A Beautiful Block of Cote Brilliante, Devastated by Land Speculation

Update: I went back and visited the block in April of 2019; the house above is gone. I also went back in November of 2020 and in the summer of 2021.

A friend introduced me to a fascinating block of houses whose construction, unlike much of the city, spanned at least four decades. It is the 4700 block of Cote Brilliante, in what is sometimes called the Kingsway East neighborhood. I have lumped it in for simplicity’s sake with Wells-Goodfellow. The one of the oldest houses I could find on the street is this well-preserved Second Empire house above, from 1872. The nice little Italianate wood frame house probably from the same time period

We were particularly interested in this wood frame house below from 1885; it seems to have received a later Arts and Crafts renovation. It now sits empty.

Update: The house above has been demolished.

Later on, at the turn of the Twentieth Century, the houses became grander, befitting the rising fortunes of this portion of the city, as illustrated by this house from 1900.

This house, now in increasingly bad condition, is from 1888.

Update: Urban Assets was revealed to be Steve Roberts in 2015, as we long suspected. The house above has been demolished.

Below, this two family flat is from 1909. So it raises the question: who owns all of these abandoned houses? Well, the mysterious Urban Assets owns many of them, as it does throughout this part of the city. Who owns Urban Assets, as well as other shell companies with equally oblique names? We can’t tell, and they’re not talking. All we do know is that someone, and the owners of Urban Assets are just one of many, is buying up property speculatively throughout the West End, ironically assuring these neighborhoods fail because the houses cannot be bought and rehabbed by owner/occupants. I know many people blame the inhabitants of these neighborhoods (usually barely veiled racism), but when outsiders–someone from Hyattsville, Maryland owns a vacant house on this block–hold on to these houses for years, even decades, waiting to get a payoff for their “investment” what chance do these neighborhoods have?

I am sure I will get some comment from some capitalist apologist saying this is just the way the free market works, and if there are victims, so be it. What a sad and pathetic response to what is happening to our cities.

Update: The apartment building above has been demolished.

Here is the Sanborn map for this street; it is well preserved, but unless the houses are wrested from the control of speculators, it won’t be for long.

3 Comments Add yours

  1. There is one way to prevent land speculators from allowing property in the city to deteriorate like this. Make sure every property tax note is paid, and fine the owners for every single code violation. Either the buildings are kept up to code, or the LRA takes the building and gives it to individual rehabbers. Do the same to all the McKee owned buildings too.

    1. Chris Naffziger says:

      I agree, I never understand why the politicians in this city are so careful to protect out of state landowners. Do our politicians just have such low self-esteem? It’s not even like they’re securing votes to keep their jobs by protecting people who don’t even live (or vote) in this city. Perhaps the people who do vote need to start making them pay attention.

    2. JD says:

      Baltimore did something like that for awhile, even selling to individual rehabbers for $1 – with conditions about restoration and occupancy for x years. It brought some neighborhoods back from the edge. Difference? Schaeffer and Kurt Schmoke vs. the anti-urban, anti-city, anti-African American neighborhoods, pro-profiteering Slay.

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