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Window Dressing

February 7, 2013

Construction along the more northern part of the York Road corridor has already started, so I can’t say I was surprised to receive an invitation to attend a meeting at our local library which read:

YORK ROAD/GREENMOUNT AVENUE PROJECT PROPOSALThe Baltimore City Department of Transportation would like to invite
you and your neighbors to attend an information session regarding the
Greenmount Avenue/York Road Street Project. Please join us as the Department of Transportation welcomes your
support and feedback on the plans for the Greenmount Avenue/York Road corridor from 29th St. to 43rd St.

The meeting was last night in fact, but  I’m not sure that the term proposal was appropriate. I attended a planning charrette in the past in the very same library which focused on plans for a redesign of the library, and it was held years in advance of any work even remotely beginning. This meeting on the other hand, seemed window dressing for decisions already made and nearing implementation.

I’m not the only one who thinks so either. There were at least two prominent business owners in the room who stated that they had not been consulted about this project. It frighted me to hear this, as they may not survive what’s coming! Their concerns are that the project does not have a timetable, and it doesn’t address infrastructure. In other words, as the project continues south, and happens to stall for any reason in front of a business, that business could see a decline in sales significant enough to make them shutter their doors forevermore. These businesses need to know how to adjust accordingly and the reps at this meeting didn’t seem to have a response.

The crowd, which also included residents, was a knowledgable bunch. They named other projects around the city that they were unhappy with, and asked how this project was different. They also knew the specifics of proposed projects that will link to this one, and pointed to what seems a lack coordination. A few folks knew their stuff about “storm water” and they voiced their concerns about the concepts shared through the drawings. However, even if it all the proposed improvements go in without a hitch, it’s only a matter of time before we have to tear up that new work to address some issue or another. Still, we all dutifully took our yellow stickers and we stuck them to the bike racks, and cross walk concepts we individually preferred in the options presented.

In the times of “open government,” online information sharing, and even facebook and twitter, you can’t tell me there isn’t a stronger way to go about truly including the community in this process. Why not even go all “crowd source” with these plans well in advance? IF the players involved actually wanted to go that route, I believe they could. I just don’t think Baltimore does.

After the meeting, I found myself digging around online trying to find more information. I even tried tweeting to the firm behind the concepts to ask if we could see these plans online, and they replied with, “Currently the files are not online. It would be best if you reached out to the City directly to see where they plan to post the files.” I think I’ll roll out my Batman lantern or call Mary Pat Clarke’s office instead because I’ve already looked.

Of the many reasons why I moved to Waverly, the commercial corridor and its quirky businesses is one, and another is its opportunity for growth. So, through this project, I am both excited for any improvements and disheartened with our process. And as a heads up to those folks who live south of 29th, sorry, at the meeting they basically said they are not coming that far south, although I won’t tell you to believe them. I will quote Plato though, ” The city is what it is because the citizens are what they are.”

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