Op/Ed: Redeveloping Baltimore’s Black Community by Rhonda Wimbish

(BALTIMORE – March 14, 2018) – I can say for certain that Baltimore City’s growth and improvements do not include improving the Black community. When the 63% commuters pass through Black communities to work within the city boundaries there is no desire to live in these communities. The commuters have the impression that the residents in these communities don’t care about how they live when they drive down Liberty Heights Ave., Druid Hill Ave., Pennsylvania Ave., Garrison Blvd., Reisterstown Rd., Park Heights Ave, Orleans St, Gwynns Falls Pkwy., Franklin St. and Mulberry St. The commuters don’t see the lies that have been told time and time again to the Black community about improvements that cannot be done in their community. I know because I was lied to by a state legislator, now mayor and the Director of City Planning while I was standing with the map in my hand that showed the boundaries of the slot funding that included my Ashburton neighborhood.

A few weeks ago, I walked into a meeting on a Sunday morning at a private home in Mt. Washington while the president of the Baltimore Development Corporation (BDC) was discussing a plan that I wrote for the redevelopment of Pimlico Race Track. The private meeting was sponsored by the 41st district delegates Sandy Rosenberg and Angela Gibson during the church hours of the majority of their constituents. The newly organized task force made up of Mt Washington residents that will work with the Stadium Authority goal is actually to use slot money to redevelop Pimlico Race Track and prevent the Black communities below Northern Pkwy. from using the funding to make small improvements in their communities-the same communities that have an outer appearance that the residents don’t care. The same slot money that Catherine Pugh and City Planning Director Tom Stosur told Black communities surrounding Dolfield Ave. that the funding did not include us, when it did. During the same week, it was confirmed that a City Planning employee had lied in writing that the boundaries of the historic Ashburton community were extended to include a commercial area of owners that have no care and concern for the Black community. The Black community, as always believed the City Planner, but I knew this involved legislation and the only people that could attempt to pull this off are our legislators to create a special business tax for the Black residents to pay on behalf of others.

After having a long career of selling real estate in Baltimore’s Black community, watching community after community suffer from demise, while other communities were growing, developing and sustaining I decided to enroll as a development student at University of Baltimore. Having experienced legislators Lisa Gladden, Nat Oaks, Shawn Tarrant and Catherine Pugh that occupied seats of the Pimlico Community Development Authority (PCDA) board lie about slots money entitled to the Black community, it was necessary for me to understand about funding and develop in the Black community. The development experience has met and exceeded my expectation. I didn’t expect to sit in the room with developers that had their own money to develop in Baltimore City and were turned away by BDC and politicians because the developer was not willing to pour money into political campaign accounts. There is absolutely no logical reason that the Old Town Mall area or West Baltimore’s Popular Grove look like a “Third World” country, when there had been development interest without a TIF (tax increment financing).

I also didn’t expect my development plans for the redevelopment of Pimlico Race Track, given to a state delegate, to be articulated from the president of BDC without any acknowledgement as to where the plans came from or my development plans to create an alternative grocery to eliminate nutrition segregation to be ignored because I don’t agree with the politics of denying Black communities of an equal right to sustain and improve.

The Baltimore Development Corporation, the economic arm of Baltimore City, was hired to increase the tax base over 30 years ago; this has not been accomplished as of yet. BDC and Baltimore City Planning have no experience in real estate and no desire to have improvements in the Black community. These very expensive “connectors” have no desire to connect any growth and sustainability to Baltimore’s Black community. It appears that capital improvements in the Black community will have to come from resources from outside of Baltimore City. The mayor’s plan to redevelop “The Ambassador” in the Black community was a promise made to the owners of Shop Rite grocery store, not for the Black community. Our Black politicians have no interest in the sustainability and growth of Black communities.