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Commission Gets Proposals for Redevelopment of Brooklyn Village

Ben Bradford

County Commissioners say they need more time to review three proposals submitted by developers for the redevelopment of Brooklyn Village, a former African-American neighborhood in uptown. The design plans were presented to commissioners at a meeting Thursday.

Two of the proposals include plans for more than 1,000 residential units, with about 10 percent set aside for affordable housing. They also include a hotel, retail and office space and a small park. County commissioners say these are more in line with their objectives than a third plan, which consisted mainly of residential units, with 19 percent affordable housing.

Some commissioners raised questions about the housing being predominantly rentals, with affordable units in one plan placed near the noisy interstate. Commissioner Ella Scarborough says she wants Brooklyn redeveloped where people of all incomes can live there.

“When we revitalized Cherry for instance and Wilmore, we priced the people who had the places out and when it’s beautiful again, the people who helped build the community can’t be there,” Scarborough said. “What happened in Cherry is unforgivable and we can’t do that again.”

Other commissioners were concerned that the designs looked like the abundance of mixed-use apartment developments already being built in the city. Commission Chair Trevor Fuller says he favors a more family-oriented residential community.

“When I say homes I don’t mean apartments because that’s what was there and none of the proposals have single family housing,” Fuller said. “We have people who lived there and would a big hotel, apartment building and offices evoke what they remember? I think not.”

Credit Ben Bradford

Brooklyn Village was a diverse income African-American community before it was razed as part of the urban renewal trend that swept the country in the 1960s. One building that stands there today is the NASCAR Hall of Fame. One of the plans presented included a cultural center to preserve the community’s history. Frank Manago, who grew up in Brooklyn in a single-family home, says he’s glad commissioners did not vote on the plan during the meeting.

“I’d like to see more of it correspond as close as possible to some of the buildings that were in Brooklyn, the facade, versus the modern scripted type buildings we have all over the place,” Manago said. “It should not duplicate but make it resemble in principal what we had in Brooklyn.”

Commissioners say a second meeting on the designs is needed because they have many unanswered questions and want to make sure the developers can deliver on their promises, unlike some who have not in the past.

One developer also did not list the price the city will receive for the land and questions were raised about another developer possibly being involved in lawsuits.  

Gwendolyn is an award-winning journalist who has covered a broad range of stories on the local and national levels. Her experience includes producing on-air reports for National Public Radio and she worked full-time as a producer for NPR’s All Things Considered news program for five years. She worked for several years as an on-air contract reporter for CNN in Atlanta and worked in print as a reporter for the Baltimore Sun Media Group, The Washington Post and covered Congress and various federal agencies for the Daily Environment Report and Real Estate Finance Today. Glenn has won awards for her reports from the Maryland-DC-Delaware Press Association, SNA and the first-place radio award from the National Association of Black Journalists.