Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Is development in Locust Point a good thing?

In the epic Baltimore battle of "Neighborhoods first", does heavy investment in Locust Point count? Is it good news that Toby Bozzutto and Scott Plank's Warhorse LLC broke ground on another 47 townhouses there after his 275 unit Anthem House nearing completion, Saperstein's 250 completed units at McHenry Row and another 225 under construction, not to mention Turner's Silo Point with its 226 condominiums and 60 townhomes and countless smaller rowhouse rehabs and new construction projects?
Alta 47 townhomes, 2 car garages, $400,000 and up (Rendering: Bozzutto/
Lessard Design Architects, Washington DC)

Locust Point is certainly not near downtown and although located on a peninsula, it is barely a waterfront community;  much of its waterfront is still occupied by industrial uses such as Domino Sugar and large railyards.

When developer Bill Struever bought the large former Proctor and Gamble complex there for $6 million in 1998 he set foot in an area that was to most Baltimoreans as foreign as Brooklyn, another working class Baltimore neighborhood, technically on the water, but surrounded by industry that prevents waterfront access.

Change came with Struever's arrival. Many small investors began scouting out vacant lots and small industrial sites which dotted the community between rows of formstone clad houses. Then  developer Pat Turner did the innovative luxury condos wrapped around old grain silos, Saperstein finally broke ground on McHenry Row, Philips Seafood moved out and development became a runaway train.  Thje site for the new Alta 47 homes was vacated by Perishable Deliveries Inc. which moved to Halethorpe in the County.
Before one attributes Locust Point to Richard Florida's new insight that America's cities have succumbed to a "winner takes all" development system, one has to remember that the two Locust Point pioneer developers, Struever and Turner, both took heavy hits since their successful investments there and are not the big winners anymore they once were, even though, it wasn't Locust Point that did them in, but, what one could call overreach, elsewhere.
The Locust Point community is surrounded by industrial use and barely has waterfront access. Darkened the lots
where Alta 47 townhomes broke ground Tuesday

Locust Point probably doesn't count in the eyes of those who want to see investment in Baltimore's poor neighborhoods because it is lilly white and has been so long before gentrification set in. Like Remington or Hampden, Locust Point started out poor and received plenty investment but are not at all representative of Baltimore's diversity.

Luckily, neighborhood success is no longer limited to the communities located in the much maligned "white L". As Seema Iyer of the Baltimore Neighborhoods Indicator Alliance has pointed out to me numerous times, there is a growing list of diverse communities that also receive investment such as Pigtown and Reservoir Hill and even predominantly white communities such as Highlandtown see a high level of diversity through other ethnicities such as Latino and Asian.
Locust Point (red outline) sits in an area with predominantly white population
(shades indicate % of black population)

Locust Point is still no yuppie town, in spite of the heavy influx of young professionals it isn't even a haven of singles or millennials but has an above average percentage of families with children.

The local public school, Francis Scott ES and Middle has been propped up by Kevin Plank $1 million of investments (he also invested in the Sarah's Hope project in Sandtown). Today poverty levels in Locust Point are low, education attainment is high and so are rents and home prices.

When Catherine Pugh broke ground at the  Alta 47 townhomes on Wednesday she made reference to "these neighborhoods": According to the SUN she said:
"Eighteen- to 34-year-olds, they're popping into Baltimore like flies, and we love it. But they're in apartment buildings, and we know those are important, too, but this is important to the stability of our city — home ownership," Pugh said. "Alta 47 is designed to not only be impressive but to lure people into moving into these communities."
I am not sure about the flies analogy, but neighborhoods that are attractive for families and provide a perspective for urban living with children must certainly be part of the mix of what Baltimore has to offer as a city.

The Locust Point Civic Association saw to it, that the new town homes were not too large and foreign to the otherwise humble setting on Cooksie, Beason and Towson Streets. They negotiated the number down from 51 to 47 and the height of the new townhomes down from 45' to 35'.

Klaus Philipsen, FAIA

Capital News Service about Locust Point (2013)
BNIA South Baltimore Vital Signs

The groundbreaking (Photo: Kevin Lynch)

the construction site (Photo: Kevin Lynch)

the townhomes in the community setting (rendering Bozzutto/Lessard Design Architects)


All statistics from City-Data.com