More on ‘Arts to Gentrification’ in Station North Arts and Entertainment District


by Olivia Robinson

I am sitting in a folding chair at the New Greenmount West Community Association meeting. The meeting is being held in the basement of the old P.A.L. Center on Guilford. (1) Right now, a member is reporting about the second affordable housing structure to be built in Greenmount West – like the first, this building will be for artists-only. After twenty years the tax credits will run out and then the affordable pricing limits will be removed and market rate prices will be allowed. In general, those at the meeting seem positive about development activity taking place in their neighborhood.

The Greenmount West, Charles North, and Barclay neighborhoods make up the “Station North Arts and Entertainment District,” designated in 2002. This title, mainly propaganda for attracting interest from outside the district, calls attention to a special minority in the area: generations of artists and art students. According to 2010 census data, there are almost an equal number of construction workers living in the area as those working in the arts, and even more people who file under the title “Education Services” (including health care and social services). An “Arts and Entertainment District” creates a promotable image of leisure and culture, while a “Health Care and Social Services District” is simply not sexy. Instead, it points to poverty and services needed, rather than wealth and cultural services rendered.

Our Arts and Entertainment District is a smart marketing tool for attracting people and money to the area – yet it does feel covertly classist and racist. The vast majority of people who recognize themselves as artists in the Arts and Entertainment district are white and often from privilege. Again, according to the 2010 census, 72% of the general
Arts District population are black while 82% of the artists are not. During the meeting when I hear about the second artists-only affordable housing project, I cringe. It’s not overt racism, but it’s not far from it either.

Second on the NGWCA meeting agenda are updates from Senator Catherine Pugh, MICA President Fred Lazarus, and Principal Nathan Burns about the newly finished Baltimore Design School, a magnet high school for design students. C. Pugh and F. Lazarus have been instrumental to the Arts District’s successful momentum. While I am generally wary of development, I believe in their good intentions. BDS now inhabits an old factory that was vacant for 25 years. In Greenmount West, the vacancy rate went down from almost 50% in 2000 to 33% in 2010. It seems that the
development in the area is effectively bringing in live bodies. How our city became so vacant, though, is rooted in ugly, racist property laws and policies of the 20th Century. The rows of boarded up buildings should remind us to be critical about how we ‘develop’ the city and for whom – even with good intentions of the landlords and leaders. (2)

In the 1930’s (and as part of the New Deal), the federal government drew city maps to designate where federal, state, and city funds would go for public services. Middle and upper class, white neighborhoods were seen as “good investments” and outlined in green or blue. African-American neighborhoods were outlined in red, indicating
undesirable neighborhoods that were not worth investment. Private banks also used these maps as guidelines for lending money: green means go, red means no. This practice would come to be known as Red-lining.

Additionally, during the Blockbusting of the 1940’s and 50’s, real estate moguls were able to use the societal racism to make a profit. (3) Such profiteers would cheaply buy homes from white families by scaring them that a black family was moving in. Then they would sell the properties at a higher rate to black families looking to move into those
same neighborhoods. Since the highest paying jobs were held by white people, the city’s tax base began to decrease. Demographics in some neighborhoods inversed. The city continued to lose population for the next 60 years as people who could afford to move to the suburbs, did.

As people left their homes, many were left vacant and rotting. Vacant properties with unpaid taxes slowly became the city’s property. In Greenmount West, about half of the vacant homes are owned by the city and HUD. When there is a critical mass, the city issues an RFP (Request for Proposals) from big development companies, frequently providing enticing tax incentives. In addition to RFPs, a variety of “plans” are created for neighborhoods in Baltimore.

