Downtown development hasn't brought prosperity to Baltimore

Here we go again: City leaders want to invest more public dollars in the Inner Harbor ("Improving the city's 'playground,''' April 24). One would have thought had learned from the mistakes of the past.

The Inner Harbor long has symbolized the wrong turn our city took in its economic development strategy. We have invested in high-profile projects that benefit a small segment of the population while neglecting ordinary residents and their neighborhoods.

In 1970, before the Inner Harbor was redeveloped with enormous infusions of public money, 5.3 percent of Baltimore's housing units were vacant. By 2000 that number had risen to 13.7 percent and today nearly 20 percent of the housing units in Baltimore are vacant.

The economic miracle of the Inner Harbor may also be viewed through the lens of poverty rates. In 1970, 18 percent of Baltimore residents had incomes below the federal poverty line. Today a quarter of them do.

In 1979, Baltimore booster Walter Sondheim observed that "in Baltimore, the Charles Center and Inner Harbor projects would represent a frightful waste of effort and resources, as well as being unjustifiable socially, if they were to form an oasis in a huge residential desert of decline and neglect."

Anyone who has journeyed recently through east, west or northwest Baltimore can judge for themselves how prescient Mr. Sondheim was.

Jeff Singer, Baltimore

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