Monday, July 13, 2015

GRIA Pushes To Bring Small Business Back to Remington

The storefronts at 200 (left) and 201 W. Lorraine Ave are currently zoned residential

By Peter Burkill, GRIA board member

Over the past 40 years, Remington residents have witnessed the same disturbing trends seen in Baltimore City as a whole—crime, drug use, urban flight, and vacancy to name a few. But Remington is proving to be resilient, and it is bouncing back with vigor. Our vacancy rate has gone from 200 to 20 in 10 years, our population is growing, we have new business and investors, and our residents remain dedicated to responsible progress.

Yet as our neighborhood heals, we are haunted by vacant storefronts that bring negative attention to our corners. These storefronts were pillars of the community, providing Remington residents with meeting places, groceries, and other goods. Now, they are caught in legal limbo by Baltimore’s antiquated zoning code, last updated in the 1970’s. In short, the corner stores cannot become stores because they are zoned as residences. But their commercial design makes it financially onerous to convert them into homes. And so the owners let them sit vacant.

GRIA sees two options for activating these corners. 1. Wait until property values or rents increase enough to justify complete renovation and removal of the commercial features, or
2. Change the zoning to commercial and encourage historic preservation, immediate investment, and community improvement through small business. We have advocated for the latter.

In partnership with property owners, local business, and our city council representatives, GRIA has submitted an ordinance to return 14 of these historic storefronts to commercial use. We have proposed to change their zoning from residential, R7–R9, to neighborhood appropriate commercial, B-1-2 in the current code and C1 in the new code currently in progress. The property addresses are as follows:

200 W. Lorraine, 201 W. Lorraine, 2656 Miles, 2743 Miles, 2648 Hampden, 2600 Huntingdon, 2602 Huntingdon, 2623 Huntingdon, 2658 Huntingdon, 2701 Huntingdon, 2740 Huntingdon, 2745 Huntingdon, 2800 Huntingdon, 501 W. 27th

To protect our community from unforeseen consequences of change, GRIA has contacted all the property owners and will continue to foster a working relationship with them. They look to us for businesses that might fill these storefronts. If relationships fail, we will also leverage a proposed city nuisance law that punishes disorderly behavior with $500 to $1000 fines per incident.

Overall, we are excited for this unique opportunity to improve the community and look forward to eliminating vacant corners in Remington and bringing small business back to where it has always been. ◘