The density of data and plans for property and renewal is overwhelming to digest. The process is not transparent to the uninitiated. I found the most recent Urban Renewal Plans dating back to 1978 with multiple updates since. (4) Vision Plans and Master Plans are more recent creations. The Charles North Vision Plan is a powerpoint presentation. Its creation was a lengthy undertaking, coordinated through one of the many non-profits in the area and then approved by the mayor in 2008. It lays out lovely new spaces full of people. The 2010 census tells us that 65% of the people living in Charles North are African-American. Why then, in the Vision Plan’s illustrations of the future, are 95% of the people of European or Asian descent? Is it part of the Vision Plan to change the demographics of the area? If this is not the plan, it seems incredibly uninformed of the hired planning company to not know, reflect, and include the current makeup of the neighborhood – and not just the demography of the people who own land in the commercial portion of Charles and North. (5)

In contrast to the Charles North Vision Plan, the Greenmount West Vision Plan (and more detailed Master Plan) champions the inclusion of neighborhood renters and homeowners in the development process. It suggests CBAs (6), planned affordable housing, and encouragement of neighborhood association input and approval of plans prior to their execution. Perhaps the Greenmount West area may be able to leverage a more equitable development process and model.

I hang around after the NGWCA meeting. The informal conversation is touching on the large new construction projects. I hear concerns about whether or not the construction jobs were actually going to any local residents. Ultimately, because our current system for investment and development is not community or democratically controlled (7), it
remains to be seen if the good intentions of landlords and people in power who initiate projects are able to integrate the voices and aspirations of those who are already present. Will they grow into enforceable CBAs, environmentally progressive construction, affordable rent, and provisions for rising property taxes – all written into the contracts of growth? (8)

(1) Fifteen years ago I used to volunteer in the afterschool program that the Police Athletic League ran in the building. Friends of mine lived in a row house on Oliver Street around the corner. The houses on either side of theirs were occupied by individuals, families, children. I left Baltimore in 2002 and when I returned for a visit in 2010, the entire block was vacant. One of my friends who had lived there, Flo, died in the Haitian earthquake earlier that year. I remember the boarded up row-homes feeling like a physical manifestation of the sadness and emptiness left in the wake of his death. It seems the entire block of nine vacant homes was sold to TRF (a developer from Philly) for $190K in 2011. The housing market, left to its own devices, fluctuates drastically. The same block was purchased in 1994 for $113K and sold again in 2005 for $315K.

(2) Prior to WWI, the House of Lords was an arm of government made up of “Lords” – men who had received land and the official title of Lord by birth. Lords were born with the presumed wisdom (through inherited culture and education) and responsibility (with their wealth came the sufficient time) of ruling. In this position of power they were expected to benevolently govern while also keeping their class position stable. The eruption of the two World Wars effectively helped speed the dismantling of these assumptions, but certainly not eradicating them.

(3) Morris Goldseker was one such real estate tycoon who made millions in Baltimore during the 1930s to 1960s.

(4) In the past, Urban Renewal Plans have often been re-termed as “Negro Removal Plans” by those living within sites of development.

(5) The Goldseker Foundation (founded by Morris Goldseker) helped to fund the creation of the plan. It also helped fund the Open Walls mural project, a mural program that supported a cadre of international muralists work in Baltimore.

(6) Community Benefits Agreements, including but not limited to ensuring training and jobs for neighborhood residents to find employment within the new construction.

(7) The Housing Commissioner alone ultimately selects the winning proposal from the bids made on RFPs.

(8) Or even better, the creation of Community Land Trusts? A Community Land Trust is a nonprofit corporation that develops and stewards affordable housing, community gardens, civic buildings, commercial spaces and other community assets on behalf of a community. “CLTs” balance the needs of individuals to access land and maintain
security of tenure with a community’s need to maintain affordability, economic diversity and local access to essential services. For more information on Community Land Trusts:

Essay exhibit at the D Center, Baltimore


Join the discussion about bringing ‘community’ into community rebuilding: how would you do it?

at Baltimore’s Enoch Pratt Free Library-
Today, Tuesday at 6:30pm, February 25, 2014

Race, Class, Power, and Organizing in East Baltimore: Rebuilding Abandoned Communities in America

Enoch Pratt Free Library Black History Month Book event

Interview: Maryland Morning with Sheilah Kast, WYPR

Audio of presentation/discussion; Q&A starts at 45 mins, discussion starts at 61 mins

Audience discussion/suggestions in regard community rebuilding for better outcomes: Audience disucssion Pratt Library.2.25.14

PDF of presentation: Send a contact request!

