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Urban Affairs: Locust Point Population Change Prompts Culture Clash

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The County Times Newspaper

The Southern Calvert Gazette Newspaper

Posted on December 31, 2012

By NAHAL MOTTAGHIAN

This article is one in a series that looks at the confrontation between industry and growing real estate development in Baltimore.

BALTIMORE -- As new people move into Locust Point, old-timers complain that the port neighborhood’s sense of community is changing.

The new residents have different interests -- dog parks, bike lanes, cupcake shops -- from the older residents. They are even living in different structures: Instead of the traditional two-story rowhouses, people are moving into luxury apartments at McHenry Row, condos at Silo Point, and spacious four-story townhouses at McHenry Pointe.

Experts on urban planning say the different housing styles begin to change the way residents relate to one another.

Sidney Brower — a former Baltimore city planner, who taught urban planning at the University of Maryland, College Park — studied Locust Point for his book “Neighbors and Neighborhoods,Elements of Successful Community Design.”

“When (longtime residents) want to go out, they sit out on the steps and they interact with one another,” Brower said. “The new people, of course, they go sit on the roof and they’re not going to have any interaction.”

“When the developers developed there, as in other places, they’re not really interested in community,” Brower said, “They’re interested in selling property. So there is no attempt, I think, when new people move in to try to integrate them into the community.”

In his book, Brower defines the word community as “a group of people who have similar interests, know one another, look out for one another, belong to the same organizations, and support the same establishments.”

By that definition, the community will soon have a new personality.

“I used to know everyone who lived on my street,” says Edward Hughes, a retired longshoreman who has lived in the same house all his life. Now, three other longtime neighbors remain on his street.

Sometimes, tensions between old and new show through.

Bill Lear, who has lived his whole life in Locust Point, said newcomers “walk right by you with their nose in the air, not even thinking to say ‘hi’ or ‘bye’ or anything.”

Deb Silcox, a Baltimore native who has lived in Locust Point for eight years, believes some newcomers have not bothered to try to fit in.

“When you are local you know the flavor. It is very difficult for people who are born and raised (in Locust Point) to have people move there and not be receptive to kindness or acknowledgment,” Silcox said.

And when new residents complain about traffic and noise of port industries, she has no patience.

“The train whistle has been in the neighborhood forever,” Silcox said, dismissing calls at civic association meetings for quiet.

Delegate Brian McHale has lived in Locust Point all his life. He was raised in a two-story, one-bath rowhouse with his grandmother, aunt, parents and four siblings. He comes from generations of steamship clerks. He married the girl next door and they moved into an 11 ˝-foot-wide rowhouse, where they raised their two children.

“I used to walk down the street and know everyone. You could look at the kids and know who their grandparents are,” McHale said. Today, “you don’t know each other like you did.”

But McHale does not identify as either an old-timer or a newcomer. He wanted the vacant Procter & Gamble plant to be redeveloped, which led to the arrival of Under Armour, with its 1,250 jobs in Locust Point. And he is not worried about the influx of new residents. Like everyone who already lives in Locust Point, he said, they want to live in a solid community.

“Look, what does every neighbor want?” McHale asked. “A good neighbor.”

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