City/Community Partnership Targets More Than 700 Blighted Properties for Renewal in Johnston Square

Components of a Master Plan to convert more than 700 blighted and abandoned properties to new housing and green space were revealed today by Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young and Johnston Square Partners, LLC (JS Partners).  The Master Plan is being developed per the terms of a Land Disposition Agreement (LDA) approved by the City’s Board of Estimates in October of 2019 and will return currently vacant buildings and lots to the tax rolls.

“Our comprehensive approach in Johnston Square will help prevent and eliminate blight,” said Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young.  “Our strategy of placing the community at the center of the planning process is a redevelopment model that could become a template for revitalization efforts city-wide. My Administration will continue to look for opportunities to partner with communities as we work to revitalize neighborhoods.”

JS Partners is a collaborative of several community-centered organizations including Baltimore Arts Realty Corporation (BARCO), Baltimoreans United in Leadership Development (BUILD), Rebuild Johnston Square Neighborhood Organization, ReBuild Metro, and St. Frances Academy.  The Baltimore City Department of Housing & Community Development (DHCD) and JS Partners developed the pilot initiative that gives site control over all abandoned properties in Johnston Square to JS Partners; essentially placing the community in the position of Master Developer for the entire area.

“It’s important that the City is able to be a collaborative and creative partner in order to ignite revitalization in long disinvested neighborhoods,” said Housing Commissioner Michael Braverman. “We are well on our way to creating the kind of outcome here that has been the vision of the Johnston Square community.”

The pilot project draws on DHCD’s strategy of “building from strength” as outlined in the Community Development Framework released by the agency in 2019.  Citing revitalization momentum that is evident with neighborhood-scale change that has been seen in Greenmount West, Barclay, Reservoir Hill and Oliver; the partnership plans to decrease vacants in Johnston Square from 52% to as little as 3% and increase home values by more than 150% over the course of a ten-year development cycle.  Also, equitable redevelopment is central to the plan with a commitment to increasing homeownership opportunities, preserving existing and constructing new quality affordable housing, as well as protecting legacy residents.

According to the LDA, each vacant lot will be sold for $2,000 and each vacant building will be sold to JS Partners for $6,000, which will be paid to the City of Baltimore at the time of settlement.  Settlements on the properties will occur incrementally in five phases over a ten-year period.  JS Partners will renovate and redevelop the vacant buildings and lots for both residential and commercial uses, including home ownership.  The plan provides a comprehensive approach to eliminate blight and build community.  

JS Partners is required to submit a comprehensive plan of development for all the properties.  Elements of the Johnston Square Vision Plan 2020 includes strategies for the development of Sieck Florist Site, Park and Play Field Site (Chase/Biddle/ Greenmount/Barclay), Greenmount Avenue Commercial Corridor and Hoffman Street Corridor. A new Johnston Square Field - a four-acre park that is a shared vision between the neighborhood and St. Frances Academy - is also planned. 

The City of Baltimore has been preparing the area for redevelopment over the past decade, having acquired 142 properties and clearing nearly 10 acres – a total investment of more than $5 million.  The last three remaining properties on Brentwood Avenue were demolished today in preparation for the new field.

CLICK HERE to view an image of the new site.

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