Baltimore City Department of Planning e-News - May 2020

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Baltimore City Department of Planning eNewsletter  - May 2020

A Message from Chris Ryer, Director

Chris Ryer

This month, the Abell Foundation released a study by Alan Mallach, focusing on gentrification and disinvestment across Baltimore neighborhoods between 2000 and 2017.

According to the study, Baltimore lost both Black and White middle and working class families. This is a national phenomenon, but in Baltimore, the study noted that middle income neighborhoods are disappearing.

Compared to 2000, Baltimore's middle class is shrinking, while higher income and lower income populations are growing. White neighborhoods in Baltimore lost blue collar and middle income residents, but they have been replaced with millennials. Gentrification has occurred in some of these primarily white neighborhoods.

In 2000, there were 31 predominately Black middle class census tracts in Baltimore. By 2017, there were only 16. These neighborhoods have experienced declines in property values and homeownership rates over this time period. In these neighborhoods, Baltimore’s legacy of covenants, real estate segregation and federal redlining policies have led to disinvestment rather than gentrification.

In one small regional success story, about a third of relocating middle class Black households have moved since 2000 to the northeastern section of Baltimore, but almost two thirds of relocating black households have left the City for Anne Arundel and Baltimore counties. The Abell analysis links this movement to the dropping homeownership rate, noting that the City's homeownership rate dropped to below 50% for the first time since 1930.

Disinvestment is still a major challenge in Baltimore, and the City’s emerging Middle Neighborhood strategy may be the ticket to building Black household wealth. Please watch this space for more information on the implications of this research for public policy.

At Planning, our staff continues to work remotely, but they’re working. Our food policy team, supplemented with staff from Community Planning, Policy and Data Analysis, and the Office of Sustainability have been working 24/7 to stand up an emergency feeding (non-congregate!) program for the citizens of Baltimore while we have fully operationalized our permit system, our site plan and design review, and our three Commissions (Planning, CHAP and Sustainability). Please have patience with us during this pandemic but feel free to contact us! All of our work phones are forwarded to our cell phones – we are just a phone call or an e-mail away. And don’t forget to fill out your Census – you can even do it on the phone. 

Chris Ryer, Director

Census 2020: What's Happening

In April, we launched a new dashboard to track the City’s Census response rate by census tract. 

Currently, Baltimore City has a 48.5 percent self-response rate to the Census! However, Baltimore City is aiming for a 73-percent response rate so we still need to keep working to get the word out, especially in traditionally undercounted communities.

The dashboard is designed for exploring the response rate at the hyper-local level: you can use it to zoom in on your own census tract and the surrounding neighborhood to see how your community is performing, and how much more work is needed to get the word out.

Dog Ate Your Mailor

In May, we are encouraging all of you to reach out to your family and friends.

At Planning, we are coordinating a phone tree to remind Baltimore residents about the Census. You can join this effort from your own home by calling or texting 3 or 4 of your friends and neighbors.

  • Call and text your friends to ask if they've filled out the Census form yet.

  • Remind them that Baltimore depends on the Census each decade. For every person that is counted, the City can gain $18,000 -- money that goes towards funding critical programs such as emergency food, housing and more.
  • Tell them that the Census is fast and easy. It won't take more than 10 minutes!

Small Business Assistance Fund Now Open; Apply by May 15

The City of Baltimore Development Corporation - BDC is now taking applications for Small Business Assistance Fund grants. 

BDC will also oversee efforts to develop and implement designs to reconfigure public right of way and public spaces to maximize outdoor seating and other business needs to provide ways to create more social distancing in Main Streets, and Retail Business License Districts (RBDLs) and certain commercial districts. This $1.5 million initiative may include the use of parklets, public information graphics & signage, and design elements to encourage people to patronize local businesses in a manner consistent with public health best practices.

For more information on these programs, visit the #baltimoretogether website for more information and to apply. 

BDC info

INSPIRE Plans and Improvements Continue

There are two INSPIRE (Investing in Neighborhoods and Schools to Promote Improvement, Revitalization, and Excellence) school areas in the York Road Corridor: Govans Elementary and the Walter P. Carter Building. The INSPIRE program focuses on the neighborhoods immediately surrounding each of the modernized schools that are part of the 21st Century program, specifically the quarter-mile surrounding each school. 

In April, members of Planning's INSPIRE team and DOT met community leaders from the York Road Partnership, Loyola University and the community school coordinator from Govans Elementary for site visits in the area to plan for pedestrian safety improvements across the York Road Corridor.   

One potential project will improve the pedestrian connection between Govans Elementary and the Govans Library across York Road and Bellona Avenue. The other project under consideration is permanently closing the street between two green spaces that compose Woodbourne-McCabe Community Park.

German Park swing

There has also been major progress in German Park. Play and exercise equipment were installed in April, and new benches and trash cans are also due to arrive. And the park has new LED lighting.

The improvements at German Park are the result of the INSPIRE planning process around the Dorothy I. Height Elementary School (formerly John Eager Howard) community.

Community Plans Accepted by Planning Commission

Cherry Hill

The Cherry Hill Transformation Plan, spearheaded by the Cherry Hill Community Coalition, was accepted by the Planning Commission on April 16th.

With input from 62 stakeholders and over 300 attendees at four community meetings, the plan focused on a range of recommendations related to housing, the economy, transportation, the environment, and quality of life.  

This plan will guide the redevelopment of Cherry Hill during the next 20 years.

You may view the plan via this link.

Johnson Sq

The 2020 Johnston Square Vision Plan was accepted by Planning Commission in April!

It is a source of pride for the entire Johnston Square community and the culmination of seven years of organizing under the leadership of the BUILD organization.

