August Compass - eNews from the Baltimore Planning Department

Compass Logo with Charles Village Rowhomes
The Compass is a monthly eNewsletter of the Baltimore City Department of Planning.

August, 2013

A Message from the Director…

Welcome to the August 2013 edition of the monthly e-newsletter of the City of Baltimore Department of Planning.  This month we are focusing on the growth of the City of Baltimore Historic Rehabilitation and Restoration Tax Credit Program, and it's positive impact on the stabilization and revitalization of City Neighborhoods. 

Baltimore’s history has shaped, and been shaped by, its unique built environment, with its historic structures and neighborhoods adding value and character to the City. 

Historic preservation, therefore, is a vital tool in our effortto attract 10,000 new families and retain families that currently live in our unique City neighborhoods.

The Historic Rehabilitation and Restoration Tax Credit helps leverage private investment on a variety of scales, and its benefits are felt throughout the City -- by preserving, maintaining and revitalizing neighborhoods.

I am pleased to share with you our most recent progress in reinvestment through historic rehabilitation and restoration. 


Thomas J. Stosur, Director


Photo of Architectural Details on AME Church

Pictured Above: Architectural details adorning Trinity A.M.E. Church Pictured Below: Trinity A.M.E. Church, which is in the process of becoming our newest Baltimore City Landmark.

Image of AME Trinity Lutheran Church

Nominations now open for MD Smart Growth Awards

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The 2014 Maryland Sustainable Growth Awards celebrate significant achievement by individuals, businesses, organizations, and local governments to realize sustainable goals, exemplified by the planning visions adopted by the MD General Assembly. 

The Awards promote work that represents or inspires collaboration, innovation, conservation, community impact, and improved  quality of life.

You can nominate someone for the award using the award materials available from the Sustainable Growth Commission website by the end of August.

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Capital Improvement Program, or CIP 101

What are General Obligation Bonds?

The City borrows money for specific capital improvements by selling general obligations bonds.  Prior to selling the bonds, approval must be obtained from the City’s delegation to the State legislature, The Board of Estimates, the City Council, and the voters of Baltimore City. 

General Obligation Bonds can be used for the improvements that specified prior to obtaining approval; they cannot be shifted from one program to another.

What are General Funds?

This fund is used to account for taxes and other revenues, which are not set aside by law for a special purpose in separate funds.  The fund finances daily operations of general programs and activities.  Each year, a specified amount is transferred to the capital budget to finance capital projects from current revenues.

A Banner Year for Baltimore Historic Tax Credit Investments

Despite ongoing fluctuations in the real estate market, the Baltimore City Historic Rehabilitation and Restoration Tax Credit Program continues to grow -- promoting high quality rehabilitation work throughout Baltimore’s Historic Neighborhoods. The program has experienced an increase in applications over the past two years and has seen more completed projects in a wide variety of historic districts. In fact, the number of applications has nearly doubled year to year, over the last three years.

In addition, new district designations such as the National Register designation of the Locust Point Historic District, and an increase in Commission for Historic and Architectural Preservation (CHAP)  designations of Baltimore City Landmarks, have made the tax credit available to a growing number of properties.

Before & After Image of Biddle Street Rehab

Pictured Above Left: Vacant E. Biddle Street Property BEFORE rehabilitation. Pictured Above Right: The same E. Biddle Street Property AFTER rehabilitation using the Historic Rehabilitation and Restoration Tax Credit.

Since the start of 2013, CHAP has approved 220 new projects in 29 historic districts, including Butcher’s Hill, Old East Baltimore, Ednor Gardens, Pigtown, Ten Hills, Union Square, and Sharp-Leadenhall.

This is a dramatic increase from 2011, when 127 applications had been approved, and an increase from 2012 when 205 applications were approved. The majority of the 2013 projects are single-family residential rehabilitations; however, there are a growing number of multi-family and commercial applications, including the Baltimore City Landmarks, the Haven Street Factory in East Baltimore (pending)and the Associated Black Charities Building in Mount Vernon.

Closeup of Window & Door Before & After Rehabilitation

Pictured Above: A closeup of the rehabilitation work done to a vacant property on the 1500 Block of E. Biddle.

