Baltimore Colleges Push To Improve Neighborhoods

Ann McClure's picture

Change has swept through the University of Baltimore — and the surrounding neighborhood — over the past decade. Striking new academic buildings, an apartment building and the university's first dormitory have appeared among the brownstones of the Midtown neighborhood. New shops and restaurants brighten once-dingy blocks. Streets that were deserted after dark now buzz with students.

"It seems more like a university environment now," said Earl Spain, 59, who completed his bachelor's degree at UB in 2002 and is working on a master's in criminal justice. "There's a lot more going on around here. You can get a coffee here, go to the Barnes & Noble."

Across the city, colleges and universities are working to revitalize neighborhoods surrounding their campuses — pushing development in flagging areas, guiding community projects and organizing programs to improve education, health care and even housing for nearby residents. Last month, the Johns Hopkins University announced an ambitious plan to bolster neighborhoods near the Homewood campus — including a $10 million gift.

In Baltimore, where most manufacturing plants shut down decades ago and the last Fortune 500 headquarters decamped in 2011, universities represent one of the city's best hopes for revitalization and growth, officials at cash-strapped City Hall acknowledge.

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