In Park Heights, a struggle to save a neighborhood — and a horse race

The weeds, rot and decay overtook the 2600 block of Rosewood Ave., not far from Pimlico Race Course, long ago.

Days from now, wealth and energy will pour into this neighborhood for the Preakness, the state’s largest sporting event.

Then, when the horse race is over, it will promptly leave.

Cheo D. Hurley stands here now, looking at a block of vacant rowhouses. He’ll be here next week to welcome the bow-tied fans, and he’ll be here when they depart. This block is the next step in his plan to remake one of Baltimore’s long-struggling communities.

Soon, a developer working with Hurley’s organization will invest $16 million here to build new affordable housing — and there are more ambitious plans nearby.

Hurley, director of the nonprofit Park Heights Renaissance, has been charged by the city with revitalizing Park Heights, a once-thriving community that has lost population for decades.

More than 40 percent of working-age residents in southern Park Heights aren’t working. More than half of the children in the predominantly black neighborhood live below the poverty line.

“We’ve been talking about the potential for a TIF for a while,” Hurley says. He notes that the area has at least 13 more years of casino funding coming.

“How do you leverage the 13 years of slots funding, so that you can increase the amount of money you can develop with?” he asks. “Whatever you do has to be radical change.”

Selena Hinson, 48, has lived in the Park Heights area most of her life. She helps run the popular Baltimore Entertainers marching band, which performs with as many as 150 kids.