Save Middle East Action Committee (Baltimore)

Save Middle East Action Committee (SMEAC) was created in 2001 by community stakeholders and representatives in Baltimore after the local newspaper announced that they would be forcibly dislocated from their homes for construction of a biotech park and new housing. The city government intended to use its power of eminent domain, which gives it the right to take an individual’s land for the betterment of the community. The redevelopment project targeted more than 20 blocks (about 90 acres) of homeowner, rental and business property in the Middle East neighborhood of East Baltimore, affecting more than 800 households.

A membership-based organization, SMEAC is governed by the low-income residents affected by this project. Its mission is to engage residents to participate in all aspects of decision making related to the redevelopment. The group’s strategy has been to organize residents, churches and businesses to assure communication about the relocation timeline, negotiate a fair benefits package and enable the community to speak with one voice. The result is that, by 2004, SMEAC had fundamentally changed the relocation policy that was initially presented to residents three years earlier.