 hrs
David Troy Jen Fischetti  I frequently find myself engaging with people on this point. When we had 1M people, effectively every room in every house was a bedroom. It wasn't til after the war that indoor bathrooms replaced extra boarding space in many cases. We were maybe built out to a 700-750k capacity; never to 1M by modern standards. And that is not the reason for the vacants; the vacants happened due to loss of manufacturing jobs and a variety of racist housing policies that accelerated disinvestment.
LikeReply4 hrs
Klaus Philipsen
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Christy Wolfe I admire all the intelligent comments on this thread. My only contribution is to say that the rendering looks like the building UB built below Penn Station, which is one of my least favorite buildings in the city. Ugly ugly ugly. That metal sheathing is a terrible trend.
LikeReply117 hrs
Timothy Pula I love the UB building. Thank goodness for something different.
LikeReply114 hrs
Christy Wolfe To each his own.
LikeReply114 hrs
Klaus Philipsen
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Timothy Pula I would add that affordable housing cannot be solely an issue for Baltimore City. The metro counties do very little to address affordable housing. Further, they do little to address affordable housing issues in Baltimore yet they rely on Baltimore to house a disproportionate share of the regions poor and working poor. Then they complain about us. Someone needs to have the guts and brains to tell them they can't have it both ways.
LikeReply815 hrs
Marci Yankelov As a former DC commuter I love it. I loved earning a DC salary and living in Baltimore. As a Realtor I love the idea. It means people who make DC salaries will rent in Baltimore and eventually find that they will want to live here long term and purchase real estate. In addition it'll be a great boost for the local economy. They may work in DC but they will go out and spend their disposable income in Baltimore.
LikeReply36 hrs

Marci Yankelov As a former DC commuter I love it. I loved earning a DC salary and living in Baltimore. As a Realtor I love the idea. It means people who make DC salaries will rent in Baltimore and eventually find that they will want to live here long term and purchase real estate. In addition it'll be a great boost for the local economy. They may work in DC but they will go out and spend their disposable income in Baltimore.
LikeReply36 hrs
Rachel Shane I would like to see more affordable housing for people who already live in Baltimore, as opposed to recruiting out-of-towners with deeper pockets. Baltimore is not a suburb of DC.
LikeReply123 mins
Rachel Shane Furthermore, locals should not have to spend 15 hours weekly commuting elsewhere so they can afford to live here.
LikeReply21 mins
Phyllis Fung Wading into the aesthetics end of the discussion here. Yes, I'm an unabashed contemporary/modernist. After all, we don't dress or drive cars like we live in 1900 or 1950, so why should our buildings look like they were built in older periods? Baltimore...See More
LikeReply4 mins
Wally Pinkard If I could drive a 1950s style car I would probably drive. I agree though that rebuilding to look like the past usually does not work. One example I do like that sort of gets it is those houses on Alicanna and Ann Streets. They sort of have the old warehouse vibe mixed with the new to form a nice aesthetic. As for the merits of the development itself I think its fine. One thing Baltimore has lots of is space so lets fill that space will people who pay taxes and walk around instead of empty lots. Even if they work in DC I am cool with it. They can spend their DC salaries here. I see that as a win. I don't think that this development is pushing anyone out.or doing anything to prevent affordable housing from happening. It is also nice to see infill development not associated with a TIF or on the water.Write a comment...

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