December 12, 2018 - Neighborhood Tour
On the final Friday of every month, Live Baltimore heads out of the office and into one of Baltimore's 278 neighborhoods. Each month, we love what we find! November was no different.
November’s walking tour took us to Milton-Montford where longtime residents are living side-by-side with newcomers in a neighborhood that continues to see more investment each day.
Formerly known as "Little Bohemia," the Milton-Montford neighborhood in East Baltimore was built in the early 20th century and stretches from the Pennsylvania Central Railroad tracks to the north and to Monument Street on the south. Its east-west boundaries lie between North Patterson Park Avenue on the west and North Luzerne Avenue on the east. After experiencing a long period of disinvestment at the end of the last century, the neighborhood is currently undergoing rapid revitalization and offers newly renovated historic rowhomes at affordable prices.
We kicked off our tour at the Hattie Harrison Community Center on Milton Avenue where we heard from several community residents and friends of the neighborhood.
Coriless Jones, a 35-year East Baltimore resident, said she has lived on almost every block in the neighborhood. After moving away for a while, she returned to the community two years ago thanks to a Live Near Your Work incentive.
“I now walk to work and it’s nice that everything is just right here,” she said. Jones said she missed her neighbors after she had moved away and told us how one neighbor, who lives in the 2500 block of Ashland Avenue, decorates for every holiday imaginable.
Jones also explained how her neighborhood comes together during annual events like holiday gift and coat exchanges and community cookouts during the warmer months.
Carmen Williams, who said she also loves her community’s get-togethers, purchased a home on Ashland Avenue in Milton-Montford for the first time 12 years ago. The neighborhood was full of promise, she said. It was also affordable and convenient to everywhere she needed to be.
“The home I was in was the perfect starter home and affordable to me at the time,” Williams said. “I found a neighborhood that had the potential for growth and moved there right as the builders and the scaffolding started to go up.”
However, when the housing market struggled in the mid-2000’s the cranes went away and investment slowed. Recently it’s picked back up again at a rapid pace, she said.
Williams purchased in Baltimore City for a second time in early 2018 — this time immediately next door to the home she was living in. Buying the house right next to her old one in Milton-Montford might seem like a strange thing to do, Williams explained, but despite outgrowing her old space and having more room in the budget, she wasn’t willing to give up her neighbors or the neighborhood.
Her new home was also extremely affordable thanks to a number of homebuying incentives, she said and the potential she moved to the neighborhood for is finally being realized.
“I can see the changes every day,” Williams said.
Krismir Thomas, a community resident, advocate and Director of Community Outreach at the Historic East Baltimore Community Action Coalition (HEBCAC), shared her thoughts ahead of a tour of neighborhood homes.
HEBCAC is a community-based nonprofit whose mission is to build community and provide economic opportunities that support healthy thriving households and neighborhoods. The organization has eliminated more than 60 units of blighted, vacant row homes along the Amtrak corridor, including in Milton-Montford, and created green space, including three new community parks, to attract a diverse mix of young homeowners. HEBCAC is also working with existing homeowners and landlords to improve about 10 privately-owned properties and working with sellers to make sure the neighborhood remains affordable.
Thomas let us into a property in Station East, a development project of HEBCAC that — when complete — will feature 30 beautifully rehabbed rowhomes. Complete with white quartz counters and a sleek gray interior, the upgrades definitely rivaled what can be found in pricier areas of the city while starting at $167,990 and qualifying for Historic Property tax reduction and Baltimore Housing homebuying incentives, such as Live Near Your Work and Vacants-to-Value.
While checking out the interior of one of the homes, Thomas told the group about a few renter-to-owner conversions HEBCAC had a hand in coordinating. When one owner was ready to move on, instead of listing the home for sale it was gifted to a longtime tenant.
“These stories make me understand the love for the neighborhood,” Thomas said.
In addition to gorgeous rehabilitated historic homes, the Milton-Montford neighborhood also has lively community spaces. Our tour took us to the neighborhood’s community garden next where neighbors still had a few remaining fall flowers planted despite the chilly weather.
Murals lined the garden and brightened up the neighborhood alleys.
Mom of two Kourtney Hartmoyer moved to the neighborhood more recently but shared similar sentiments to other residents. Milton-Montford has been a place where her son, Onyx, can pass the time playing in the neighborhood’s parks or watching trains, she said, while holding her daughter Soul.
Though community amenities like the Milton Street rain garden and a community garden are cheerful additions that make Milton-Montford welcoming, it’s the neighbors who have had the most impact, she said.
“The neighborhood wouldn’t exist without the neighbors,” Hartmoyer said. “We could have all these wonderful things, but the community feeling wouldn’t exist without our great neighbors.
Interested in learning more about Milton-Montford? Read more about it on their neighborhood page.