The credit continues to be a successful tool in revitalizing vacant properties, with the majority of applications noting that the property is listed as vacant. Many applicants are taking advantage of other City initiatives along with the tax credit. This year, there were 19 applications for properties purchased from the City of Baltimore and 9 purchased through the Vacants-to-Values program.

Pictured Right: A series of Rowhomes on Violet Avenue BEFORE being rehabbed.


Before picture of Violet Ave property
Image of Violet Ave Row Homes After Renovation

Pictured Left: Violet Avenue Rowhomes AFTER being rehabbed using the City of Baltimore Historic Rehabilitation and Restoration Tax Credit.

The number of completed projects that have been certified for the tax credit are also high. There were 155 projects certified for the tax credit since January, leveraging $24,869,486 in investment in historic buildings and neighborhoods. With this investment, it brings the program total to $589,146,570 since the tax credit was first offered in 1996.

Most of the completed projects are residential rehabs. A significant concentration of tax credit activity occurs within the historic districts of East Baltimore, including  Broadway East/South Clifton Park, Canton, Butcher’s Hill, Patterson Park/Highlandtown, Fell’s Point, Upper Fell’s Point,  Washington Hill, East Monument and Old East Baltimore.

In the Broadway East/South Clifton Park and East Monument neighborhoods, the rehabilitation work is primarily on vacant properties, completed by groups like TRF, Come Home Baltimore, and Habitat for Humanity of the Chesapeake.  These groups have generated a combined investment of $5,648,891, in 33 properties completed so far in 2013.

The Baltimore City Historic Rehabilitation and Restoration Tax Credit Program is an important revitalization tool throughout Baltimore City. As the calculation and application of the Historic Tax Credit has moved from the State Department of Assessment and Taxation to the City’s Department of Finance, CHAP has worked with both agencies to provide accurate data about the projects it has certified. Although this transition has come with some challenges for the City and residents alike, some of the upcoming initiatives will provide an opportunity to address these challenges in a meaningful way.

With so much activity thus far, CHAP looks forward to what the rest of 2013 will bring. We are excited about several upcoming initiatives:

1)      The upcoming renewal effort for the Baltimore City Historic Rehabilitation and Restoration Tax Credit legislation which currently sunsets in February of 2014

2)      The release of an online tax credit application, thanks to the hard work of our partners in the Department of Finance

3)      The designation of new historic districts and landmarks, including the proposed Brewer’s Hill National Register Historic District

If you are interested in learning more about any aspect of the Baltimore City Historic Rehabilitation and Restoration Tax Credit Program, please contact the program administrator, Stacy Montgomery at


CIP Spotlight

The Baltimore City Charter requires that the Planning Commission annually prepare a six-year Capital Improvement Program (CIP).  The first year of each six-year program becomes the capital budget for the upcoming fiscal year and is the basis for the capital component of the Ordinance of Estimates, which is adopted by City Council.

The CIP is a very important role of the Planning Department, and the projects have the potential to transform communities.  Each month The Compass highlights a project from the CIP.  This month’s featured project is the Baltimore City Convention Center’s Roof.

Picture of the Convention Center's Green Roof

In August 2010, the Baltimore Convention Center’s Outdoor Terrace officially became the Green Roof.

The completed outdoor roof terrace renovations covered 27,497 square feet (SF), of  12,245 SF consists of vegetative roofing and 15,252 SF of hardscape roofing.   This included replacement of the existing 1978 terrace roofing membrane system and roof drains, while removing all existing architectural features of the terrace roof .

 The renovations included installation of a new terrace walkway paver system, new irrigation systems, a new aluminum space frame canopy structure with a green roof feature at the east end of the terrace, concrete benches, trash containers, lighting and electrical upgrades.   The unique design of functional space has aesthetic appeal to promote greater patron use, and has multiple sustainable features, including a vegetative system that captures rainwater and improvements that have reduced energy use.   The Baltimore Convention Center’s Outdoor Terrace/Green Roof Renovations were completed in July of 2011.

Total Construction Cost:   $ 2.384 million.

    Baltimore City CIP:  General Obligation (G.O.) Bonds, $ 1.8 million.

    General Funds: $ 200,000.

    The remaining $ 384,000 comes from Other Funds sources.