The Rev. Donte Hickman, the pastor who extended the invitation, said White House officials told him early Monday that changes underway at the White House due to the recently announced departure of Chief of Staff John Kelly meant the visit would no longer be possible for scheduling reasons.
But, Hickman said, the White House told him that officials want to reschedule a visit to Baltimore in the new year.
The visit would have brought Trump to one of the most struggling city neighborhoods. The blocks surrounding Hickman’s Southern Baptist Church in Broadway East are home to dozens of vacant houses, though Hickman’s North Chester Street church has sponsored new housing in the neighborhood. That includes an apartment building and community center that was under construction when it was destroyed in a suspected arson during the rioting of April 2015, after the death of Freddie Gray. But the church managed to rebuild the Mary Harvin Senior Center within the next year.
Hickman said Monday he was disappointed that the president would not be visiting.
“I think this was a major opportunity for the president and for Baltimore,” he said.
The trip would have been Trump’s first visit to Baltimore since taking office. In 2016, he came once as a presidential candidate to speak at a National Guard convention and again as president-elect for that year’s Army-Navy football game.
The opportunity zone concept has bipartisan support and has been highlighted in particular by Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh as in important tool for helping revitalize the city. It allows investors to cut their capital gains tax bills if they put money into special funds that back projects in the zones. Critics, however, worry it’s a massive tax giveaway benefiting real estate developers who will bypass many poor areas and focus instead on existing projects in opportunity zones nearby.