Thousands of abandoned buildings will be bulldozed in Baltimore, officials have recently announced on Tuesday, January 5.
In a press conference held by Maryland Governor Larry Hogan and Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, it was revealed that plans are underway in order to demolish the 16,000 vacant properties identified in Mobtown.
These dilapidated structures will be replaced with parks and other green spaces, so as to boost security and foster a sense of community; in addition, public housing developments are also expected to be launched in the area.
It is hoped that these initiatives will help breathe new life into Baltimore, whose number of residents has dwindled by as much as a third in the last 6 decades.
Previously a prosperous industrial center, also considered to be a force to be reckoned with in the manufacturing and railway sector, Maryland’s largest city has experienced a dramatic decline, parts of it falling prey to decrepitude and decay.
Numerous buildings have been left abandoned, being considered hazardous due to their instability and unsanitary conditions, and also because they tend to be magnets for crime.
In order to combat this urban blight, state officials are now planning to invest approximately $75 million, across the following 4 years, in the CORE project (Creating Opportunities for Renewal and Enterprise).
It is expected that at a local level an investment of $19 million will also have to be made during the same time interval, so as to facilitate the tearing down of vacant buildings which have turned into perilous eyesores. Once this step is taken, open space areas will be set up instead, for recreation and relaxation.
Moreover, authorities have also declared that funding amounting to $600 million will be provided, so as to act as an incentive for contractors wishing to start other housing projects in the area.
The CORE project will initially focus on the Sandtown-Winchester neighborhood, located in West Baltimore, where 20 vacant buildings will be bulldozed in 2016, under the supervision of the Maryland Stadium Authority.
Sandtown, formerly nicknamed Baltimore’s Harlem because of its cultural and artistic importance, is now blighted by numerous problems.
For instance, approximately a third of all its residential buildings have been left in a horrific state of disrepair, after their former dwellers have abandoned them.
Moreover, 20% of its working-age inhabitants are jobless, a third are living below the poverty threshold, and 3% have already been behind bars.
The neighborhood is constantly marred by violence and unrest, having also been the place where Freddie Gray was apprehended by law enforcement on April 12, 2015.
At the time, the 25-year old African-American was arrested under the pretext of having owned an illegal knife, and sustained a serious spinal cord injury in the police van.
Apparently, this was because officers had intentionally driven the vehicle recklessly, causing Gray to be significantly wounded. The trauma triggered a coma almost instantly, and eventually resulted in the young man’s death several days afterwards.
The incident spurred a series of protests across Sandtown, the extensive looting, arson and vandalism prompting authorities to declare a state of emergency in Baltimore.
Now that several months have passed since Freddie Gray’s death, and the police officers involved in his homicide have been brought to justice, local authorities are hoping that Sandtown will turn over a new leaf, marked by peace and harmony.
Residents however remain doubtful regarding the Maryland governor’s CORE project, many of them having said that more emphasis should be placed on new, affordable housing, instead of investing most of the money on parks and recreational facilities.
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