home Housing Development Why is Cherry Hill, Baltimore unsuccessful in making use of its natural assets, amenities, perfect location and facilities? Why it isn’t a successful thriving neighborhood?

Why is Cherry Hill, Baltimore unsuccessful in making use of its natural assets, amenities, perfect location and facilities? Why it isn’t a successful thriving neighborhood?

The Cherry Hill neighborhood lies to the southernmost portion of Baltimore, Maryland. Middle Branch encloses the enclave within the city to the north, the West Patapsco Avenue to the south, the Cherry Hill Park to the east and Route 295 to the west. Baltimore’s light rail system and railroad trucks also run to the west and to the south. To the east lies the Patapsco River’s main channel.

Location of Cherry Hill, Baltimore

Source: Map by Selvakumar, Josephine

The history of housing in Cherry Hill dates back from the time it was used as home for African- American veterans returning from World War II. In the early through the mid 20th Century Baltimore City was booming in economic growth due to the railroads, mining, defense spending, waterways and industrial activity. These resulted in housing shortages. In 1945, the Housing Authority of Baltimore City (HABC), along with the United States War Housing Administration, constructed 600 housing units for African American War workers (Cherry Hill Master Plan, 2008). These units were later converted into low-income housing (Cherry Hill Master Plan, 2008). The low-income public housing kept expanding to over 1713 units over the years. Cherry Hill is the largest public housing development in the city. Poverty also increased along with housing expansion in the area.

Cherry Hill Homes

Source: Map by Selvakumar, Josephine

Now African Americans (98%) are the major population in the community, compared to 64% in the city. There is a total population of approximately 7681 with a median income of less than $20,000. Vacant homes account to 8 % (14% in the city) and comprise a household size of 2.62, much greater compared to Baltimore city and the county. Due to the large number of public housing in Cherry Hill, the median rent is 442, comparatively lower than the city and the county (U.S. Census, 2000).

Public Housing and Private Ownership

Source: Cherry Hill Master Plan, 2008

The Baltimore City adopted Live Earn Play Learn Comprehensive Master Plan in 2006. “LIVE creates the Plan that will guide Baltimore as it re-adjusts its residential land use to account for changing population, regional growth and demographic changes, the need for affordable housing, and the aging housing stock(Cherry Hill Community Conference Report, 2009). The Cherry Hill neighborhood saw a fleeting glimpse of the revitalization process over the years. During 1990s, 193 units were demolished and modern new 1520 affordable homes were built. Federal housing officials awarded a $392,000 grant to a non-profit housing group to build 28 townhouses (Baltimore Sun, 1990).

Some of the notable improvements are the revitalization of Cherry Hill Town Center, Cherry Hill Park, Middle Branch Park, Reedbird Park, youth recreation center, 2 aquatic centers, a light rail stop, 2 medical centers, Harbor Hospital and an 8,000 SF branch of an Enoch Pratt Library. In 2006, there was a fallback of another 126 housing units leaving a total of 1,394 units (Cherry Hill Master Plan, 2008). Though the area didn’t attract big grocery stores like Super Fresh and Giant, in 2002, a $50,000 grant was awarded to Hilltop supermarket to open in the community (The Baltimore Sun, 2002). In 2011, a $45,000 federal grant was awarded to grow several new community gardens (The Baltimore Sun, 2011).

The housing market saw a downturn in 2007 similar to Baltimore City and the overall U.S housing trend. In 2010, the number of foreclosed homes started creeping back up with a total of 4 homes actively under foreclosure process.

Housing Market activity since 2001 in Cherry Hill

Source: Metropolitan Regional Information System, 2010. Data Compiled: Gymfi, Paul

Home Median Prices and Average asking prices since 2001, Cherry Hill

Source: Metropolitan Regional Information System, 2010. Data Collected : Gymfi, Paul

As indicated in the graph, from 2001 to 2007, the asking prices were higher than the median price range. Rates were being offered under the expectations of the homeowners in contrary to the Washington- Baltimore housing market where asking prices were equal to or lower than the selling prices.

