[Current Events/ Opinion] My Torn Relationship With Gentrification [Written by Shae McCoy]

Image Captured by Shae McCoy (Coy-Op Photos)
Construction going on on West Lexington Street in Baltimore, MD.

I come from a neighborhood in Baltimore where there hasn’t been much hope for its condition for more than a decade. The area is Lexington Terrace, also known as Poe Homes, and now the Poppleton neighborhood.  Regardless of the name, the neighborhood  is still poverty stricken. But this will not be for much longer. The drug game has ruled the area for many decades and it has trickled down from the adults to the youth. There are apartments around there that are infested with rodents and the houses that some people have been living in for many decades have not been renovated in any way. Most likely,  the houses are in squalid condition. For awhile, no one seemed to care about the development of this neighborhood, or so I thought.

Image Captured by Shae McCoy (Coy-Op Photos)
This picture was taken on West Fayette Street which is also under construction.

Even though this area and the surrounding areas were seemingly helpless, the businesses continued to boom. No matter what you needed, there was always some place to go. I remember in the early 2000’s word started spreading about the University of Maryland and how they wanted to buy the property in the area. Being as young as I was, I didn’t take heed because I didn’t feel like it would happen or that it would affect me directly. The residents would speculate about how we would all be forced to move out of the neighborhood and into the surrounding counties. I didn’t believe that such a thing could happen. How can you force someone to leave their home? Later in life I would come to the realization that force can come as peacefully as a housing voucher for a nice sized home in a county full of trees and deer in your backyard.

Fast forward to 2010 and my neighborhood began to look like the ones I’d driven pass on the bus. It was full of  vacant houses, vacant space, and not a lot of hope. Our favorite corner stores were closing down and being demolished. A lot of businesses were paid to go elsewhere, because who’s not going to take thousands of dollars to flourish even further? It started looking like a ghost-town, and as the businesses moved out, it seemed as if more drugs and crime moved in. There were no more corner stores or hideouts to shield the obvious issues within the neighborhood. Now, we are being forced to face these problems every day and  it’s a wound that won’t heal. Or will it? 

It’s 2017 now. Two  years ago Baltimore was in an uproar and shortly after that the City began to change in so many ways. Crime has been at its peak, the art scene has been flourishing, and gentrification is happening all around us. It’s May and I see that what I heard in the late 90’s and early 2000’s is finally happening. Johns Hopkins was probably the first to completely change a neighborhood that was once for the people and now all you see are college students and doctors in the area of the hospital and school.  The University of Maryland basically has done the same thing. Slowly but surely, new establishments started emerging in the “Poppleton” area such as a morgue (a morgue in the hood, how delightful), more patient treatment centers, and it is not stopping there.

Image Captured by Shae McCoy (Coy-Op Photos)

Between Saratoga, Lexington, and Fayette street there once stood houses and stores. Fast forward to 2017 and there is an apartment complex in the process of being built to fill the spaces where my favorite stores and houses of friends once stood. It’s so eerie to me how much authenticity is being taken away from a neighborhood that I lived in  and hung out in without any worries. Yes, this neighborhood will be appealing once remodeling and rebuilding is finished, but what about the people currently living in it?

Well, goodbye Poe Homes first of all. I’ve always wondered why they surrounded the Edgar Allan Poe House with public housing. You had white people walking this neighborhood scared to death because they were mistaken for high-paying drug customers. Why? I never could make sense of it. I was informed that the Poe Homes will be no more eventually and the people who occupy the residences will be given housing vouchers to move elsewhere. Where to? I am not sure, but I assume it will be far away from the “medicine” town they are building. That is where I worry. It’s good to make the neighborhood look better, but to do it and not have it be in the favor of the residents is pretty fucked up. There are people who have lived their full lives around here and for them to see the come up and not be involved is a slap in the face.

Did we fight hard enough for our neighborhood?

In my opinion, no. I’m guilty myself. They have probably been holding town halls for years and not enough people have attended. I guess they may have given up on it when the crime rate went through the roof. My neighborhood isn’t the only hub for renovation, the majority of the downtown Baltimore area is being revamped. You saw the homeless get forced out and you will see many black people in places like Owings Mills as Baltimore becomes a college and medicine town. The public transportation is even changing to the point where if you don’t drive you won’t even be able to get to the city easily or to the county.

The memories I hold from this neighborhood will only be that as everything that contributed to it will be demolished. I know a lot of residents are probably glad to be getting away from here, but I wonder if they understand what this means? We were finally given the pacifier of eviction from a neighborhood that we stopped taking pride in a long time ago.

