Jul 18, 2022 at 5:51 pm
More than two decades after getting a demolition notice from the city of Baltimore, Sonia Eaddy has won the fight to save her home in Poppleton.
The city had wanted to demolish Eaddy’s home to make way for a long-delayed development west of downtown, but Mayor Brandon Scott said at a news conference Monday that following negotiations with the city, the developer has removed the Eaddy’s property from a planned development.
“I just want to cry right now,” Eaddy told a crowd of about 50 people. “It’s been a long time coming.”
The announcement came after months of vague pledges from city officials to find a solution that would uphold Baltimore’s deal with the New York developer La Cité and also address the concerns of the Poppleton community. Discussion online and in-person among community members, activists, La Cité and city officials had been tense and adversarial, but Monday’s mood was celebratory.
Scott thanked the Poppleton community members for their patience as the city negotiated with La Cité.
“As we become more intentional about reinvestment in communities like this one, we don’t want that reinvestment to harm our legacy residents, residents who have stayed in these communities believed in our city and borne the burden of decades of disinvestment,” Scott told the crowd. “Redevelopment has to be a win-win for everyone.”
As Scott announced that Eaddy’s property would be removed from the planned development, the crowd cheered and applauded, and a big smile broke across Eaddy’s face.
When Eaddy spoke, she thanked the mayor, city officials, the media, and community organizers like Nicole King. But Eaddy said she had special thanks for the public, saying her house would not have been spared without the substantial outcry from other residents.
Eaddy even hugged Dan Blythewood, the president of La Cité, whose firm had long planned to raze her home.
“After a hearing that we had down at City Hall, we met out in the lobby and I told Dan [Blythewood] we can do this together,” Eaddy recalled. “We work better together. And I thank you for this decision. And I look forward to working with you as you move forward with your development.”
For his part, Blythewood said he was excited to “move forward in a direction that is a win for everybody.”
The home of Sonia and Curtis Eaddy dates back to at least 1900, if not the 1870s, and stands near a row of colorful alley homes on Sarah Ann Street. Alley homes are a distinct style of small rowhouses that are becoming increasingly rare in Baltimore.
As part of Monday’s announcement, Scott said the development firm Black Women Build is going to renovate those alley homes.
Poppleton, a predominantly Black neighborhood just west of Martin Luther King Boulevard, has long suffered from blight, and city leaders began working on a redevelopment plan more than two decades ago.
Eaddy received notice in 2000 that her three-story rowhouse at the intersection of North Carrollton Avenue and Sarah Ann Street was slated for demolition. She has fought her displacement ever since. Eaddy was collecting signatures for a “Save the Block” petition in 2005 after La Cité won a bid from the city to develop the project.
At that time, Eaddy’s home was one of more than 500 properties to be razed for the Center\West development, more than half of which already were city-owned or in the process of being acquired. About 114 properties were occupied, 34 of them by owners. As the redevelopment project kept getting delayed, the Eaddys became one of the few homeowners to stay and fight removal.
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La Cité recently finished the first phase of its Center\West Development, a mixed-use project with 262 rental units in five- and six-story buildings.
Blythewood said Monday that the next phase will be a residential building for seniors at 231 N. Schroeder St. — and it won’t displace the Eaddys.
The Center\West project is a private development, but it had to work with the city to acquire and demolish properties. The project also has benefited from tax increment financing, which diverts increased property taxes from city coffers to instead pay down the debt on some infrastructure improvements. In 2017, the city issued $12 million of such TIF bonds to support the project.
Activists had drawn parallels between the Center\West Development and the Franklin-Mulberry Expressway, which runs along the north side of Poppleton.
The expressway, known as “The Highway to Nowhere,” is a 1.39-mile stretch of road that was originally intended as an extension of Interstate 70 to downtown Baltimore. The project was halted in the 1970s but not before destroying Black neighborhoods and displacing hundreds of families.
Eaddy framed her victory Monday as much more than a decadeslong struggle over a single house, but as a sign to other Baltimore neighborhoods that they can control their own destiny if they’re willing to organize and fight.
“This is what it’s going to take for all of Baltimore City,” Eaddy said. To “the residents who are invested in these neighborhoods, who have suffered and lived through all of the disinvestment, this victory is for us — all of us.”