“Every time it seems we are about to get to the top of the mountain, we suffer setbacks,” Hollins Roundhouse President Jane Buccheri told SouthBMore.com. Buccheri has lived in Hollins Roundhouse for more than 30 years and her home has been in her family since 1891. Hollins Roundhouse and the southwest Baltimore neighborhoods (SoWeBo) of Union Square, Pigtown, Mt. Clare and Franklin Square have been viewed as “up and coming” for quite some time, but they are rallying in hopes to prevent what could be their biggest setback yet.
Adjacent to the B&O Railroad Museum sits two buildings previously owned by Baltimore Behavioral Health (BBH) at 1101 West Pratt St. BBH, who’s financial troubles have been chronicled by the Baltimore Sun, has long been a frustration to the business community surrounding Hollins Market. BBH treats 500 mental health and treatment patients. The buildings sit at the intersection of Pratt St. and Arlington St., just two blocks from historic Hollins Market, and the bus stop and Charm City Circulator are right in front of the market. “People want to open up businesses here but are turned off when they see so many drug addicts around and so much foul language,” said Buccheri.
SoWeBo has seen its share of businesses come and go, including many around Holllins Market. A shopping center that sits just behind BBH has recently seen the loss of anchors Safeway and Rite Aid, as well as many other stores. “Planet Fitness wanted to open up in the shopping center, but everyone told the entrepeneur he was crazy,” said Buccheri. Planet Fitness never came.
Admist BBH’s many problems, their two buildings went into foreclosure. What looked like a big positive for SoWeBo turned into something much worse. “We were hearing that B&O was looking to purchase the buildings for an expansion of their museum, which would have been great,” said Buccheri. But The Abell Foundation swept in and purchased the buildings, saving BBH and preventing a B&O Railroad Museum expansion.
Not only would The Abell Foundation be providing a rent-back to BBH, but they would also be bringing 700 patients from University of Maryland’s mental health and recovery ward with them. The patients are coming from three programs which are alcohol and drug treatment, a methadone clinic and the Harambee substance abuse program. The 1200 mental health and recovery patients total will outnumber the population of the Hollins Roundhouse neighborhood and the local census tract.
Rumors started of The Abell Foundation’s purchase of the BBH buildings in October. Local neighborhood leaders tried contacting The Abell Foundation, but never got a response. They also worked with a member of City Council President Jack Young’s staff to get information from Abell, but also had no luck. Finally it was confirmed in a January Baltimore Sun Article that SoWeBo’s worst fears were becoming a reality.
“They didn’t even have the courtesy to work with the community associations. No one is against treatment programs, but this clustering of services is unhealthy for the neighborhood and is unjust,” said Buccheri. Next to BBH also sits the Baltimore Housing Authority Voucher Program headquarters. “It’s like our neighborhood has become the social services hub for the city.”
We spoke with a spokesperson from The Abell Foundation and they were quick to tell us their limited involvement in the use of the building. “The City of Baltimore and University of Maryland asked that we purchase the buildings. We don’t have the authority to determine what programs they put there. The building was already zoned for health services, so no approval was needed. We empathize with the neighborhood, we really do, but the treatment facilities have to go somewhere. Wherever they go, people aren’t going to be happy.”
The three University of Maryland programs are being moved from the Walter P. Carter Clinic located in Westside by the hospital. The building was in bad shape and needed to be torn down. “University of Maryland offered to take the clinic out of the city, but Baltimore City thought it was an essential service to many residents,” The Abell Foundation spokesperson told SouthBMore.com. Cleaning up the Westside section of downtown has been a big priority of the Baltimore Development Corporation and Mayor Rawlings Blake.
But it’s not just the residents of Baltimore that frustrates many in SoWeBo. “The patients come from all over, some as far as Pennsylvania and the Eastern Shore. It’s very frustrating that our community is the headquarters for drug addicts and mental health patients from all over,” said Buccheri.
Concerned with the negative impact that the new facility could have on SoWeBo, Buccheri and the local neighborhoods of Hollins Roundhouse, Pigtown, Pigtown Mainstreet, Mount Clare, Union Square and Franklin Square have planned a rally for tonight Thursday, March 8th to fight back. They will “muster against the clustering” on the corner of Arlington and Pratt at 7 pm. Their hope is that newest additions to SoWeBo will be families, not more drug addicts.
Official Press Release:
We are the 10,000
Residents organize against trading addicts for families
BALTIMORE, MD (MARCH 8, 2012) – The Southwest Partnership is holding a rally to demonstrate our disagreement with the plan to add an additional 700 mental and behavioral health patients to the complex at Mount Clare Junction. The complex already serves 500 patients; the cumulative total of 1200 patients will outnumber the residents of the local census tract. Addiction services within the neighborhoods of Southwest Baltimore currently support well over 1000 patients. This clustering of services is unhealthy for the neighborhood and it is unjust. Residents and especially families will be driven from our neighborhood. We are additionally disappointed in the failure to include the community in the conversation. We will muster against the clustering on the corner of Arlington and Pratt at 7PM on Thursday March 8th.
WHAT: Neighborhood leaders and residents will demonstrate against adding another 700 patients to the behavioral health complex at Mount Clare Junction.
WHEN: Thursday, March 8, 7PM
WHERE: Corner of West Pratt and Arlington.
Mount Clare Junction
The Southwest Partnership includes the neighborhoods of Hollins Roundhouse, Pigtown, Pigtown Mainstreet, Mount Clare, Union Square, & Franklin Square and was formed to address our collective issues and assist development and revitalization on a regional scale. www.facebook.com/southwestpartnership