On page 9 (PDF page 5) of Biophilic Cities, Beatley discusses some efforts to “heal urban ills” in cities including Detroit and Los Angeles. It got me thinking more about the blocks and blocks of vacant buildings in Baltimore. As much as I am on board with everything Beatley discusses, and as much as I would love to live in and be an active citizen in a biophilic city, what do we do with the depth and scope of issues that a city such as Baltimore needs to address before it can become more biophilic?
The number of vacant homes and buildings in Baltimore blows me away, and it astounds me on many levels. I thought more and more about vacant blocks as I read this book. I think what Beatley might propose would be a policy shift, such that the city and state get on board with a mega-biophilic attitude and make some dramatic moves to pave the way for change.
I’ll share two resources here-- a map of vacant areas in Baltimore:
And an article from the Baltimore Sun about why there are so many vacant homes:
In my opinion-- If Baltimore is to become a biophilic city, many debts and liens need to be forgiven. The only entities capable of buying such expensive property are those who have the resources to raze entire city blocks and redevelop. The costs of those endeavors will likely lead to the development of high-priced real estate to offset development costs. I doubt new developments would be priced to be affordable to those who were displaced in the first place. Even if new developments are biophilic, they need to be accessible to all.
It’s clear Baltimore needs a serious turn around on its policies that lead to vacancies and long-vacant buildings. Poor neighborhoods are only getting poorer, and it does not bode well for becoming more biophilic. On September 26th another article was published in the Baltimore Brew about a Save A Lot grocery store closing in Oliver, expanding the food desert in the area:
I want to be part of the biophilic city Beatley describes, but I have a hard time reconciling the current urban ills of Baltimore with this vision for the future. I would love to hear from someone with policy or legal expertise to share-- can there be a policy-driven overhaul that can really catalyze the first step towards biophilic Baltimore, for all of Baltimore? I will be there to push for the vote!