Demolishing blight can lead to neighborhood renaissance

I take exception to those who feel demolishing blight won't create new and better housing opportunities ("Market forces alone can't produce more affordable housing in Baltimore," Dec. 30).

In 1980, the city demolished several acres of land in Upper Fells Point's Washington Hill neighborhood to attract development and moderate-income people to the area. The land was attached to a federal UDAG (Urban Development Action Grant) and a city block grant.

Through the vision of Jay Brodie, director of the Baltimore Development Corporation, Betty Hyatt, a Washington Hill community activist, the Union Trust Bank and others, I and my partner Tom Henderson developed a community of 109 new homes surrounding a one-acre community park.

At the time, interest rates on home mortgages were at an all time high of 21 percent. But because of the UDAG grant write-down and "free land" we were able to market these new homes to young and older professionals at a cost far less than a conventional county home. The community literally sold out faster than we could deliver the homes.

In 1986, Washington Hill was selected as one of two national communities by the AIA to be presented to Prince Charles when he visited the U.S. It was the vision of many people who truly believed in Baltimore and began with recycling blighted housing that created communities that today are pillars of strength.

Gary Gamber, Reisterstown

The writer is former president of Van Dyke Development Corp.

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