The power to corrupt scholarship and teach inequity: the academic industrial complex

The opportunity of the academic industrial complex to influence scholarship is great. This post uses the Johns Hopkins Industrial Complex as a case study to highlight government and private interests’ support and control of this academic institution. The influence of public:private partnerships in growing power and corruption and corporations in monopolizing the principles and practices of the academy is described. Finally, organizing and educating of the larger university and local communities is necessary to transform academia into places of scholarship for collective justice and benefit for all.

The power to corrupt scholarship and teach inequity: the academic industrial complex

The growth of the academic industrial complex has been well documented over the past decades (1). As academic institutions gain and harness their power base through federal research dollars, tax credits for their non-profit status, relationships with corporations and foundations at home and abroad, and funders with deep government and corporate ties, transparency and accountability become less effective and their ability to corrupt scholarship grows. These institutions of higher education which have grown in power and prestige often become ‘untouchable’ by laws and regulations which those without power abide. This occurs because of the powerful relationships the academy has forged and nurtured with government, foundations, and other private corporations. The academy thus becomes a marketplace for corporate America and a research and development arm for military research, leveraging power over the population who pays it to learn from them, and power over the economy of the place and the people outside its immediate walls. A case study of the Johns Hopkins Industrial Complex is an example that offers deeper understanding of how this power can and does lead to corruption and in some ways a dictatorship of ideas and practices which propagate the ideology and practice of powerful corporations. This power dictates non-transparency and non-accountability and leads to non-democratic practices prone to injustice through unethical and disproportionate benefit to those with power and access to wealth. This understanding allows us to organize strategies to prevent the continued growth of power and corruption so as to assure a scholarship of equity and economic justice is possible for all.

Government financing builds power in the academic industrial complexes

The Johns Hopkins University and Medical Industrial Complex consistently receives generous support from the federal government in the form of grants which fund research and development of new ideas and practices. This funding allows continued growth of the institution with new people who require greater space-a continued need to geographically expand. Therefore federal support comes not only directly to pay salaries of existing researchers, attract new researchers, students, and staff, pay for equipment and overhead for research to be conducted, but pay for construction of new buildings in which research is conducted. Research dollars contribute to grow the ability of an institution to not only conduct existing research but to develop avenues of new research. The well-funded institutions gain an advantage over their less-funded peer-institutions who do not have similar levels of research dollars to attract researchers for development of new ideas and practices. The greater research dollars the greater ability to develop new ideas and establish oneself as the leader in research, education, and innovation in any or all fields of education. Scholarship at the highly funded institutions may go unchallenged because of their prestige in many new ideas and innovations. This leadership in scholarship is therefore leveraged to receive greater support from government and private interests, fueling the cycle of growth of power through close relationship with powerful partners of government and private funders.

Of the 896 universities that received federal dollars for research and development 20% went to only 10 universities who continue to receive the largest amount of federal dollars each year. (2) The Johns Hopkins University received twice as much as any university in 2011- $1.9 billion which was 5% of all federal funding that year. (2) Almost half of this came from the Department of Defense and NASA and evidenced the influence and connection of this academic industrial complex with the military industrial complex. (3) This continued disproportionate federal funding to JHU was evident in 2002 when it became the first university to receive $1 billion in federal funding, recording $1.14 billion in total research and $1.02 billion in federally sponsored research that year. (4) Federal financing also comes from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act which granted Johns Hopkins University $220 million as of 2010. (5)

Other forms of government support come in the form of exemption from paying taxes due to the non-profit status as an educational institution. However this non-profit status is one worthy of further investigation as universities like Johns Hopkins harness their research and development outcomes into profit margins. (1) Through sale of educational and management tools in health, education, and research, and private gain for patented medical products, they become aligned more with businesses chasing profit motives. Meanwhile, the majority of research and development continues to be funded by the government. How is this disproportionate public subsidy to the Johns Hopkins Industrial Complex redistributed back to benefit the public instead of growing the wealth of this private institutions’ community and power to make decisions about how Baltimore and Maryland develops? While the equity in benefit to the public is unclear benefit to the institution is clear. In addition to examples mentioned previously, another example is seen in the salary of the current president. The current president ranked 16th in compensation out of 493 top executives at 490 private nonprofit colleges in 2010- earning $1.27 million. (6)

