By Paul Gessler

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — ReBUILD Metro is approaching 200 vacant home rehabs in the Broadway East/Oliver neighborhood of East Baltimore.

“It takes a village to build a house,” said Sharon Grinnell, ReBUILD Metro’s manager of construction development. “We’re coming in understanding there are significant structural issues we have to address before we can make it look pretty.”

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Grinnell showed WJZ a stretch of the 1700 block of East Biddle Street that ReBUILD Metro is rehabbing. It’s the latest block in the cluster of East Baltimore to turn vacant buildings into new homes.

“The idea is to rebalance the city by not rebuilding exactly what was there, but rebuilding what works and using the rest of the space to create really awesome neighborhood amenities,” ReBUILD Metro President Sean Closkey said.

Closkey points to Johns Hopkins Hospital, an anchor in East Baltimore, as the point from which ReBUILD Metro works.

“We build from the strengths in the community, not the other way around,” Closkey said. “These houses have been abandoned for 20 or 30 years, and you’re literally rebuilding them.”

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ReBUILD Metro recently helped designate $50 million from Baltimore City in American Rescue Plan Act funds to be used for vacant housing. It expects to receive a portion of that.

Each of the homes along 1700 East Biddle costs about $285,000 to rehabilitate, Closkey said.

Rehab projects like ReBUILD Metro’s efforts are just one of the ways the city is hoping to tackle Baltimore’s vacant property problem.

Regina Hammond, a Johnston Square resident and community leader, used to live next to a vacant home.

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“It just made me crazy because of the activities that occur when you have a vacant next to your property,” Hammond said. “You don’t want to walk out your door and see a boarded up property. You want to see a vibrant neighborhood when you walk through it.”

Paul Gessler