Baltimore hopes large-scale demolition paves way for rebuilding

BALTIMORE --The city of Baltimore worked to tear down thousands of homes on Monday in an effort to lift itself out of decades of urban decay. The city and state are paying millions for demolition in the hope that, one day, developers will see vacant lots as a land of opportunity.

CBS News took a look at a program that is changing Baltimore's landscape.

The sight of abandoned buildings being demolished looks pretty good from where Carol Ott stands.

"It's just incredible to see this," Ott said. "Large-scale demolition, I have never seen it before."

She's been fighting seven years for this. We first met her in 2013 taking pictures of Baltimore's 16,000 abandoned buildings and posting them online to publicly shame owners.

Two blocks in the heart of west Baltimore's Sandtown-Winchester neighborhood are the first to go. But Ott worries about the people who live here.

"I want their voices to be the ones heard," she said. "It hasn't happened in the last 40 years."

Will removing Baltimore's abandoned buildings solve anything?

Forty-five-year old Ray Kelly has lived there all his life.

"We keep saying it's progress, but nobody is asking where are we putting the people who used to live in this community?"

Twenty percent of the people there are unemployed, and a third live in poverty. The neighborhood is also where Freddie Gray lived. After his death while in police custody, rioting and looting further destroyed it.

"This wasn't a five-year crime spree that started this right here," Kelly said. "This was 30 to 40 years of just saying 'To hell with this community.'"

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake says the demolition will cost $94 million. The plan is to build new town homes and green spaces.

"When you see a blighted building, see blocks of of numerous vacant homes in a row, what that suggests is neglect. What that suggests is a city that is going in the wrong direction," said Rawlings-Blake.

But Kelly is more concerned about the people than the buildings. "This moves them out. This is not solving the problem, this is moving the problem."

Which could be a sign that rebuilding trust may still be Baltimore's biggest challenge.