Opinion - South Baltimore - Time to Step Back

     By Thom LaCosta

     In the late 1800's Light Street in South Baltimore was the busiest business district in Baltimore. Pictures from those times reveal a multitude of businesses, concentrated traffic and large numbers of Baltimoreans busy at work, busy purchasing, busy at the business of being a vital part of a thriving economy.

     As time went on, business and commerce moved "Up Town" and South Baltimore was not nearly the hub of commerce. Over time, manufacturing left the area, railroad employment dropped, and as a result many of the merchants in the area either moved or simply stopped operation.

     South Baltimore today, especially in the vicinity of the Cross Street Market, has a severely reduced number of merchants, with the exception of food establishments and businesses that survive by dispensing alcohol.

     Community organizations have worked hard to prevent the takeover of business space by the liquor-oriented business, with little luck. The local business association has not seen a large influx of new businesses that are not liquor-related.

     South Baltimore residents no longer can walk to a selection of stores in search of clothes, sundries and the other necessities in life -- they must leave the area, either by car or bus.

     But, South Baltimore has a wide selection of food and liquor establishments...which, despite the claims of their owners, don't appear to bolster the business climate -- as the largest number of their customers come into South Baltimore at night -- when they do not shop in stores, insert coins in parking meters, etc.

     Aside from the "benefits" of public urination and intoxicated non-residents in the evening, the trend in new business appears to have little true benefit for the area.

     Perhaps community and business leaders in what was once the center of business activity in Baltimore should step back a bit -- and spend more time in planning and recruiting some type of business that provides a service for the residents.

     Thom LaCosta is a South Baltimore resident and Immediate Past President of the South Baltimore Improvement Committee.

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