Poppleton residents, saying officials have broken a promise to re-set Baltimore’s handling of redevelopment plans there, are calling for a moratorium on building tear-downs at a key community location.
“We are writing to request a moratorium on any demolition on the 1100 block of West Saratoga Street–the same block with the Eaddy & Sarah Ann Street properties,” says a letter sent today to Housing Commissioner Alice Kennedy.
“We were disappointed,” the letter writers said, to receive no response to emails sent to the city in October and November.
“Poppleton Now and Organize Poppleton are unyielding in our intention to have the community – including our legacy renters and homeowners – determine the trajectory for redevelopment of the remaining 10 acres in Poppleton,” says the letter, signed also by two dozen individuals.
“These are perfectly good blocks that were taken from people who were poor and working class and could easily be returned” – Nicole King, Organize Poppleton.
The residents blast housing officials who last summer declared they would repair the community’s damaged relationship with City Hall after years of displacement and distrust.
Kennedy and Mayor Brandon Scott had held a news conference in July announcing that Carrollton Avenue resident Sonia Eaddy would get to keep her house, which the city had been trying to take for a New York developer’s long-stalled project.
The rainbow-colored Sarah Ann Street houses, inhabited by Black families since the Civil War, would be preserved, Kennedy and Scott said.
But the future is still uncertain for the rest of the 14-acre area set aside for La Cité Development – the landscape is still blighted with boarded up city-owned buildings and vacant lots created by years of demolition and displacement.
“We need to take the other 10 acres to developers who can get the job done,” said Nicole King, a member of Organize Poppleton and a UMBC professor.
“New development and renovation of existing salvageable rowhouses needs to happen soon,” she said.
“These are perfectly good blocks that were taken from people who were poor and workingclass and could easily be returned to them,” King continued.
The community’s organizing efforts got a boost recently when Economic Action Maryland and a former tenant, Angela Banks, filed an administrative complaint with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
The complaint asked HUD to investigate whether the city’s redevelopment policies in Poppleton perpetuated racial segregation and violated fair housing laws by disproportionately displacing Black and low-income residents.
A spokeswoman for the Department of Housing and Community Development said the city is dealing directly with HUD and declined to comment further. She did not respond to a request for an update on the city’s and developer’s current activities in Poppleton.
Damon Barnes, the son of a former Poppleton homeowner who lived at 1134 West Saratoga Street, reached out to community organizers recently after learning in the media about the HUD complaint.
Peeking inside one of the rowhouses on the block this week, as well as his father’s, Barnes concluded the three-story brick structures could – and should – be saved.
The city-owned structures currently are boarded-up, with red X’s spray-painted on them, marking them as vacant and unsafe. Residents fear that could also be a predictor of demolition. (Surprise demolitions have taken place in the area. In 2021, the historic “Boss Kelly” houses that residents believed were to be preserved were abruptly torn down.)
“We realized the city can’t just give the Eaddys their house back, and other people – who couldn’t afford to fight with lawyers – are out of luck,” said King. “Damon talking about this with us really invigorated us.”