The existing housing styles in the community are

  • Detached Rancher
  • Townhouses
  • Garage Duplex Homes and
  • Garden Style

Different housing styles currently existing in Cherry hill

Garden Style
Single Family
Garage Duplex Homes
River Front Town Home

Source: Pictures taken by Selvakumar, Josephine and Gymfi, Paul

All the private houses of the community are found to the north edge near the water view and to the north of the Cherry Hill road. The different private housing categories are the detached homes, town homes, apartments and row homes. Almost all the private homes, (highlighted in purple in map), are bounded between the Water View Avenue, Cherry Hill Road and the Reedbird Avenue. All the public houses are situated to the south edge of the community. The houses to the south of the Cherry Hill Road (highlighted yellow in map) are the public houses of the neighborhood.

Public – Private Housing in Cherry Hill

Source: Map by Selvakumar, Josephine

Locations of Stable and Distressed housing in Cherry Hill

Source: Map by Selvakumar, Josephine

The neighborhood also lacks green and usable open spaces. The community did not take advantage of the existing assets. There is no significant development around the light rail and near the waterfront. There is no growth to take advantage of abundant water resources. The community also lacks common gathering place for people to meet and feel the sense of the place. There is no identity in the neighborhood to bring out the distinguished character of the place to realize the history of the community. With only two entrances to Cherry Hill, the West View Drive and Hanover Road, ingress and egress to the area is difficult which also isolates it from Baltimore City and the County.

Though the area has a rich historical heritage and a huge coastline of the Chesapeake Bay, it didn’t face a prospective growth. In spite of development pressure near the waterfront for upscale apartments, condominiums and retail spaces, nothing really happened. This water resource is still being underutilized in terms of real property investment. Moreover, the land estimated to be around 85 acres in the industrial part of Cherry Hill to the East of Cherry Hill Road and to the south of Water View Avenue has very few industrial activities and is also deficient of creating any job opportunities for the residents. In 2004, the City of Baltimore approved plans for the Water view Overlook project with town homes and condominiums on the parcel of land on Water view Avenue between Westport and Cherry Hill. But the construction never began. In 2011, the 8.8 parcel of land on Water view Avenue was sold for $715,000 to a bidder representing 6601 Suitland Road LLC.  for residential use (The Baltimore Sun, 2011).

There is no proper linkage between Cherry Hill and Westport proposed development. New developments can certainly take advantage of transportation network- light rail, Route 295, I-95, I-695 Cherry Hill Road. Inner Harbor, Baltimore is a renowned and successful waterfront development and tourist destination. If there is any successful development in the Cherry Hill waterfront, thoughts could also be given to connect it with the Inner Harbor through water taxis. It will be an interesting way to lure people in and around Inner Harbor to Cherry Hill.

Though Cherry Hill emerged as a working class neighborhood in 1945, the racial housing obstacles and suburbanization pushed the working class group outside the community. In spite of the strengths and available assets in the area, it failed to attract commercial, real estate and retail investments. It isn’t successful in attracting workforce housing. When will people stop associating Cherry Hill just to public housing? Will developers and investors show interest in strengthening the community?


20 thoughts on “Why is Cherry Hill, Baltimore unsuccessful in making use of its natural assets, amenities, perfect location and facilities? Why it isn’t a successful thriving neighborhood?

  1. Josephine, the geographic demarcation lines between public and private, distressed and stable housing stock make a very stark point, as does the numerical picture. Is there additional density in the 2008 Cherry Hill master plan? What economic development initiatives are there which are focused in these neighborhoods? Where are the employers, the retail, medical/hospital and services?

    Proximity to the water and to the Baltimore CBD makes this a very attractive location, but without good jobs and a safe environment to raise kids it’s going to be tough to lure people into the nieghborhood.

