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Neighborhoodsby Fern Shen and Mark Reutter8:10 pmJun 3, 20240

After 19 years of minimal progress, Poppleton developer’s agreement is terminated by the city

Last year, residents of this West Baltimore neighborhood filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development accusing the city of unfairly displacing Black and low-income residents

Above: A demolition crew pauses after knocking down three historic buildings, including the Boss Kelly House, on West Saratoga Street in Poppleton. (Fern Shen)

Baltimore’s housing department today announced the termination of its contract with La Cité Development after the New York developer failed to met the latest deadline for financing its long-stalled reconstruction of Poppleton.

Citing “delays and shortcomings that we can no longer endure,” Housing Commissioner Alice Kennedy said ending the agreement signed with the company in 2005 by the Martin O’Malley administration – or five mayors ago – is in the best interests of the city and community.

“The city looks forward to working with the community on next steps,” Kennedy said.

That once tightly-knit, largely Black community near the University of Maryland BioPark is now blighted and almost entirely abandoned after years of city-financed tear downs of blocks of rowhouses and commercial establishments.

The 14-acre project was to include 30 new buildings, among them upscale apartments, a hotel, a park, national retail stores and a charter school.

Despite the drawdown of about $12 million in tax increment (TIF) public financing, a $56 million federal-backed loan and the displacement of hundreds of people, a 262-unit apartment complex on Schroeder Street is all that the novice development company ever managed to build in 19 years.

Such slow progress, however, never stopped the city Department of Housing and Community Development from purchasing, demolishing and handing over to the developer hundreds of private properties.

Ground down and depopulated, Poppleton makes a last stand (7/8/21)

The Rawlings-Blake administration did try to terminate the deal in 2012. But the developer went to federal court and successfully sued to keep it in place.

La Cité President Daniel Bythewood Jr. could not be reached tonight for comment.

A Bad Look

As the city approved years of extensions on La Cité’s development agreement, community protest intensified and embarrassing headlines began to bedevil City Hall.

Historic buildings in the area were razed without warning.

The looming demolition of the historic Sarah Ann Street alley houses – and Sonia Eaddy’s fight to save her home from being taken by eminent domain – galvanized grassroots protest and drew Mayor Brandon Scott to respond.

The Sarah Ann Street houses were saved, as was Eaddy’s home, but when Scott’s promised “reset” never materialized, the community grew impatient.

Its fate long determined by a developer and City Hall, Poppleton floats its own plans (4/25/23)

Poppleton made national headlines last year when a complaint was filed asking the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to investigate whether the city’s redevelopment policies there perpetuated racial segregation and violated fair housing laws by disproportionately displacing Black and low-income residents.

Most recently, La Cité missed a deadline to show it had financing for a senior apartment building it promised to build north of its apartment complex at Center/West.

La Cité had, thereby, defaulted on its development agreement, the housing department said today, signaling that officials had finally run out of patience.

“The city has worked with and accommodated this developer for nearly two decades,” the statement said.

“At this juncture, it was disappointing and disconcerting to receive a request for basically an open-ended extension when the agreement provides for an extension of no more than 60 days.”

Some photos from The Brew’s extensive coverage of the Poppleton fiasco.

PROMISE AND REALITY: Sign announcing the Poppleton project on Carrollton Avenue and (below) city-owned vacants half a block away. (Photo by Mark Reutter)

Back in 2015, a sign on Carrollton Avenue announces the Poppleton project on land that was cleared of once-occupied rowhouses by the city. (Mark Reutter)

A row of houses yet to be demolished on Sarah Ann Street as part of the Poppleton housing project. (Photo by Mark Reutter)

Houses purchased and later demolished on the 1000 block of Sarah Ann Street. (Mark Reutter)

Vacant cleared land in front of the Sarah Ann Street houses in Poppleton. (Fern Shen)

Vacant land in front of the 1100 block of Sarah Ann Street. (Fern Shen)

Residents Jerome Phillips Carolyn Shoemaker, Laasia Howard and Vanessa McBride outside their homes on Sarah Ann Street last summer. (Mark Reutter)

Residents Jerome Phillips Carolyn Shoemaker, Laasia Howard and Vanessa McBride stand outside their homes on Sarah Ann Street in 2021. The residents were evicted, but the houses still stand. (Mark Reutter)

Residents want the city to halt plans to demolish these houses still standing on the 110 block of West Saratoga Street. (J.M. Giordano)

Residents have been trying to save the historic 1100 block of West Saratoga Street from demolition. (J.M. Giordano)

Poppleton Now President Sonia Eaddy and Baltimore Housing Commissioner Alice Kennedy at a meting in Allen AME Church. (Fern Shen)

Poppleton Now President Sonia Eaddy listens to Baltimore Housing Commissioner Alice Kennedy promise to expedite redevelopment at a 2021 meeting at Allen AME Church. (Fern Shen)

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