Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan operated an excavator as water sprays down debris during demolition of the old Walbrook Lumber site last year. The governor and Mayor Catherine Pugh announced plans to expedite the demolition of 500 high-crime vacant properties.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan operated an excavator as water sprays down debris during demolition of the old Walbrook Lumber site last year. The governor and Mayor Catherine Pugh announced plans to expedite the demolition of 500 high-crime vacant properties. (Karl Merton Ferron / Baltimore Sun)

Gov. Larry Hogan said Tuesday that he was refocusing a demolition plan in Baltimore to target 500 vacant buildings that the city has identified as contributing to violent crime.

“These vacant and blighted structures too often contribute to the sale and use of illegal drugs and other criminal gang activity,” Hogan said at a news conference in the West Baltimore neighborhood of Sandtown-Winchester.

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The governor said demolition of 23 buildings in the neighborhood would begin immediately and that the vacant lots left behind would be turned into a park.

Hogan launched the $75 million demolition effort, called Project CORE, in 2016 and officials promised to tear down 4,000 properties in four years.

The governor said the city devised the list of 500 properties that would now be targeted for expedited demolition. Under the project, the Maryland Stadium Authority will hire the demolition crews.

“We’re going to be building on the success and the momentum of Project CORE by utilizing this unprecedented partnership to also assist Baltimore in addressing the issue of violent crime in the city,” Hogan said.

Mayor Catherine E. Pugh said one of her top priorities is “neighborhood investment” that creates more “green spaces and suitable recreation facilities.”

$75M plan to demolish thousands of Baltimore's vacant houses now relies on other groups, new accounting

While a plan to knock down thousands of vacant rowhouses in Baltimore snarled in red tape, Gov. Larry Hogan's effort to reshape the city has morphed into something else.

“Through Project C.O.R.E. and our partnership with Gov. Hogan and the state, we are able to expedite the demolition of 500 abandoned buildings which provide a haven for criminal activity in neighborhoods most at risk,” the Democratic mayor said in a statement.

The Republican governor said the demolitions would also build on other efforts he has undertaken to help local officials in Baltimore fight crime.

Hogan said Tuesday that more than 1,400 properties had now been demolished under Project CORE, but the state counts blighted buildings removed by the city and by private groups that have received funding from the state, a shift from the original plan.

Pugh’s administration sought legislation in the General Assembly that would have required Hogan to continue to fund the program after the four years. The measure has been amended to allow him to do so and versions have passed the House and Senate this month.

“We are taking them down so that we can build up our communities,” Pugh said in a video she posted on Twitter of buildings being demolished. “Our citizens and young people deserve this and so much more.”

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