The design of the Henderson-Hopkins campus was intended to work with and reflect the feedback of the community; however, much of the community had been displaced and dispersed. EBDI hired consultants to try and track down those who were displaced from earlier stages of the redevelopment, without much success. The school’s design was an innovative and iterative process. The traditional classroom model was replaced by a more open and malleable group of common spaces with moveable “huts.” Flexible learning areas and smaller, more integrated classrooms and open spaces were implemented, but they demanded a great deal from educators and students. It becomes clear that it was far easier to tear things down than to rebuild them in East Baltimore.
Figure 3. Middle East after demolitions, August 2006. Image © Janne Corneil. [Urban Renewal, 77]
One strength of the book is that it develops characters, from the community organizers to the university presidents involved. Rather than voice a tirade against a redevelopment project that did not realize its social goals, Özay shows what had potential and what failed. The vision was not truly collaborative. A major flaw was in perspective—specifically the inability of developers to truly see Middle East and its residents when designing Edgar Park. Quoting Donte Hickman, an East Baltimore pastor, Özay writes: “the EBDI endeavor changed how East Baltimore communities perceived urban interventions, often raising the question, ‘Who are you building for?’” (120). This is a central question in the book and one that is still heard throughout Baltimore and cities like it today.
Özay’s case study of the Hopkins-Henderson campus provides insight to better envision the human potential already within the urban landscape. Still, at the conclusion of the book, the reader is left wondering why cities continue to focus on failed redevelopment plans that cannot see a community as an asset until it has been wiped from the landscape. Books like this one get us to reflect on the process of redevelopment, design, and the public good. Part of that ongoing and iterative process is for scholars and policy makers to learn to see what is already on the landscape. Such studies may provide us with a deeper understanding of urban redevelopment and design based on seeing one another’s humanity and thinking more critically about what we lose before we start tearing things down.
Emily Lieb, “’Shove Those Black Clouds Away!’: Jim Crow Schools and Jim Crow Neighborhoods in Baltimore before Brown,” in Baltimore Revisited: Stories of Inequality and Resistance in a U.S. City, ed. P. Nicole King, Kate Drabinski, and Joshua Clark Davis (Ithaca, NY: Rutgers University Press, 2019), 24–36.
Nicole King, PhD, is an associate professor in the Department of American Studies and director of the Orser Center for the Study of Place, Community, and Culture at UMBC. Her research focuses on issues of place, power, and economic development. She is an editor of the book Baltimore Revisited: Stories of Inequality and Resistance in a U.S. City (Rutgers University Press, 2019).
How to Cite This: King, Nicole. Review of Urban Renewal and School Reform in Baltimore: Rethinking the 21st Century Public School, by Erkin Özay, JAE Online, April 22, 2022.