15 responses to “[Current Events/ Opinion] My Torn Relationship With Gentrification [Written by Shae McCoy]

  1. This article reads like a timeline of events where the author is bling to the eventual outcome. Talk of change, abandoned homes, crime rises, developer swoops in on blighted neighborhood. Many blacks dislike gentrification but I don’t understand why. Just bc you lived somewhere the majority of your life doesn’t mean you should or have to perish there. I see blocks in east Bmore where there is literally 1 lived in home amongst a block of vacants. Why does that person stay there???? How???? I’d move in a heartbeat. It can’t be safe or healthy. I say, let developers develop, but yes, GET INVOLVED. Our people love to complain AFTER the fact and act as though, I didn’t know this was happening.
    Anyway, I work for MTA and I’m particularly insulted by your small comment about it being harder to travel. That is very untrue. Different doesn’t equal difficult.
    And by the way, another complain after the fact event. We have been meeting with community associations and having meetings around the city where anywhere between 5 to 20 people show up, and these are usually transit enthusiasts. We’ve reacted to the comments we did receive, but at this point…the point is, while it won’t be perfect. Its a step forward in the right direction. MTA didn’t ask to make this change. Hogan dropped it in our lap and I, myself worked extremely hard to make this work alongside contractors that are prime examples of “gentrifiers”. People who aren’t from Baltimore but are young transit analysts who follow trends.
    I hope you, with what you do, can help re-ignite our peoples fire and desire to affect change and not just have change thrown into our face whilst we act like we don’t see it coming until it smacks us in our faces.
    Great article, tho. It inspired this reply lol

    • Peat, if you don’t understand why blacks dislike gentrification then you are blind or clueless. This phenomenon is happening all over the US, not just in Baltimore, and it was by design. Majority black neighborhoods were intentionally neglected and allowed to deteriorate, then when the property values diminished, the developers swooped in to build new homes, condos and apartments that the residents cannot afford. It has created an affordable housing crisis around the nation and little has been done to help the people disaffected. You can try to sugar coat the truth, but this is about money, power and greed. Period. #BLMGirl

    • On one hand, yes, it is great that the neighborhood is being redeveloped, but why should I be forced from the place I know and love? Why not redevelop and give current residents vouchers to live in the newly developed homes rather than pushing them out completely? Because we don’t fit into their “newly developed” criteria, so they push us out without a second thought of including us just for the cycle to repeat. We wouldn’t even be able to live peacefully in one of these neighborhoods without them looking at us sideways, constantly judging and thinking we’re up to no good. That’s the problem.

    • Also, please tell me what buses run throughout the counties? You do have the subway in Owings Mills, but once you get off the subway, the buses are only going to take you but so far. I am a city resident and once worked in Ellicott City, not even deep into Ellicott City, but right beyond Route 40, and if I wasn’t driving or had a ride, I would not have been able to get to work. Though buses do run in the county, they don’t go too far beyond the city/county borders. The deeper you get into the county, there is no public transportation, none that runs to and from the city at least.

  2. T Michelle. Why do we, blacks, allow our neighborhoods to deteriorate. Why do we always depend on the gov’t to take care of us. Why can’t we afford a $1500 rent? Why are we always regulated to low rent housing? All of this we can affect ourselves, yet we sit and do nothing but complain. This is why I don’t see an issue with gentrification. I see no issue with demolishing vacant homes and building something better. Blacks have to at some point accept responsibility for taking advantage of education, raising our children better, and controlling our own lives. We fxck up our own neighborhoods, not the other way around.

  3. I gave you validation until you asked why we can’t afford 1500 rent when the real question is why is rent 1500? Why do people put astronomical prices on a basic need such as shelter? Easy. For profit. The point is, gentrification has always been for the pursuit of money. The bigger picture is and always will be, in this perpetually supply/demand, materialistic culture, is that the ones who could do better value money over people. I have yet to see gentrification be for the greater good of all simply because it’s the right thing to do. Do you get the picture now?

  4. Ok. I am not originally from Maryland and moved here 25yrs ago. Long and short of it for me is the citizenship of Baltimore for 60yrs have taken the crumbs that fall from the table of one political party as they keep telling you that they are for you. Well, just about every major city that you see this happening is not controlled by the Democratic party and they are the ones pushing these changes. So we have blindly pledged our votes to a party and plan to do so. They have done very little in the way of crime, education, employment, infrastructure, or even opportunity. But they will gladly bend over backwards for the gay and lesbian community providing them with everything that they ask for. Where I’m from the blacks and businesses were moved out and now is a complete safe haven for the LGBT community. They own the houses, businesses, and sit on the boards that make decisions. We have to take ownership in the part that we play in this matter as well. We complain about the police and law but we don’t encourage our youth and young adults to become officers and lawyers to protect our community. We leave that job to outsiders. So some of this is very much self inflicted as well.

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