On a dreary rainy and cold Tuesday morning in Woodbourne-McCabe, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said the renewal work in the neighborhood is proof of the success of her Vacants to Value program.
"Six decades of disinvestment left this city with vacant properties in nearly every community, and we needed to find a new market driven approach to eliminate blight that would create new homeownership opportunities and stimulate growth throughout the city," Rawlings-Blake said. "For those who question the impact of my Vacants to Value initiative, all they need to do is come to the 600 block of McCAbe to see the work that is going on."
Habitat for Humanity of the Chesapeake is in the process of rehabbing 21 homes in the 600 and 700 blocks McCabe Avenue, which community groups had long lobbied to see demolished or fixed. The official kick off of the project comes more than a year after the city demolished properties on the block that could not be rehabbed.
Rawlings-Blake cited changes in the Housing Department in 2010 that she said reduced bureaucracy and made it easier for groups such as Habitat for Humanity to connect homeowners with homes as proof of the program’s success.
"We don’t gain anything by investing in bureaucracy, by investing in status quo we don’t gain anything," Rawlings-Blake said. "In fact, when we put up road blocks for groups like Habitat for Humanity we’re not just frustrating the groups that want to do better, but also the neighbors who deserve better."
Monica Gaines, president of the Woodbourne-McCabe Community Association, said it had been a long fight to address the blight on the block that has often been a drag on the community’s reputation.
"In this project one of my first challenges as president of this community was faced to me by Neighborhood Housing Services, and they said 'Monica we have some houses coming that we want to do in your area. How are we going to sell these $100 almost $200,000 homes in this community?'" Gaines said. "I said 'Oh just change the name of McCabe to Alhambra Parkway or something [laughter]. Because we all know reputation sometimes doesn’t play well."
But Gaines said that changing the names would take away memories and that the community is trying to build new, positive memories for the next generation that will call McCabe home.
Kisha Gladden, one of the first owners of a rehabbed home on McCabe Avenue, is a single mother of three, works full time and attends college. Gladden said she was excited to become part of a reborn community.
"I don’t know who is more excited is it me or was it my children? They’re eager to move into our new home and to have the first opportunity to have their very own rooms," Gladden said.