Support in universities’ structural expansion by government in the form of public subsidies for construction of buildings and government partnerships to acquire private land for the benefit of private expansion are other examples of government support of the growth of the academic industrial complex of Johns Hopkins. Two of the largest expansions of the university occurred in the 1950’s and 2000’s. In the 1950’s more than 50 acres of private land was acquired by the Baltimore city government and developed by and for the university. In the 2000’s and currently, another 88-acre expansion for a Johns Hopkins Bioscience Park was initiated through the government’s use of eminent domain to acquire private land for lease and sale to the university. Both expansion projects were supported by tax incentives and subsidies for development by the university. In the recent expansion, this leveraging of power and government subsidy enabled the continued gentrification of East Baltimore through a 7-acre park, a new school, and a private hotel, to be built on land previously inhabited by families who were forced to move through government intervention. (7)

In the late 1800‘s acquisition of property owned by the Baltimore city government and sold to the university at below-market rate prices resulted in the establishment of the Johns Hopkins Hospital. In the 1980’s sale of a city-owned hospital to the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions at below market-rate price resulted in another capital expansion of this Academic Industrial complex- Johns Hopkins Bayview Hospital. These two hospitals along with its recently acquired Howard Country Hospital ranked 3rd highest of the 17 Maryland hospital in 2013 in profit margin (East Baltimore, Bayview, Howard Country). (8) The access to land through partnerships with government built this powerful academic industrial complex and has facilitated its expansion over the century.

Influencing of and by the academic industrial complex

In the first quarter of 2013, Johns Hopkins University spent $160,000 on lobbying, ranking in the top eight amongst other universities that quarter. In 2012 it ranked 7th with $640,000 in lobbying fees and 19th in contribution of more than $507,000 to federal candidates, parties, and outside groups. (9)

Similar lobbying practices by other academic industrial complexes such as Harvard, MIT and others recently assured that the federal government continues to pay individually negotiated overhead costs to academic institutions. Their lobbying efforts stopped the current U.S. president’s attempt to cap the percent of federal funding overhead payments to universities, now almost 25% of the nation’s research budget. This came following an audit of 10 universities-including Johns Hopkins- by the Office of the Inspector General which documented that the “Federal Government was not receiving the lowest rate charged for indirect costs [overhead], although it was the largest volume purchaser of university research”. (10)

This pattern of influence on the federal financing processes by powerful academic institutions highlight their unrestricted ability to influence government with little measures to hold this inequitable process accountable. This power of influence on the federal government extends into the state and local governments in the Baltimore region. Members of the Johns Hopkins Industrial Complex use their power to direct how development occurs in the region it lives in through membership on development boards. (11) It’s recent promotion of itself as a leader in development of American cities evidences its power as an industrial complex to reach millions of consumers and affect how we design and develop our cities. Its power is reflected by its ability to declare itself an expert in development of American cities while denying its own racist and classist practices resulting in inequitable and non-sustainable development for the the local area in past and current development in an attempt to grow itself in greater power. How could such data be ignored? It can be when the academic industrial complex has such great power to affect media and shape public discourse even while it acts differently on the ground and ignore the voices advocating for wealth and health equity, within and outside its walls.(12)

Academic industrial complexes have the power to influence and corrupt its broad student population through its direct advertisement of corporate and foundation interests. With funders names emblazoned on markers, parking garages, buildings, and courtyards, students, faculty and staff become knowing and unknowing consumers of the power of corporations both nationally and internationally. This is exemplified in the ‘Bloomberg School of Public Health” named for the most wealthy benefactor to the institution, mayor of New York city, and alumni of Johns Hopkins who is the first benefactor to provide more than 1 billion in support of the institution. Researchers from the institution boast of going directly to New York city to convince Bloomberg to fund their new research projects. (13) Similarly the construction giant in Maryland, Whiting and Turner, has grown its wealth from building many Johns Hopkins structures (most recently additions to the School of Medicine, the new Henderson-Hopkins Community School and State laboratory in the Johns Hopkins Bioscience Park, expansions at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Decker Quad at the Homewood Campus) while funding construction of buildings and influencing scholarship through its leaderships’ namesake-Whiting School of Engineering, Hackerman Professorship in Civil Engineering.

