Baltimore Heritage and Preservation Maryland Propose Mitigation Strategy for State Demolition Program

05/12/2016
By Preservation Maryland

In April, Baltimore Heritage and Preservation Maryland proposed a joint strategy to mitigate the loss of historic rowhouses under a new state program that is providing funding for demolition and stabilization of vacant buildings in Baltimore.

The proposal focuses on spending a portion of the state funds on stabilizing historic buildings that can be saved and reused, documenting the buildings that will be demolished, and providing a staff position at the two nonprofits and at the Baltimore Department of Housing and Community Development to guide the implementation the project.

The joint mitigation proposal comes as Baltimore Heritage and Preservation Maryland, along with our nonprofit partner the Baltimore National Heritage Area, participate in a series of meetings with city and state agencies as the first steps in the implementation of Governor Hogan’s Project C.O.R.E. (Creating Opportunities for Renewal and Enterprise). Project C.O.R.E. will provide approximately $75 million in state funds over four years for demolishing and stabilizing vacant buildings in Baltimore.

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The implementation meetings are taking place under the Maryland Historical Trust Act of 1985, commonly known as “Section 106” for the federal regulation that Maryland’s law mimics. This act requires that state-funded projects evaluate, avoid, and mitigate impacts to historic resources in consultation with the Maryland Historical Trust and other interested parties. In the current process, the parties have agreed that 10% of the Project C.O.R.E. funding should go to mitigating the loss of rowhouses that will be demolished inside designated historic districts.

The joint mitigation proposal by Preservation Maryland and Baltimore Heritage and supported by the Baltimore National Heritage Area has three basic components:

1) Stabilization. The proposal calls for the lion’s share of the mitigation funds to be spent on stabilizing historic buildings. Part of the funds would go to the city’s Vacants to Value Program to help shore up city-owned vacant rowhouses and offer them for sale to new private owners. Another part would go to a new grant fund at Preservation Maryland to be spent down over the four year Project C.O.R.E. period to stabilize strategic historic buildings that can best help revitalization efforts.

2) Staff Assistance. The proposal also calls for a small portion of the mitigation funds to be spent on funding a joint position with Baltimore Heritage and Preservation Maryland to focus on vacant housing issues within historic neighborhoods. This funding would implement a recommendation from a study in Baltimore in 2014 by the Urban Land Institute and National Trust for Historic Preservation recommending additional staff for preservation nonprofits to expand existing programs and partnerships around vacant and underutilized buildings. The proposed new position would complement a new position at the Baltimore Department of Housing and Community Development that would similarly focus on implementing Project C.O.R.E. and vacant housing issues generally.

3) Survey and Documentation. The final component of the proposal would provide another small portion of the mitigation funds to document the historic buildings that would be demolished and survey historic neighborhoods in the city to assess the impact of the demolition. Funds could also be used to help neighborhoods prepare applications to become designated historic districts, a designation that helps them preserve their heritage and provides financial incentives for rehabilitation work.

 

The State Department of Housing and Community Development, the lead agency in Project C.O.R.E., is reviewing the joint mitigation proposal by Baltimore Heritage and Preservation Maryland. The agency is planning to begin actual demolition this summer and we expect to receive a response on the proposal soon.

Preservation Maryland

Preservation Maryland is Maryland’s first and largest organization dedicated to preserving the state’s historic buildings, neighborhoods, landscapes, and archaeological sites.

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