The weeds, rot and decay overtook the 2600 block of Rosewood Ave., not far fromPimlico Race Course, long ago.
Days from now, wealth and energy will pour into this neighborhood for the Preakness, the state's largest sporting event.
Then, when the horse race is over, it will promptly leave.
Cheo D. Hurley stands here now, looking at a block of vacant rowhouses. He'll be here next week to welcome the bow-tied fans, and he'll be here when they depart. This block is the next step in his plan to remake one of Baltimore's long-struggling communities.
Soon, a developer working with Hurley's organization will invest $16 million here to build new affordable housing — and there are more ambitious plans nearby.Hurley, director of the nonprofit Park Heights Renaissance, has been charged by the city with revitalizing Park Heights, a once-thriving community that has lost population for decades.
More than 40 percent of working-age residents in southern Park Heights aren't working. More than half of the children in the predominantly black neighborhood live below the poverty line.
"These are 50-plus years worth of problems we're trying to tackle here," Hurley says. "Laws that have been in place that have allowed this to happen. Policing tactics that have allowed these things to happen. Education tactics that have allowed these things to happen.
"You're not going to turn it around overnight."
But there's growing pressure to do just that. The fates of the neighborhood and the horse track at its center are closely connected — and the Stronach Group, the Aurora, Ontario-based owner of Pimlico Race Course, has been open about its desire to shift resources away from the track that hosts the middle jewel of horse racing's Triple Crown to the track Stronach owns in Laurel.
The 147-year-old Pimlico Race Course first held the Preakness in 1873, and has hosted the race every year since 1909.
Tim Ritvo, chief operating officer of Stronach's racing division, says the company now runs 150 days of racing at Laurel Park, but just 12 in Baltimore, during the two weeks around the Preakness.
A race track that operated year-round could provide steady work for the people of Park Heights, Hurley says. The Preakness attracts more than 130,000 people, who spend tens of millions of dollars.
But that's not the direction in which the Stronach Group is moving.
"We're going to continue to invest heavily in Laurel," Ritvo says. "Laurel is a much better place to have a year-round facility."
State law requires the organizers of the Preakness to hold the race in Baltimore, unless there's an emergency. But Ritvo says crime and blight are keeping the track in Pimlico from greater success.
"We have more murders around Pimlico than a place like Laurel," he says. "We had a security guy, 22 years old, get shot in the parking lot. It's heartbreaking."Security guard Kevin Jones was fatally shot in June 2015.
"When we run the Preakness here," Ritvo says, "we try to get everybody out before it gets too dark."
He says Howard County has pushed for improvements around the Laurel track.
Howard officials have approved plans for a major transit-oriented development that can deliver race fans. He hasn't seen the same energy around Pimlico.
"The Kentucky Derby makes nine times what we make on the Preakness," he says.
"It's been invested in."
The Maryland Stadium Authority this year estimated the cost of the work needed to keep the Preakness at Pimlico at $250 million to $320 million. A study released by the authority in February included plans for renovations to the track's clubhouse and grandstand and a tree-lined pedestrian promenade.
The city's Park Heights Master Plan, meanwhile, proposes a commercial center attached to the race course.
City Councilman Isaac "Yitzy" Schleifer, who represents the area near Pimlico, says a race track renovation plus connected businesses could help spur economic growth in the neighborhood.
Schleifer says the Stronach Group is standing in the way of progress.
"If we found a partner to rebuild that facility, you would see private investment come in on every corner," he says. "These guys are holding Park Heights hostage."
Ritvo says Stronach is willing to shift resources and events back to Pimlico if it sees a large investment in the area from the city and state.America used to have nice things.
Baltimore used to have nice things.
Sadly, the laws protecting Americans from Africans in America and the type of community they create were all overturned, unleashing Africans in America to chip away at our ability to have nice things.
Baltimore no longer has nice things.
Soon, it won't have the Preakness, because intense levels of black violence are scaring away investment in the area and ensuring no return on investment exists for the owners of the race if they were to pour hundreds of millions into renovating the park.
Just as a black uprising/riots forced the Orioles to play an empty stadium baseball game in 2015 - because police couldn't guarantee the safety of white fans traveling from the suburbs into the city during the Freddie Gray "insurrection" - persistent levels of black crime around the Preakness will soon force the Preakness to abandon Baltimore.
The glories the venue once hosted will be nothing more than haunting memories for the Africans in America who live around the race track; where once, on a yearly basis, white people brought civilization back to an area long bereft of hope and capital, the sound of horses galloping will forever be silenced by the incessant sound of gunfire.