History of Park Heights
A half-century ago, Park Heights was a bustling “streetcar suburb” in Northwest Baltimore with middle-class neighborhoods and thriving shops, restaurants, movie theaters and a branch library. Every May, 100,000 sports fans descended on Pimlico Race Course for the Preakness. Every summer, caravans of children and parents visited the Maryland Zoo in nearby Druid Hill Park.
Since the late 1960s, Park Heights has been in decline. Of its 30,000 plus inhabitants, children under 18 constitute the largest component – and nearly half of them are raised by single parents. The median household income is $7,000 lower than the rest of the city and $26,000 below the regional median. Less than a third of residents have a high school education. Vacant buildings dominate the landscape – 2,000 of them.
But now there is hope.
The Pimlico Community Development Authority (PCDA) and the Park Heights Renaissance (PHR) are leading the way, thanks to an ambitious Master Plan the city released in 2006, after seeking input from community residents. In 2008, the city adopted the Park Heights Urban Renewal Plan, giving the government site-specific acquisition powers and establishing new land-use patterns. This is the legislative tool needed to get to work on reinvigorating Park Heights.
The driving force in this effort is Park Heights Renaissance (PHR), a non-profit group representing residents, businesses, religious institutions, schools, agencies and other stakeholders. In January 2008, PHR opened offices at 4151 Park Heights Avenue. A full-time President/CEO, Julius “Julio” Colon, started work this past September.