Hogan and Rawlings-Blake said the new open space and state-subsidized financing will stimulate private investment in new homes, retail stores and other businesses to revive impoverished, crime-ridden neighborhoods.
"Fixing what is broken in Baltimore requires that we address the sea of abandoned, dilapidated buildings that are infecting entire neighborhoods," the first-term Republican governor told a news conference. "They aren't just unsightly; they're also unsafe, unhealthy and a hotbed for crime."financing will stimulate private investment in new homes, retail stores and other businesses to revive impoverished, crime-ridden neighborhoods.
The Baltimore plan includes $75 million in state funding to demolish blocks of abandoned buildings to create space for affordable housing, businesses and parks. The city will provide nearly $19 million worth of administrative services, and the state will offer more than $600 million in financing opportunities for private-sector development.
It's a smaller effort than Detroit's, which has razed about 7,100 vacant houses and auctioned off 500 more since May 2014. Detroit's plan intentionally avoids spelling out what happens after the bulldozers leave.
Youngstown, Ohio, tried to retool itself into a smaller, greener city under a demolition plan launched in 2005. But John Russo, co-author of "Steeltown U.S.A.," and a visiting research fellow at the Metropolitan Institute at Virginia Tech, said large-scale demolition hasn't had the economic impact planners expected.
Rawlings-Blake, a Democrat who is not seeking re-election, said the program would accelerate the city's existing demolition plan, funded at $10 million per year.
The city of 620,000 people has about 17,000 vacant houses, concentrated in neighborhoods that saw rioting, looting and arson after Gray's death in April. In block after block in poor neighborhoods, former homes have doors and windows covered in plywood. Some of the boards are marked with signs about controlling the rat population, others with posters about the violence that took the lives of 344 people last year. "We must stop killing each other," one says. The empty, brick row houses are often vandalized and sometimes catch fire.
The Rev. Andrew Foster Connors, co-chairman of Baltimoreans United in Leadership Development, said his group has tied its neighborhood redevelopment projects to entry-level job creation for people with criminal records, largely for low-level drug crimes, by working with nearby employers including Johns Hopkins University.
"Any kind of redevelopment work, I think, has real potential, but it's got to be paired with job creation — programs that connect real jobs with people who need them," Connors said.