- Associated Press - Thursday, February 11, 2016

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) - Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan budgeted $18 million on Thursday to support a plan to address urban blight in Baltimore by demolishing thousands of vacant buildings over four years.

The Republican governor put the money in a supplemental budget submitted to the legislature for the next fiscal year. It is the first installment on a $75 million initiative. Hogan proposed the plan last month to help pave the way to revive impoverished, crime-ridden neighborhoods, but the absence of funding in Hogan’s budget proposal for the initiative last month left Democrats questioning how the plan would be funded.

“This historic multi-year partnership between the state and city to immediately begin the process of demolishing thousands of empty, decaying buildings throughout the city has the potential to deliver lasting change and will pave the way for private-sector investment,” Hogan said in a statement.

The program, known as Project C.O.R.E. for “Creating Opportunities for Renewal and Enterprise,” is a partnership between the state and the city. Baltimore will provide administrative services equivalent to $1 for every $4 allocated by the state, the Hogan administration said.

The program will be supported by more than $600 million in financing opportunities over the next four years from the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development to encourage private-sector developers to revitalize neighborhoods through housing and commercial investments, the administration said.

The first area planned for action includes 40 houses in the West Baltimore neighborhood where Freddie Gray grew up and was arrested. Gray was fatally injured in police custody last year, prompting civil unrest that highlighted the city’s urban decay. Planners have estimated that 20 blocks could be cleared in the first year. At that pace, 3,200 buildings could be torn down in four years.

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