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Urban Redevelopment Benefits Everyone

Some inner-city neighborhoods in the United States are benefiting from a population migration. For a variety of reasons, a generation that grew up in the suburbs as well as new immigrants are moving into America's cities and bringing new life to old urban neighborhoods. Tim Wardner reports on one such area in the city of Baltimore in the East Coast state of Maryland.

"You can see as we move down the block, there's a number of properties that have been renovated. If you look to your right, here, you've got three in a row. This is the mid-construction phase."

Dahlia Kaminsky is showing row houses in the eastern U.S. city of Baltimore that the non-profit Patterson Park Community Development Corporation is refurbishing. "The transition of the neighborhood has been a long process," she adds.

It is part of an effort to revitalize blighted neighborhoods in Baltimore and other U.S. cities. It's been helped by the rising values of city homes. They have gone up over 40 percent in the last six years.

“New urban housing” used to mean large government apartment buildings. But now, city planners are finding innovative partnerships between government and private interests are more likely to bring neighborhoods back.

David Levy is with the City of Baltimore Department of Housing. "We have sleeping capital in this city that can be woken up. With an intervention in our neighborhoods we can rebuild strength working with communities and private investors; it's there to be done."

The government still acts to protect poor residents from being pushed out of areas where they lived but did not own property. Assuring housing for the poor means spending tax money to make it happen.

"Most of our redevelopment projects for new construction include housing at various levels of affordability," says Mr. Levy.

Patrick Loftus is a single airline pilot from Ireland who has just bought a refurbished house in Patterson Park. He lived in the suburbs before but sees advantages in a revitalized city neighborhood. "It has a great social feel, a lot of young folks around. And it's definitely an up-and-coming area."

Community assets help turn blighted neighborhood around. In Patterson Park there is the park itself, the nearby Johns Hopkins University Medical Center and a new charter school.

Ed Rutkowski is the executive director of the Patterson Park Community Development Corporation. "You need strengths to build from, whether you have them as a park or an institution like Johns Hopkins or a concerted investment strategy that just makes places prettier."

"There was a time when it was difficult to get police to be responsive in the neighborhood," says Ms. Kaminsky, bringing up an important issue. Crime is the biggest problem that keeps families from buying homes in the city.

Building a sense of community, where residents stick together and have a stake to improve things, is key to revitalization, says Baltimore housing official David Levy. "People that own their own homes feel a sense of ownership of their communities and neighborhoods; they can build wealth."

Developer Ed Rutkowski thinks that a sense of ownership and investment in our cities is needed in the future. "It's worth investing in cities. If you invest the money well now, wisely, cities are going to be great,” he believes.