In regard corporate America’s role in the academy, a Goldman Sach’s spokesperson had this to say about the president of Brown University on their board: “…[her] contribution to our board was deep and also wide-ranging…[she] brought invaluable perspective on leadership, people and decision-making, and her direct work with students was of great value to a firm that recruits hundreds of young people every year.” Another leadership academic at Washington State University stated this in regard her role on Nike’s board: “I know a little bit how students think, what might drive their desire to look into Nike products”. These relationships with corporations and government challenge the academic setting as one for liberal thought and exploration. This corruption of academic freedom is reflected in students, faculty, and staff who fear criticizing practices of the corporations on which the leadership of their institutions sit and corporation’s who sit on academic boards. For example when students from Johns Hopkins participated in organizing events challenging the role of East Baltimore Development Inc (the development proxy of the Johns Hopkins Bioscience Park whose board of directors includes two positions for Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions) leadership of the institution reminded them that they must speak independently and not as part of the institution, cautioned about more subtle ways to proceed, and required clearance beyond normal protocol -from additional Hopkins officials. These additional measures of scrutiny and oversight assures that generous benefactors and government partnerships continue to guard the academy’s scholarship while stifling student, faculty, and staff’s freedom of expression. This control of scholarship development was evidenced recently at Syracuse university when one of the chancellors cautioned faculty in regard working with local community affected by the academic complex’s plans for future expansion. Subsequently funding for several projects connected to this organizing effort abruptly ended. This direct power over careers, programs, and funding has substantial influence in controlling development of scholarship and research which can attempt to address injustices in all its forms. The practice of such injustices itself stifles a path of scholarship toward justice, in all forms. As noted by a current student at Johns Hopkins University, greater transparency of donors and their interests should be revealed. (14)

This direct effect of academic-corporation and academic-government partnerships influences the academia’s strategic plans, values, ethics, principles, practices, and scholarship not only through direct funding and marketing but through their membership on the governing boards of the academic complex (13). For example Bloomberg is granted head of the board of trustees for the Johns Hopkins University, a previous head of CIA enjoys board member privilege while Merck, Becton Dickinson, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Citigroup, Inc, Boeing Company, Legg Mason, Walt Disney, and real estate, legal, and investment firms and developers participate in influencing the scholarship of the institution-58% of the hospital’s and 48% of the university’s current board of trustees represent corporations. The role of private endowments in influencing academia is another rubric in the fabric of the academy’s power as an industry determining scholarship and its influence on a sustainable economy. For example, the Johns Hopkins Institutions’ endowments ranked 26 out of 843 institutions receiving most endowment dollars in 2012-$2,593,316. (15)

Individually and collectively these partnerships signify the root of the ‘industrial complex’s’ power to corrupt academia and evidence the power to control the discourse, deconstruction, and reconstruction of social, political, and economic ideology and practices both within and outside each complex.

