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From Hope to Heritage: The Story of Mondawmin

Session: Revitalizing Neighborhoods through TOD


Jamie Michael Kendrick
Maryland Transit Administration


Until 1956, the Mondawmin area was a part of the Park Heights neighborhood. With the opening of the Mondawmin Mall that year, the community secured its own identity and became generally known as Mondawmin. The 46-acre mall site was the largest undeveloped tract within three miles of the center of Baltimore City. For approximately a century preceding 1949, the land had been the site of a mansion owned by the Alexander Brown family, a leading family of Baltimore social and financial circles.

Mondawmin Mall was to be the hallmark of urban renewal. Never before had a major enclosed retail facility been built in the residential heart of a city. Its developer, James Rouse, was considered to be breaking new ground in urban revitalization. In the early years, the mall was quite a success, luring thousands of shoppers from the city and surrounding counties.
By 1978, however, the mall was aging and faced a 17 percent vacancy rate. Local newspapers generally associated the Mall’s failure with increasing blight and crime in the surrounding neighborhoods stemming from the exodus of middle-class families after riots that blazed east and west Baltimore, and many cities around the nation, in the late 1960s. As a middle-class community with a diverse housing stock, the Mondawmin area was hit hard by the flight of middle-class blacks and the associated disinvestment by banks and other lending institutions, the failure of local schools, and a faltering citywide tax base that made basic city services hard to deliver.

In 1981, the Rouse Company took over management (Rouse had sold the mall to local developers in the mid 1960s), renovated the mall, and filled the vacancies. A rebirth of the community began. Upon Rouse’s takeover of Mondawmin Mall, the Baltimore Sun commented, “revival of Mondawmin Mall, under management of the Rouse Co., is a promising development for city and nation...[The takeover] negates despair over future of retailing in black inner-city neighborhoods and suggests that economic vitality can, with the right management, re-enter neighborhoods and regions that need it most.”

New life at the economic hub of West Baltimore, was spurred also by the construction of the Baltimore Metro subway line through the Mondawmin community, launched growth in the area. The Liberty Medical Center expanded on its 31-acre site north of the Mall, as did Baltimore City Community College – Liberty campus, also north of the Mall. In addition, the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration and the U.S. Social Security Administration both located their Baltimore field offices adjacent to the Mall and Transit Center. Although Mondawmin Mall has been a profitable endeavor for the Rouse Company for more than two decades, it has not materially benefited the Mondawmin community as a whole, nor have other institutions which established in the late 1950s and subsequently expanded in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

The effects of flight and disinvestment continue to be felt in the Mondawmin area. The area is less economically and racially diverse than it was twenty years ago, the housing stock is crumbling in many areas, and no major public improvements have been seen since the opening of the subway line and transit center.

The Turnaround Begins…

In 1999, the Maryland Department of Planning (MDP) received a grant from the Federal Highway Administration’s Transportation, Community, and System Preservation Program. From this grant, two projects were selected for planning studies: the Mondawmin Transit Center in Northwest Baltimore and Alt. Route 40 in Frederick and Washington Counties. In the Mondawmin area, the purpose of the grant was to identify opportunities to use the transit center as a hub of community activity and as a catalyst for economic growth. Two years later, the Greater Mondawmin Coordinating Council, in cooperation with the Maryland Transit Administration, Citizens Planning and Housing Association (CPHA), and the Rouse Company, has identified several opportunities to improve the connections between the Mondawmin Transit Center and the community it serves.

The Mondawmin Transit Center is the most heavily used transit stop outside of downtown Baltimore, being served by the Metro Subway, nine core bus routes, and the Mondawmin Metro Neighborhood Shuttle introduced in December 2001. It is estimated that approximately 10,000 patrons use the transit center each day. Situated at the corner of Reisterstown Road and Liberty Heights Avenue, the Mondawmin Transit Center is the gateway to many thriving economic, social, recreational, and educational institutions in Northwest Baltimore. Stakeholders strongly believe that the transit center needs to reflect their strength as a community and the role of the transit center as a gateway.

This presentation tells the story of the Mondawmin community.

Author and Copyright Information

Copyright 2002 by author

Jamie Michael Kendrick is a Project Manager with the Maryland Transit Administration’s Office of Planning. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in Urban Affairs from Goucher College and a Master of City Planning from the University of Pennsylvania. Prior to joining the Maryland Transit Administration, Mr. Kendrick was the Director of Transportation Programs for the Citizens Planning and Housing Association in Baltimore, where he led advocacy and conducted research on transportation equity issues.

Contact information:
6 Saint Paul Street, 12th Floor
Baltimore, MD 21202