Together with partners, the community spearheaded the renovation of a community park; rehabbed an entire block of vacant properties; and are now working on the construction of a 60-unit affordable apartment building.   

According to Regina Hammond, the President of ReBUILD Johnston Square and BUILD Leader, "The future is truly bright for the Johnston Square Community". Ms. Hammond notes, "If only I had known 30 years ago that in order to change my community, I needed to find leaders like myself, organize them, create a vision, and act. I am honored to have been able to be a part of this transformation!"

The Johnston Square Vision Plan can be viewed via this link.

50th Anniversary Earth Day Virtual Celebration a Hit!

BoS Screenshot

On April 22 and 23, the Office of Sustainability (BoS) held a virtual 50th anniversary Earth Day celebration by sharing photos and videos from partners around the city highlighting their sustainability, equity and community work.

Over two days, BoS published 40 posts on Facebook and Instagram, including a Lunchtime Live Q&A with Baltimore's Urban Farmers. Each day kicked off with a live meditation session. The lunchtime live, facilitated by BoS's Abby Cocke, featured Denzel Mitchell of Strength to Love Farm and the Farm Alliance, Eric Jackson of the Black Yield Institute, and Farmer Chippy of the Plantation Park Heights. The Live was a huge hit, reaching an estimated 2.8K people, with 400 active engagements!

In addition to the content our partners created, BoS staff contributed their own videos on at-home composting, cardboard mulching, seed starting, mushroom foraging, and plant-based recipes. Some other fan favorites? A Baltimore Beyond Plastic youth shared a video of her picking up trash in Patterson Park, and a youth from Tubman House showed us around their chicken coop and neighborhood operation!

In May, please join the Sustainability Commission for an online meeting via this link. The May meeting will focus on COVID, transportation, and how we connect to our neighbors. The Office of Sustainability will also talk about an update to the City's Forest Conservation Act. 

Emergency Food Response Updates: May 2020

Food Policy graphic

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Baltimore Food Policy Initiative has developed a Emergency Food System Strategy. 

The strategy includes meal distributions, food distributions, increasing federal nutrition benefits, supporting community partners, and building up local food system resilience. 

Over 1.4 million meals have been served citywide to older adults, children and youth, and the general food insecure public. Starting late May, residents on SNAP will be able to use their benefits to purchase food online, and soon households with children will receive more benefits through Pandemic-EBT. 

To find more food resources in your community, visit this webpage. You can also call 2-1-1 or for anyone 60 and over, call Maryland Access Point at 410-396-2273. 

Capital Improvement Program Updates

Once the Planning Commission has voted on its recommendations, the six-year Capital Improvement Program is reviewed by the Board of Finance and the Board of Estimates.

On March 25, the Board of Finance reviewed and approved the program recommended by the Planning Commission. Since that time, there have been several factors requiring changes to the capital budget, including reductions due to the COVID-19 pandemic and its effect on City revenues, the finalization of the State budget, and the completion of spending plans for casino local impact aid.

The updated recommendations are provided in the reports on this webpage.

CHAP Preservation Month


This month CHAP is celebrating Preservation Month! Look for info on preservation wins and ongoing initiatives on our social media accounts all month. A great way to celebrate this month is to help fund important historic and cultural projects and organizations. There are six grants open right now, including the Baltimore City Historic Preservation Fund. Apply now!

The image above is a site that received funding from the Baltimore City Historic Preservation Fund last year.

Enter Sustainability's Design-a- Bag Contest!

Bag Design

Voting is now open for our Design a Bag Contest! Earlier this year, the Baltimore City Office of Sustainability, Environment Maryland, and Blue Water Baltimore put out a call for reusable bag designs to support Baltimore's ban on plastic bags. We received so many great entries, so now we need your help picking the winner! The winning design will be printed on reusable bags to be distributed around the city. Vote by "liking" the images of your favorite designs here.

You can vote for more than one! Voting will close on Monday, June 1, 2020.

Upcoming Commission Meetings & Events.

5/12/20 - Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation (CHAP)

Since 1964, CHAP has enhanced and promoted the culture and economy of Baltimore through the preservation of buildings, sites and neighborhoods. CHAP meets on the second Tuesday of each month.

In April, CHAP approved holding future commission meetings virtually. The May 12, 2020 meeting, agenda found here, will meet via WebEx as instructed below:

5/20/20 - Sustainability Commission 

The Commission on Sustainability is a 21-member body, overseeing the implementation of the Baltimore Sustainability Plan.

Meetings are held monthly and open to the public. The May meeting will be on 5/20/20 from 4-6 PM. The discussion will focus on Sustainability and COVID including some of the shifting nature of  transportation and how we connect to our neighbors. The Office of Sustainability will talk about an update to the City's Forest Conservation Act. All are welcome! 

Meeting agenda and materials can be found via this link.

The Webex meeting may be accessed via this link.

5/21/20 - UDAAP

The Urban Design and Architecture Advisory Panel’s role is to provide the Planning Commission and the Department of Planning design review expertise in the areas of urban design, architecture, and landscape design.

The agenda and access information can be found here.

For May, meetings will be held via Webex.

5/28/20  - Planning Commission

The Planning Commission is responsible for maintaining land use plans for the City and reviewing all amendments to the Zoning Ordinance. The Planning Commission meets on Thursdays throughout the year.

In May, the Commission will meet virtually. We will post links to stream the meeting closer to the date.

The schedule, agenda and staff reports are available on this website.

city of baltimore

Baltimore City Planning

417 E. Fayette Street, 8th Floor

Baltimore, Maryland 21202


department of planning

Chris Ryer, Director