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City, Private Developers Team Up For $1B East Baltimore Redevelopment Plan

A sweeping plan to revamp a massive swath of East Baltimore is beginning to take shape.

The Housing Authority of Baltimore City has recruited a group of private developers to assist in transforming a nearly 200-acre stretch of land between Harbor East and Johns Hopkins Hospital, the Baltimore Business Journal reports. The plan would replace over 1,300 public housing units and the City Springs elementary and middle school.

To fund the plan, the Housing Authority has applied for a $30M grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development through its Choice Neighborhoods Initiative, as well as a tax increment financing package through the city that could be worth as much as $250M if approved by the Baltimore Development Corp. and City Council, according to the BBJ.

CNI grants require one-for-one housing replacement, so one of the first components of the plan will be to build affordable housing units for residents of the Perkins Homes and Douglass Homes, both of which will likely be demolished under the plan. All told, as many as 2,500 units could be part of the development, split between market-rate, affordable and public housing.

St. Louis-based McCormack Baron Salazar has been named the lead developer for the project, and joining it will be Baltimore-based Beatty Development Group, Henson Development Co. and Cross Street Partners, as well as Philly-based affordable developer Mission First Housing.

The plan arose from an initial idea to redevelop the vacant Old Town Mall and Perkins Homes lots, according to the BBJ. Henson had initially planned to redevelop a portion of Old Town Mall, but put its individual idea on hold to join with the overarching development.

A portion of the Perkins Homes public housing project in East Baltimore

At full build-out, the East Baltimore plan will also include retail and office space, likely centered around the Old Town Mall site, and a public park on the current Perkins Homes site. Due to time restrictions that would come with the CNI grant, the project has a likely six-year time frame if its financing is approved.

Though the broken-down state of Perkins Homes and Old Town Mall's vacancy underscores the necessity of redevelopment, recipients of the CNI grant form an exclusive club — only six projects received CNI Planning Grants last fiscal year, and only three received CNI Action Grants. President Donald Trump's 2019 budget, which would slash HUD's funding by billions, further endangers the grants.

If the project is named a finalist for CNI grants, representatives from HUD will visit the area to be briefed on the particulars of the project. HUD Secretary Ben Carson visited Baltimore last year as part of his national listening tour, inviting his son Ben Carson Jr. to both attend and influence portions of the stop's agenda, against the wishes of other HUD staff to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest. In his time as HUD secretary, Carson has overseen an understaffed department beset by ethical and competence questions.