    1. Martha, there isn’t great economic development in the area except for the businesses in and around the town center and few retail activity. The area didn’t attract great business. Educational attainment is low. Unemployment rate is high. There are also a large no: of prisoners returning to the area (especially in 2001). You are right good jobs and safe environment are the prime factors of any good neighborhood. Here is the link to the 2008 Master Plan

      1. Has the city or housing authority applied for one of the Choice Neighborhoods grants? I know the city’s housing authority has some smart folks – it probably has.

        There’s a lot of HUD brainpower being applied to this initiative – it’s a focus on neighborhood revitalization rather than HOPE VI’s focus on severely distressed public housing. They want to see collaboration of educational medical and healthcare (Johns Hopkins would be ideal for this!), job creation and economic development.

        The Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Authority has a very interesting grant program as well, which should be able to get folded into this too.

  2. Once again, excellent work!!! However, the reasons are very simple and you cover at least one of them. History, “isolated” location, never been enough internal “market demand for goods and services, geography and prevailing wind direction. Successful use would not be a for a residential neighborhood.

  3. Just a few thoughts about your article…

    Have you looked at the following issues:
    * segregation by housing type
    * Street layout by housing type – seems like you have finer grained street gridsin the private housing areas and more circular much larger distance and less navigable street networks otherwise
    * whether people are walking at all
    * destinations – locations where people might walk to
    * isolation – how far is it for everyone to get to amenity and employment – is there local opportunity or do you have to travel out of area and how far and what does this mean for neighbourhoods during the daytime?
    * what opportunity there is for children to play?
    * the natural environment, the nature of public space, the effect of the view, the nature of onshore breezes, and the impact of wind on amenity and enjoyment

    Although housing might be about housing its also about people. The more people in places, the more people are encouraged that the place is safe and a good place to live

    Good luck with revitalising Cherry HIll!

    1. Carmel, Cherry Hill was built when housing segregation was very common. Of course housing is not just the building structures it is for people. Although the community emerged as a good working class neighborhood back in 1945 it didn’t remain successful like that. Crime and unemployment rates have increased. People loiter more around the town centers. Parks are not well maintained and not safe for children and residents. People are in definite need of employment assistance. There is a Harbor Hospital, a town center and very few retail activity for employment sources. The area is conveniently located overlooking the estuary so if the community is well developed and safe for the residents they would definitely walk to the big parks and the water. That is main discussion of the article. Why the community failed to use and assets and wasn’t a successful thriving neighborhood.

  4. Can you post a link to the waterfront plan that includes the proposed park located on recent made-land? Access to the water does not exist for Cherry Hill–the neighborhood is ringed with heavy industry. Waterfront access begins to break this physical barrier.

    1. John, across the Harbor Hospital and through Potee and Hanover street the current zoning is still industrial. Master Plan suggested rezoning which makes sense because industrial zoning is not feasible now as it once was in the city. The Middle Branch and Water View Urban Renewal Ordinance called for some zoning changes along Hanover Street and Cherry Hill Rd adjacent to the intersection of Water View Avenue but again nothing happened. Waterfront access to the area is possible through the Middle Branch Park. Here are some the links of Cherry Hill/ Middle Branch Plans. Access, location, zoning and land use to Cherry Hill, Middle Branch, Westport are shown here:

  5. You did an excellent job in pointing out the deficiencies of the neighborhood. Where are the solutions. Developers do not perceive the neighborhood as having resources, money. Why build for a marginal population. Unfortunately if gentrification were to occur, developers would come in and pooor people would be relocated because of rising prices.

  6. Josephine,

    Thanks for posting this article. It’s a good summary of the facts that many neighborhoods that have the potential for becoming great communities have been overlooked by the politics of Baltimore City as funds and efforts have been diverted elsewhere.

