Charles Village Marks 100th; Celebrates Resurgence

by Alice Cherbonnier

WHEN CHARLES VILLAGERS partied at the Baltimore Museum of Art on February 24 to mark the community's 100th anniversary, that's not all they had to celebrate. Crime rates are down significantly, new businesses are opening, and birthday celebrations will be continuing through October.
The Charles Village Community Benefits District (CVCBD), established over two years ago and representing the neighborhoods of Abell, Better Greenmount Alliance, Harwood 26/ers and South Charles Village as well as Charles Village itself, reports major improvements in security and significant reductions in crime-a 20% decrease in 1996 when compared to 1995.
This drop didn't just happen, and it's not all attributable to the fact that CVCBD employs a "Safety Team" of security personnel. Rather, it's the result of a concerted effort between the Northern District Police, Johns Hopkins University's mobile security force, and community residents. The most significant factor may well be the Neighborhood Walkers, a team of volunteers who patrol the greater Charles Village each night, maintaining radio contact with the CVCBD Safety Team.
In 1994, the Maryland Legislature passed a law permitting the establishment of six Community Benefits Districts in Baltimore City. This law authorizes the assessment of property tax surcharges to fund the districts. Since then, however, only two benefits districts have been established: CVCBD and Midtown, which was founded seven months ago and encompasses Bolton Hill, Charles North, Madison Park, and Mt. Vernon-Belvedere.
The law carried a "sunset provision," calling for its expiration on May 31, 1997. In February of this year, the House of Delegates unanimously passed a bill sponsored by Delegate Maggie McIntosh (D-42nd) that would extend the benefits district legislation for four more years. The bill, HB 262, now awaits a Senate hearing.
The four-year extension will allow time for other communities to establish additional districts, as well as provide an opportunity to study the effectiveness of the districts.
Meanwhile, positive change goes forward in the CVCBD. Recent cosmopolitan businesses to open include the Blue Nile, an Ethiopian restaurant at 2101 North Charles Street; The Silk Road, a Chinese restaurant at 3215 North Charles Street; Sankofa, specializing in African products, at 2116 North Charles Street, and Studio 500 beauty salon, with staff from Russia and Bulgaria as well as the U.S., at 550 West University Parkway. A long-awaited Safeway supermarket is soon to open at North Charles and 25th Streets; its masonry walls incorporate architectural details from the Art Deco Chesapeake Cadillac building and the former headquarters of the Baltimore City Public Schools, both of which were razed to clear the site.
To continue its centennial celebration, Charles Village will hold a festival on the weekend of May 31, with a 5 kilometer foot race and children's fun run through the area, and a parade that includes antique cars and floats created by local school children. On one evening, there will be a community camp-out in Wyman Park Dell, complete with late-night storytelling and flashlight tag. The weekend will also feature a Garden Festival showcasing area homes and gardens, and the 15th annual Charles Village Garden Walk on June 1.
In October, the centennial will conclude with a Homecoming Celebration dinner for current and previous residents.
Eighty percent of the proceeds from the celebration activities will support future activities for children.

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This story was published on March 5, 1997.