Transforming Old Town Mall

Jamal Mubdi-Bey

Sojourner-Douglass College has been involved with empowering community residents for over thirty-six years through long standing educational programs that focus on self-determination and community transformation. Similarly, Baltimore City is devoting significant resources to develop a Master Plan for the revitalization of the neighborhoods known as Oldtown, surrounding Sojourner-Douglass College’s East Baltimore campus. This timely convergence of interests between the City and the College creates a unique opportunity to think more creatively about how to successfully integrate the “bricks and mortar” with the “human aspects” of community development.

To create and sustain a "mixed income" community where new, more upscale residents will join current residents, many of whom who are Black and poor, the existing racial and economic realities must be affirmatively addressed. The failure to address these realities forthrightly is a principal reason why “traditional” or “top-down” models usually result in driving poor people out; and why such models have become known as "gentrification." To prevent further gentrification of this area, Sojourner-Douglass College, in collaboration with the other stakeholders in the area, is promoting a “bottom-up,” model, which assigns the development of the human beings in the area as the number one priority.

A “bottom-up” plan engages the existing residents in community building strategies and productive economic activity. Income levels of community residents must increase dramatically; employment of Black males between the ages of 16 to 35 must expand from the current 20% to 65 – 80%; the percentage of home owners must be raised significantly; opportunities for resident-owned new business start-ups must be included; and the Oldtown Mall must become an economic engine for capturing and circulating revenue several times over for further community development and enhancement, while simultaneously promoting productive businesses that help to ensure that community crime rates are diminished. (See the Oldtown Schematic)

Watch the video of Jamal Mubdi-Bey, Community Development Director, and Demographer John Morris discuss the College's transformational plans for Historic East Baltimore's Old Towne Mall.

Watch Part I -- Watch Part II -- Watch Part III -- Watch Part IV

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