    Obvious evidence dramitizes critical issues:
    1. The community has been overloaded with an undue proportion of rental housing, which by its nature shelters a large cluster of transient residents who, from the grassroots perspective, are typically focused on making their next step into a different situation, a better economic opportunity with more advantages for their children, a more accessible, less crowded location, or some other opportunity for advancement in their lives, rather than investing efforts in enhancing or upgrading the present neighborhood.
    2. I know Baltimore well, but I’ve never been to Cherry Hill. To say it’s not in the mainstream would perhaps be an understatement. It appears that while regional routes are adjacent and plentiful, is there easy access to the routes and transit systems? It appears that the rail corridor becomes an obstacle to interconnection to the greater South Baltimore community, such as it may be, because all traffic is channelized to a very few crossing points, typically creating peak hour congestion, but also reducing both the opportunity and frequency of community interconnections. Obviously, the riverfront allows great Bay access by water, but an insurmountable obstacle to land travel to the east. I also presume the economic levels of the community do not support a large number of leisure boat owners?
    3. The large concentration of public housing undoubtedly suffers from many of the same issues of predatory crime that pervaded the public housing highrises that were ultimately demolished. Highrise or lowrise, when a public housing program creates a concentration of over 1,000 residents with very limited incomes and probably marginal employment opportunities, there should be LHA or other provision of a proportionally large supply of support services readily accessible to the dependent population, including adult educational oportunities, healthcare opportunities including addiction recovery, and supportive access to employment. If HOPE IV-V-VI have been successful in other communities, why has they not been used to leverage better opportunities in Cherry Hill?
    4. It appears that the industrial lands do not provide for high employment levels, but undoubtedly support industries with extensive land use and low employment coefficients. This is supported by the relatively low value of local real estate which sustains a low assessment value and low taxation that allows extensive land use by marginal industries to continue at a relatively low land cost coefficient.

    Those are some of the ‘Whys?’ that I can identify from a passive perspective, presuming that your question was not purely rhetorical.

    So, understanding the facts as your article portrays, and a few of the Whys? which I allege, is the community satisified with its status quo, or does it have the interest and assertiveness to seek a political commitment for support to help it develop a better future?

    Better futures seldom come from the top down. They are created by grassroots initiatives, actions, commitments, demands for support and political action to replace inactive, disinterested players with leaders of commitment.

  7. Cherry Hill needs a public figure that people can relate to, that person should actively work to make it better. The, article is right, there is no sense of identity and without identity you lack focus and drive. But I think it was intended to lack identity to keep it from improving.

  8. Hi All! I’m sure noone will read this as I am just stumbling across this post. I have been a CherryHill resident for my entire life. Myself and my mother are college educated up to a M.S. Our household income is in excess of 100K, over the median for the the city as a whole. We are not an anomoly.

    There are job opportunities, there are more than 5 schools (including pre-k) classes in stand alone buildings in the area. There is a ton of outdoor space, the real estate is “cheap” and the row homes are in great condition (as far as the shell). I think people are terried to invest or to move into Cherry Hill because of:

    1. Horrible Schools
    2. High % of population on Welfare
    3. High % of housing is public house

    All of the natural resources are there! I think if we created a sense of togetherness (as someone else stated), revitalized the parks (which are dilapidated), and demolished the remaining public housing .. we (the community) would be running neck in neck with other south baltimore communities.

    One thing that WILL help is the development of Harbor West that just started in the past months. The foundations are being lain! Now we just need more new homes and I think the key players in the community can do the rest!

    I’m rambling so i’m not sure if any of this will make sense lol. I actually am willing to invest ALL of my excess time to revitalize ReedBird park!

  9. While you have a great deal of statistically correct information you do not have the human element included in your article.Admittedly I was offended when I read the article because the tone was one that painted us as a community that does not care. Why not come out and meet with some of us who were the authors of the Cherry Hill Master Plan and have been working diligently towards implementation of that plan? We would love to share the rest of the story….

  10. While your article is statistically correct it left out the human element. I was admittedly angry when I read it because it only tells one side of the story. Why not come out and meet with some of us who authored the Master Plan and who are working tirelessly on its implementation? Then you can tell the rest of the story….

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