Danielle and I went out for dinner last night, to "Baltimore's first pizzeria", Matthew's, over by Patterson Park. Boy, has that area changed. When I first moved out to Baltimore as a neurotic and angsty eighteen-year-old, I spent some time in Highlandtown, across from the park, because that's where the BSFS clubhouse is. I had to be walked to my car at night; it wasn't a good idea to go exploring; litter was everywhere -- and you sure never went to the park.
But I took the opportunity last night to wander around a little bit (and managed to get caught out in a massive thunderstorm, spending about ten minutes cowering under a large tree and finally making a run for it to the restaurant -- where they told me I looked like a drowned rat and gave me a towel). The park is gorgeous. It's well-kept, clean, and full of yuppies walking their dogs. You can tell that when you live in that neighborhood, you stay there -- you can really spend time and hang out in your own neighborhood. How neat is that?
Watching urban neighborhoods change like that is fascinating for me. I grew up in Washington, and anyone who's ever been down to see the Fremont Troll in Seattle knows all about urban gentrification: the artists move in because housing is cheap and they're poor, and then the yuppies come and buy out the artists because their presence has made the area super-trendy. It's such a documented phenomenon that cities are now encouraging starving artists to come move to specific areas in the hopes that they'll revitalize the market there -- it's happening in Station North in Baltimore right now, and elsewhere (there's a report here, developed for Louisiana, about using tax incentives to promote arts-related property development [it's a PDF]). What goes on behind the scenes of urban renewal is a lot more complex than people who just want granite countertops and rooftop decks realize.
But, on the off chance that all you really want is the info on how to get into the great neighborhood that Patterson Park has turned into, check out the Patterson Park Community Development Corporation. They're having an open house on the 17th for six of the houses that are currently for sale.