Is this predictable or what? Someone who lives in a pricey house in an upscale, mostly White suburb owns a valuable corner property, zoned commercial, in a mostly Black neighborhood of West Baltimore. The property happens to be within walking distance of a college campus, a high school and an elementary school. The owner of the property wants to redevelop the corner for a restaurant and apparently has a deal with a fast-food chain specializing in 900-calorie hamburgers.
It sounds like a classic — someone who lives miles away from West Baltimore adding yet another fast-food restaurant to an area that already has a mall (Mondawmin) with several eating places (including fast-food). Most importantly, the site adjoins residential neighborhoods. This is the situation described in my Friday Sun column.
But the cool thing is, the neighborhoods are fighting back. The property owner wants the city to approve the fast-food restaurant (a Checkers) for a drive-thru and that really got the residents fired up. They say a high volume of traffic and a history of collisions at or near the intersection should make a drive-thru unfeasible.
Despite a setback at the zoning board, it’s possible the opponents will win this battle for something better.
Here’s a lesson for this particular property owner and others: Before you decide what to propose, ask the people who live there first. In this case, there might not have been a battle if there had been a conversation with the community. The neighbors acknowledge that the zoning allows for a restaurant. They just hate the prospect of the one that’s proposed. They think they deserve something better, and I say more power to them.