Oversight, equity, ethics

Though the industrial complex of academia receives substantial support from government, the lack of transparency assures little opportunity for public accountability. This results in little oversight to assure ethical behavior and equitable outcomes for the public. In the case of the Johns Hopkins Industrial Complex the university has been allowed to land bank and expand into communities’ of color and low income without restriction and opposition by local, state, and federal governments. Instead they are enabled through direct and indirect public subsidy-tax dollars with little representation- and little government oversight to adequately maintain property and inhibit a pattern of community disinvestment. The current abuse of eminent domain powers to acquire 88 acres of land to facilitate private expansion of the university without a comprehensive plan showing benefit for the community again witnesses large scale corruption. (16) This same development project awarded contracts to the major construction corporation in Maryland and prominent benefactor of Johns Hopkins University without evidence of competitive bidding. (17) Its labor practices also reflect the continued growth in inequity between low-wage employees and its leadership evidenced by the lack of a living wage to employees. (18) This behavior, consistent with corporations who pay their leadership incomes 50-fold greater than that of low-wage staff, is seldom reported in mainstream media. Instead such media choose to report the current university president’s promise to hire food companies who pay a living wage and buys local food even while sub-contractors in its own capital expansions neither pay a living wage or hire locally-past or current. (19)

The academic industrial complex’s lack of ethical behavior and oversight has a long and consistent history in research practices. Most recently in October 2013 an investigation by the Center for Public Integrity and ABC revealed that the Johns Hopkins Hospital consistently inhibited coal mining workers from receiving disability benefit for black lung disease. The prestige and power of this academic industrial complex allowed consistent reports of negative findings to go unchallenged by medical and legal officials and resulted in the coal mining industry neglecting claims for disability benefits to miners. The federal government has called for its own investigation.(20)

In 2012, the death of a Hopkins researcher occurred following a whistle-blower’s insistence that published research from the laboratory may not be consistent with actual research performed. While this whistle-blower was terminated, the institution and partners of the academy-editors of the journal in which the research was published- ignored such claims. There remains no public record as to the outcome of an investigation into such question of unethical research practices, if such an investigation occurred. (21)

In 2001, investigation of unethical research practices and lack of oversight by the institution resulted in a judgement by Maryland’s Court of Appeals comparing a lead-based paint study on children in East and West Baltimore to the Tuskegee Syphilis Study- conducted in 1932–1972 on African American men with syphilis who received no appropriate treatment . (22)

Also In 2001 Johns Hopkins Hospital’s unethical practices in scientific standards of research was revealed when researchers failed to acquire sufficient data about a known toxic chemical for a research study and failed to inform the participants of this available information. This resulted in the death of one participant, investigation by the Federal Office of Human Research Protection, and temporary suspension of all federally funded research. (23)

The most documented evidence of unethical research conducted at the institution involved non-consensual use of cancer cells from an African American woman in 1951. (23) Her cells were used without her knowledge, her consent, or her families consent after her death. After much public evidence, including a book detailing the evidence, the institution initiated a fund to recognize the family of Henrietta Lacks whose cells continue to be used in research around the world. (24)

These data suggest a pattern of ethical abuses of the academy’s privileged status in development and research protocol and practices with little oversight. The continued lack of transparency and accountability confirms the power of the institution to go unchallenged. Such powerful institutional capital assures institutional power provided through relationships with government and powerful private entities that allows generous benefit to the institution and diminished benefit to the public-fostering the growing gap in wealth and health inequality across the US. This relationship of support and influence by government and private entities which in turn creates a ‘progeny’ of themselves in the academic industrial complex assures corporatization, corruption, and co-optation of the academy resulting in public:private partnerships of un-rivaled power. Figure 1 In general such corporate power whether at local, national, or international levels result in “less healthy, more dangerous, less stable, more unequal, and less fair” societies”. (25)

Academic industrial complex: power to corrupt or power to assure justice for all

The strong connection between access to federal and private resources and growth in the academic industrial complex is compelling. This accumulated power is used to continue unequal access and growth in power and parallels the growth of capital for the top 10% of America witnessed by their possession of the majority of the wealth of the country. (26) The practical outcome of such power inequality is evidenced by their effect on controlling: freedom of speech and diverse scholarship in the academy, equal funding and support to all members of the academy regardless of political choice, political, economic, housing, recreation, safety, health, and education outcomes of the regions each complex inhabits. In effect this large influence drives the values and social norms of the country and parts of the world. (27)
The proposed role of academic industrial complexes to anchor cities in economic and community development assures more of the same public-private partnerships of inequitable growth driven by past and current neoliberal values. As academic industrial complexes continue to grow their power across America by declaring themselves bastions of scholarship and anchors for economic and community development they must be challenged. They must be challenged for the ways in which they acquired power: through ignoring and exploiting vulnerable populations, through inappropriate partnerships with government, and through expansion of structures which are large enough to affect and control the economies in cities and states.

