Avoiding the ‘SoHo Effect’ in Baltimore: Neighborhood Revitalization and Arts and Entertainment Districts


This article investigates how state-sponsored ‘arts and cultural districts’ and ‘creative placemaking’ revitalization strategies affect urban neighborhoods, using the Station North Arts & Entertainment (A&E) District in Baltimore, Maryland (USA) as a case study. Through ethnographic participatory methods and 39 qualitative interviews, we studied the activities and attitudes of various stakeholders within Station North. Since its designation as an arts and entertainment district in 2002, a number of public–private partnerships have helped increase home values in Station North, suggesting that the ‘branding’ of Station North has been successful. While the institutions involved in the district, including community development corporations and local universities, are careful to insist that they do not want to displace low-income residents, many interviewees expressed concerns that these institutions exert influence outweighing that of longtime residents. While a certain level of gentrification has occurred with the arrival of new residents, we argue that the people who are most likely to be displaced from the arts and entertainment district in the future are, paradoxically, artists, especially those who wish to buy homes and settle in the district. After discussing the case of Station North, we consider broader implications of the use of arts for urban revitalization.