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The Nose

Peabody Fights

Posted 9/5/2001

CHARLES VILLAGE is a relatively quiet and peaceful place. You have the odd rowdy student party, the occasional barking dog or stuck car alarm or police helicopter. Typical stuff. But when it comes to civic activism, well, the Nose has seen things get pretty boisterous in this neck of the woods.

Within the boundaries of the Charles Village Community Benefits District (CVCBD) are a number of, er, sub-Chuck neighborhood orgs--a veritable alphabet soup of acronyms. There's the Abell Improvement Association (AIA), the Harwood 26ers Community Association (H26CA), and the South Charles Village Association (SCVA). There's also a Charles Village Civic Association (CVCA) and a Charles Village Community Foundation (CVCF). And formally incorporating just this past June was the Peabody Heights Resident Homeowners Alliance (PHRHA), a consortium of what resident members call "the historic heart of Charles Village." Riddell Noble of PHRHA's steering committee jokingly tells the Nose that his group reached back to the 'hood's original name of Peabody Heights so as to not have yet another organization with "Charles Village" in the name.

Anything but a joke to Noble and his group, however, is the Charles/25th Streets Urban Renewal plan introduced in the City Council in June, which lays out permitted land uses and mechanisms for city and community review of new construction or exterior-rehabilitation plans. We don't have enough space to present the PHRHA's full litany of problems with the proposal, but its biggest beef is with its boundaries--specifically the northern boundary, 27th Street.

"We knew [the plan] was in the works, but we assumed it was for South Charles Village," Noble says. "We thought it was for under 25th Street. At some unknown meeting, the boundaries were changed and the community not notified."

Noble, who lives on the 2700 block of St. Paul Street (and just outside of the proposed plan), says his small piece of the neighborhood is doing fine, thank you very much. Home sales are brisk, with bidding wars not unusual--circumstances he says could change if the blocks are associated with the perceived stigma of "urban renewal." "We're afraid that being known as an urban-renewal area will have a detrimental effect on the sale of property," he says. Noble contends 25th is a more fitting border; Charles Village "changes drastically" there, he says, with the blocks to the north much more residential than those below.

Dan Klocke, executive director of the CVCBD, the driving force behind the proposal, maintains the plan is "something that can protect growing investment" and can "give confidence to property owners." 27th Street was chosen as the plan's northern boundary because it's a more accurate demarcation line between the neighborhood's mixed-use and primarily residential sides, he says, and the decision was no secret.

"I can tell you that 14 different fliers and notices went out asking people to get involved" with the plan, Klocke says, and the measure has been reported upon in the press and community newsletters. "This was not a secret or quiet enterprise." Both SCVA and CVCA have voted to support the plan, he adds, once it gets a few "friendly amendments."

Noble's group has its own amendment: to bump the plan's northern border south to an alley known as 251/2 Street. "Our contention is that urban renewal as a concept is unsuitable and unwarranted for this largely residential area north of 25th Street, which is on the upswing," the amendment reads.

The proposed plan goes before the city Planning Commission for a public hearing Sept. 13. You can bet that Chuck Village's various factions will be out for that one. And as the Nose sees it, this sort of earnest civic involvement is generally a good thing. It means people care. That said, we hope the various battling interests can broker an agreement, lest the blocks between 25th and 27th streets feel compelled to form, say, the North South Charles Village Association (NSCVA). We're already bleary-eyed from all these acronyms, and our Rolodex is bulging enough as it is.

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