The role of the academy in promoting freedom of speech, access to unbiased scholarship and research opportunity, equitable access for career development, equitable relations with communities in which it resides, and equitable partnerships with government which promotes public accountability and transparency is not evident. Such a path is necessary to re-instate academia as a partner in all things concerned with distribution of resources fairly within and outside its walls-justice. Documenting and challenging the well-documented gap between university presidents and faculty, the increase in adjunct faculty and part-time faculty, and the role of a 6-year undergraduate education in increasing student debt is required for public and private universities alike. Such a path is possible with challenge by members currently within the institutions (student, faculty, staff, contractors, sub-contractors). The student body has power to challenge their institution to be a setting which encourages education and not consumerism fostered by an academic-corporate marketplace that assembles pre-formed ideological ‘products’ and corporate-America practices that continue capitalist oppression and injustices in social, political and economic systems. Alumni of these institutions also have a role in holding the institutions accountable through letters and articles to the Alumni magazine and project and scholarship-targeted funding. Likewise, withdrawal of funding until changes in university’s policies and current corporate-practices become implemented may force university leadership to address the corporatization of higher education.

Leadership of the academic industrial complexes have the opportunity to deconstruct the industrial complex of the academy and reform themselves a setting that ensures scholarship which promotes equity in all forms, and the resources to assure this occurs. Government’s role in growing the industrial complex of academia can be challenged by tax payers at the local, state, and federal levels. As well, those in government offices must challenge the way neoliberal practices have strengthened the power of academia while diminishing the power of the people-taxation without representation. Such changes would challenge the existing market-driven pedagogy which assures no transparency and accountability- controlled through relationships with government and corporate America. The ‘marketplace’ of academia can then have the opportunity to forge ahead into one of creative scholarship aimed at problem-solving toward equitable and sustainable environments regionally, nationally, and internationally. Moving away from a product-based educational system toward one with values of equity, collective visioning with all affected at the table, less competitiveness, and non-separatism would begin a path away from its current ‘industrial complex’ ideology, goals, and practices.


The role of the public-locally and nationally- to put forth a pedagogy of the oppressed which links the role of the academic industrial complex in local, national, and international inequality is crucial in forcing these unbalanced powerful industrial complexes to transform (28). Free schools which educate and mentor students and faculty in the skills of organizing within and outsides academia’s walls is necessary. Alliances between those within the academic complexes and those outside must forge forward to build a more stable movement against the power and corruption of academia. These alliances must be diverse and connected across all fields: political, health, education, development, law, housing, spiritual. Through organizing and educating about the role of the academic industrial complex and their oppressive force, and through building coalitions that challenge in large numbers the power of these ‘ivory halls of injustice’ the dismantling of this power base of wealth through a power base of informed and activated citizens can emerge.


‘Arts to gentrification’ in Station North Arts and Entertainment District, Baltimore

The discussion of introducing the arts community as a process to gentrification seems to have taken an intellectual turn in many places in Baltimore. In doing so it misses the practice and process of how urban communities change, and why. The bottom line is that city government and their private partners do not care how they make a profit, just that they do. These partnerships perfectly fulfill the needs of the individual partners: private wants more power and public must appear to be addressing the issues of the city, economic development being a major one as decades of disinvestment in people and place loom large. So choosing ‘arts to gentrification’ as the means to the end of ‘profit and power making’ mixes well, like rice and beans.

