Towson Professor discusses life in West Baltimore

Bullock discusses some of his concerns about the area and how they may be improved

By Katherina Capon, April 11, 2011

Professor Bullock and his son attending the MARC quarterly meeting. Bullock looks forward to having better Mass transit inthe area

Professor Bullock and his son attending the MARC quarterly meeting. Bullock looks forward to having better Mass transit inthe area

In a community where families have been displaced before, some people of West Baltimore have found it difficult to trust those in charge of putting in the Maryland Area Regional Commuter Station. At the MARC meeting that took place on March 7, 2011, many people asked the same questions over and over again until they felt secure with the answer  they were given.

“Some people have been to many meetings and understand what is going on by now, for others it was the first meeting that they ever attended and everything was new to them,” said John Bullock, a Political Science professor who teaches at Towson University.

One issue that continued to be brought up was whether or not people would be removed from their homes.

Marcus Delmar asked, “Are you going to try and buy us out? Are you going to help us out? If I don’t pay my property taxes are you going to kick me out?”

For many residents of West Baltimore it wasn’t too long ago that they were being uprooted from their homes to make room for Route 40.

“Many people are still injured from the memory of the past. They remember being displaced before and it scarred them,” said Bullock.

Bullock has only lived in the West Baltimore neighborhood for six years, but is very knowledgeable on the area’s past because he teaches a course entitled Urban Government and spends a few days discussing nothing other than the Highway to Nowhere. Bullock also has attended every MARC meeting since construction started in 2010.

Bullock is originally from Philadelphia and moved to West Baltimore from Washington, D.C.

“I was first attracted to the real estate prices because they were so much cheaper than D.C, but when I came to the area I really liked that it reminded me of Philadelphia so much. Houses had front porches and backyards and we are surrounded by families and seniors just like when I grew up,” said Bullock.

As much as Bullock likes the neighborhood he says he would like to see it improve, his gravest concern would be the area’s school system.

“I have a two year- old- son, and one thing me and my wife talk about is whether or not he will attend local schools or if we will have to send him somewhere else,” said Bullock.

Once the MARC Station is put in the area hopes to see greater development in its’ housing, school systems, and local commerce.

Bryon Alston, The Director of Community Engagement for the Citizens planning and Housing Administrations says that there are a lot of real estate opportunities in the area. Many vacant homes can be purchased cheap and then refurbished into more attractive homes.

“This will lead to neighborhood regentrification. Once the homes are more attractive newcomers will come to the area. This will eventually lead to a rise in property values and then a rise in property taxes. Not everyone will benefit similarly, there will be those who cannot afford the new taxes,” said Alston.

Unfortunately some people will suffer with new economics in order to turn around the entire neighborhood. Bullock hopes that a more beautiful community will bring in a higher rate of middle class residents which will in turn eventually get the school systems to improve.

The school systems, Bullock’s greatest concern, are not his only one. He also is concerned with drugs and crime, which he describes as “a part of city living.”

“Right now I wouldn’t let my son ride his tricycle down the block and if the area didn’t improve I wouldn’t let him ride his bike when he got older, that’s how you get robbed,” said Bullock.

During the MARC meeting on March 7, 2011 there was a survey done on how the residents would like to see the community aesthetically improved.  There was discussion of more green space, banners, community gardens and sculptures.

“I definitely voted for the community to have more green space and to have bike paths. It would be great for there to be a place where families can play together and do family stuff. I‘d be happy to let my son bike ride in the neighborhood rather than have to take him over to Druid Hill Park,” said Bullock.

No ideas have been set in stone yet. According to George Hill, the MTA project manager, the point of the surveys is to get a temperature reading on what the community wants so that all the organizations involved can do their best to appease the residents.

According to Alston, the MARC station will bring in much needed shops to the area. In an area referred to as a food dessert it is necessary that grocery stores become integrated into the neighborhood.

Bullock says if he needs to go shopping for anything he has to travel to Downtown Baltimore, Charles Village and Waverly.

“You definitely need to leave the area to shop. One place that I know is benefitting from all of us in West Baltimore is the Target in the Mondawmin Mall,” said Bullock, “Right now you have to drive there or take the bus. I would love to live in an area where there is more mass transportation available.”

The area already has a Red Line stop and is now also going to have a MARC station. When the two are in place West Baltimore will become a huge hub in local transportation, according to Alston.

“Right now it is too early to say whether or not housing prices will rise, if middle class families will move in, if a super store opens in the area. All we can do right now is have hope in these projects and hope that the MARC station brings about some of the change that has been discussed,” said Alston.

With little actually being done besides discussions so far it is hard for residents to have full faith in the revamping of their community.

One local resident said, “I’ll believe it when I see it. As of now all I see is boarded up homes and a big pile of dirt.”

Bullock says that many people respond this way because they just don’t have any knowledge on what is going on.

“There is no grand swell of support or anger because many of the area’s residents just aren’t in the know,” said Bullock.

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