The nonprofit group leading the $1.8 billion redevelopment of 88 acres north of the Johns Hopkins medical campus has failed to deliver on promises of jobs and housing after razing most of the neighborhood and relocating hundreds of families, a Baltimore City Council panel was told Wednesday night.
About 30 people — current and former residents and unemployed laborers — testified before the Taxation, Finance and Economic Development Committee.
East Baltimore Development Inc. CEO Christopher Shea defended a project that ultimately could include 1,500 to 2,000 new and renovated residential units and up to 1.7 million square feet of commercial space. He said it has helped restore lost equity in homes for the 262 homeowners who were paid when forced to move and created 759 permanent jobs in East Baltimore, a quarter of which went to East Baltimore residents. An additional 813 construction jobs have been added in the past year and a half, with 74 going to East Baltimore residents, Shea said.
But leaders of Baltimore Churches & Community United, a group that advocates for jobs, said too few have been created.
"I'm from East Baltimore, and I'm tired of seeing people looking for jobs and looking for opportunities while this massive development project is going on across the street," said Jermaine Jones, an organizer.
Lorna Alexander, a resident who was relocated from a rental home, complained that many of the relocated residents ended up with broken promises and a bad deal.
"We had homeowners in our community, and they left us empty lots," said Alexander, who said her elderly mother, Lucille Gorham, had lived in a home that was paid off and now has a mortgage and repairs she can't afford.
Since 2003, EBDI has relocated 584 families and cleared 31 acres of the Middle East neighborhood. But the project has stalled amid the recession. Community members have been angered by the slow pace of construction of affordable housing and the lack of housing choices for displaced residents who had hoped to return.
City Council President Bernard C. "Jack" Young, who attended Wednesday's hearing, said in a statement afterward that he was encouraged by the hearing.
It "represents a tangible step forward in continuing to hold EBDI accountable for the best interests of the residents of East Baltimore," he said.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun