Neighborhoods get portraits by the numbers City study includes racial mix, income


The Orchards, a North Baltimore area of stately elms and brick colonials where six-figure incomes are the norm, is the city's most affluent neighborhood, according to a new planning department study.

Median household income of $103,041 in The Orchards, near Bryn Mawr School, was more than four times the citywide figure, the report shows. The statistic means that half the neighborhood's 171 households took in more than $103,041 in 1989 and half less.

The study offers the first snapshot of more than 260 Baltimore neighborhoods -- their population, racial mix, educational level, income and other data -- as assessed by the 1990 census.

The report also shows that:

* More than two-thirds of Baltimore neighborhoods remain highly segregated, with populations that are less than 10 percent black or more than 90 percent black.

* Among integrated neighborhoods, fewer than 12 maintained a stable racial mix in the 1980s.

* The city's most Hispanic neighborhoods are Upper Fells Point, Belair-Edison and the area north of Patterson Park. The largest group of Asians lives in Charles Village, near the Johns Hopkins University.

* Up to nine of 10 children in some of the city's public housing projects live in poverty, and as many as seven in 10 households there receive public assistance.

* The highest rate of school dropouts is found not in the poorest neighborhoods but in mostly low- to middle-income, predominantly white areas scattered across the city.

* The city's wealthiest families are still clustered in the Roland Park-Homeland-Guilford area of North Baltimore, but pockets of prosperity are also found in Federal Hill south of the Inner Harbor; Morgan Park, adjacent to Morgan State University; and Barre Circle, between Ridgely's Delight and Pigtown south of University Center.

The Orchards, the city's most affluent neighborhood, is home to "a lot of professionals -- doctors, lawyers, vice presidents of whatever," said Kim Lewis, whose family has lived there for six years.

"The neighborhood is turning over. Younger couples and people are coming in as the older ones leave because they don't want to handle the yards anymore," said Ms. Lewis, president of The Orchards Association.

Traffic is a nagging concern, and the community group has unsuccessfully asked the city to put stop signs at key intersections. But problems are minimal, Ms. Lewis said.

Like The Orchards, most of the city's wealthiest neighborhoods are almost all white, the study shows. Of the top 15, the only ones that census figures report are more than 10 percent black are Mount Washington (14.4 percent); Original Northwood (40.2 percent); Barre Circle (31 percent), and Dickeyville (41.1 percent). Morgan Park is almost all black.

Some neighborhoods -- such as Original Northwood, where an area north of Northview Road was counted -- may include streets outside community association boundaries.

Besides Morgan Park, Baltimore's most affluent predominantly black neighborhoods include Chinquapin Park-Belvedere, Ramblewood and Perring Loch, all in Northeast Baltimore, and the area around Forest Park Golf Course on the west side.

Racial makeup stable

After becoming a majority-black city in the 1970s, Baltimore's racial composition did not change dramatically in the 1980s, increasing from about 55 percent black in 1980 to 59 percent a decade later. The black population edged up only slightly while the white population declined by nearly 70,000.

But some neighborhoods underwent significant racial change. Parkside in Northeast Baltimore went from about 30 percent black, according to a Johns Hopkins University study of the 1980 census, to twice that in 1990. Ridgely's Delight, just west of Camden Yards, was three-quarters black in 1980 but just over one-third black 10 years later.

Among the few integrated areas to maintain a stable racial mix were:

* Hunting Ridge (43.8 percent black), an upper-middle-class neighborhood near the Baltimore County line on the west side;

* The middle-class Ednor Gardens-Lakeside (62.5 percent black), near Memorial Stadium, and Lauraville (25.3 percent black), near Morgan State;

* Mount Vernon (20.1 percent black) and Midtown-Belvedere (27.1 percent black), where many singles rent apartments.

* Hollins Park (31.5 percent black), once known as Little Lithuania, a mix of professionals, graduate students and low-income renters near the University of Maryland downtown.

An economic divide

Catherine Born, a faculty member at the School of Social Work who lives in Hollins Park, offered a twofold explanation for her neighborhood's racial stability.

Lithuanian ethnics didn't abandon Hollins Park when whites left many other city neighborhoods, and as area homeowners grew old, the proximity of the university made Hollins Park's large, three-story town houses attractive to a new generation of residents, she said.

"If you have any connection to the university, this is the best place to live," Ms. Born says. "Once you get used to walking to work, it's real hard to think about commuting on the Beltway."

But Ms. Born and her husband, Leland Cooley, who also works at the university, say Hollins Park's overall racial mix masks an economic divide between the professionals and students on Hollins Street and the low-income renters on Lombard Street only two blocks away.

"The greatest racial mix is along Lombard Street, but that is a canyon of economic depression," Mr. Cooley said. "There's not a whole lot of mix between Lombard, Hollins and Pratt streets."

In Lauraville, an area of mostly homeowners east of Morgan State University, Mark Benson can't explain the racial stability except to say his neighborhood remains attractive and is drawing higher-income people to fix up its spacious houses.

Crime is low, but the quality of the public schools is a "point of contention" for middle-class families who can't afford the Catholic schools of Northeast Baltimore. Nearly one-third of Lauraville's children attend private schools, the study shows.

The data in the study were previously reported for census tracts, which seldom follow neighborhood boundaries. The neighborhood study is available free of charge to community groups and for a nominal fee to others. Information: 396-4556.

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