The Compass - eNews from Baltimore Planning

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A monthly eNewsletter from the Baltimore City Department of Planning

May 2016

A Message from the Director…

A year ago, Baltimore City experienced a period of civil unrest following the death of Freddie Gray. In response, the Planning Department reaffirmed its commitment to work with non-profit and community partners to build neighborhood capacity and work towards a healthy and sustainable Baltimore.

In the year since, the Equity in Planning Committee was formed with a focus on making equity a priority across Departmental work, by educating staff and creating new tools to integrate equity in the development and planning process. 

The Equity in Planning Committee's work culminated this past April in a panel discussion on economic issues in Baltimore. This issue of The Compass covers the highlights of this discussion.

In the year ahead, the Equity Committee plans to continue this important conversation, organizing additional lunch time discussion sessions around equity in planning issues. The committee is also working to generate ideas to better integrate equity into existing Planning initiatives, including the update of the Sustainability Plan currently underway. 

Community engagement in City initiatives is critical for advancing the conversation about equitable development in Baltimore. We always encourage community members to participate by coming out to community meetings, but we know not everyone has the time or ability to do that.  As we move forward with our priority initiatives like the Sustainability Plan update, INSPIRE neighborhood plans and the Green Network Plan, we will strive to provide a range of options for citizens to express their input.  We welcome your suggestions on the input and communication methods that would work best for you, your neighbors and your colleagues.

Thomas J. Stosur, Director 

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Upcoming Meetings

  • Urban Design & Architecture Review Panel (UDARP): May 26 
  • Planning Commission: June 2

Meetings are held in the Front Boardroom of the Department of Planning, 8th floor of the Benton Municipal building, 417 East Fayette Street. 

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Planning Department Equity Committee Addresses Local Economic Development


The Department of Planning Equity Committee presented a panel discussion, Building an Equitable Economy, on Wednesday, April 20, in the Department of Planning offices to an audience of varying City agency employees, non-profits, and foundation partners.

Moderated by John Lewis, Sr. Vice President of Harbor Bank, the panel included community members at the forefront of economic development in Baltimore: Rodney Foxworth, Invested Impact; Parag Rajendra Khandhar, Baltimore Activating Solidarity Economies (BASE); Kurt Sommer, Baltimore Integration Partnership; and Chris Wilson, a social entrepreneur.

Lewis framed the discussion by asking the following questions:

  • What does equity in the economy mean to you, and what specific work is your organization doing to achieve equity?
  • What is the genesis of the increased interest in economic inequality? What is the impact of anchor institutions?
  • Is the push for entrepreneurship and innovation the new “pull yourself up by the bootstraps”? How can we support entrepreneurs so they have a better chance at being successful?
  • What efforts are being made to ensure that financing is available to meet the needs of small businesses and start-ups?

The core of the discussion focused on the obstacles to economic development in Baltimore City. Panelists discussed the need to connect residents with prior convictions to job opportunities, and a citywide need to provide resources to entrepreneurs, particularly in the areas of access to credit and grant funds. They also discussed the idea of a low-tech incubator for Baltimore, targeting entrepreneurs based in underserved communities across Baltimore.

Panelists noted a need for a coordinated, city-wide economic strategy to address historic economic inequity. An audience member suggested the creation of a City initiative focused on financial inclusion, including issues around access to credit.

Panelists stressed the importance of empowering the citizens of Baltimore. Succinctly stated early in the panel, the development of citywide economic strategies and goals should be shaped by the people who live in Baltimore.

The Planning Department's Equity Committee will continue its work in 2016, organizing another series of lunch discussions around development topics this summer.

Baltimore Joins MetroLab

On May 3, Baltimore City joined the national MetroLab Network, a network of 35 city-university partnerships focused on bringing data, analytics, and innovation to local government. MetroLab Network was launched in September 2015 at the White House as part of the Obama Administration’s Smart Cities Initiative.     

MetroLab Network’s city-university partnerships are relationships in which the university serves as a research and development arm, and the city serves as a test-bed for technologies and policies. Baltimore City will be working with the University of Baltimore and Johns Hopkins University on six different projects across City Agencies, including a project to build an Inventory of Historical Places (IHP) for the Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation (CHAP).

For more information on MetroLab Network, visit:

New Analysis of Baltimore's Development Review Process Released

The Baltimore Neighborhood Indicators Alliance (BNIA) at the Jacob France Institute (JFI) commissioned a report from a team of graduate students at Georgetown University’s McCourt School of Public Policy.  The McCourt team conducted an analysis of the BNIA Baltimore Pipeline database to assess the efficiency of the development review process in Baltimore.

The study found that 65% of projects had a total review time of less than 7 months, and 50% of projects took less than 3 months.  On the whole, Baltimore's development review process compared favorably to other cities. 

The study,  entitled “Real Estate Planning in Baltimore: An Analysis of Timelines and Factors Affecting the Development Review Process,”  can be reviewed here.