Right here in Baltimore we are facing ‘arts to gentrification’ with the Station North Arts and Entertainment district. Similar to other gentrification projects in Baltimore it started with a plan from the powerful stakeholders, Maryland Institute College of Arts and city government more than 10 years ago. I remember when now-deceased long-time activist Dennis Livingston, a resident of the area, tried to organize local community groups about a plan to counteract the un-official talk of a city-wide plan to gentrify the area. The local community had not heard directly from their representatives of this new plan but talk was out there and on the ground people were scared that they would be displaced. This of course was the mostly low-income and of-color communities included in the 90-acre gentrification plan (including Charles North, Greenmount West, and Barclay Communities, Penn station, and MICA). He was already seeing the speculators swarming into the area unchallenged by city government. Besides setting up speculators for future asset growth, such predatory real estate practices only serve to drive a community more into abandonment as they buy and board while waiting for the change in the market forces to come. Still they are not the cause of gentrification but a cog in the wheel. The cause is the hierarchical governmental structures that make plans and deals with universities, developers, non-profits and wealthy friends and colleagues who are assured major profits and greater power from the eventual change in the neighborhood.

Some 10 plus year later, the Station North Arts district continues its slow process of gentrification. Pizza sold on North avenue is not affordable to the historic low-income people, not to mention the new restaurants opened this past year on Charles-but they are affordable to the incoming artists community and the higher-income community the area seeks to attract. While affordable housing for artists have been built, no signs or concrete plans of affordable housing for general residents of the area have materialized. The directing body of the gentrification process has received criticism for this planned gentrification and responded by surveying the existing community and inviting comment on future plans. This is a start to engaging residents and existing businesses even while existing businesses continue to seek opportunities for ownership of historic structures and real control of how development will occur. But what seals the current state of gentrification in the area is the comment from a white gentleman in a wheelchair one recent cold January night. He was sitting slightly aside from a group of mostly white young people standing outside a venue on the first western block of North avenue. As we walked past the crowd and passed in front of him, he looked up at us with fearful eyes and a grimaced mouth saying, “I’m scared of all these white people moving in”. The friend walking next to me responded “me too”. I simply nodded my head acknowledging some understanding. He felt a connection with two people of color who didn’t appear to be new residents or visitors but a part of the old. He did not ask us for money but he asked us for another form of support. He was a white man from the old neighborhood fearful of the new white and other racial/ethnic groups that were moving into his neighborhood. He was fearful of the ‘other’ he perceived as replacing him and others like him. And he thought we would understand his plight. We did.

We understood that he worries about where he will live in the next years; whether he can afford the food and the merchandise that will soon replace what was there. He lived in a community most would consider lacking and disposable. He worries and his health takes a toll. A toll that will not be measured by the late surveys 10 years after the fact. We worry because we know that the stress of his worries will contribute to the unequal illnesses and early death documented for communities of lower income and color.

Not unlike the movement in the Netherlands and Germany where artists refused to be used by the government for gentrification purposes the incoming and existing artist community must organize and take a stand. They must build bridges with the larger existing community and demand that affordable housing for all is built, local businesses can remain, new businesses do not discriminate against them through pricing, and employment is mandated for local residents in all new businesses (perhaps a Community Benefits Agreement with Implementation (CBAwI) may be a working model). If this is not done, like the current John Hopkins gentrification project in East Baltimore (Hopkins/EBDI/Casey East Baltimore redevelopment project), the Station North Arts project will continue to be another development seeking to displace and dispossess our most vulnerable while growing continued wealth and health disparity between the rich and the poor. This is the practical and purposeful outcome of ‘arts to gentrification’.

Hamburg: Jamming the gentrification machine

Rotterdam: Stopping the creative class as gentrifiers

Are you there Lord Baltimore – Olivia Robinson

Eminent domain in the news…


Governor Christie of NJ hands over eminent domain power to universities’ then pleads ignorance…[not unlike the current governor of Maryland handing over the power of eminent domain to the Johns Hopkins University, a PRIVATE university! to boot]

“Governor forgets law”

The Kelo decision and economic development for the powerful; if overturned can EBDI, Hopkins, Casey, and the city of Baltimore be sued retroactively for outcomes that favor one developer’s economic benefit? Food for mindful munching…

“Kelo today”

“Scalia on Kelo”

“Eminent domain and private rights”

“In-depth story on the effects of eminent domain in New London today”

Community organizing, building, gentrification, CBAs

in DC and the Bronx