Sept. Compass - eNews from Baltimore Planning

Compass Logo over Image of Casino Construction behind
The Compass is a monthly eNewsletter of the Baltimore City Department of Planning.

September, 2013

A Message from the Director…

In this month's edition of The Compass, I am pleased to  share positive planning and investment opportunities resulting from slots revenue and casino impact funds for the City of Baltimore.

On September 21st, we will be kicking off a Casino Area Master Plan in South Baltimore to begin to craft a vision for the neighborhoods surrounding the future Horseshoe Casino on Russell Street.

At the same time, progress continues to be made in Northwest Baltimore, thanks to proposed investments resulting from the Video Lottery Terminal (VLT) impact funds established by the state in 2007.

At a time when local revenues are scarce, these impact funds will allow significant investments in the quality of life of Baltimore's neighborhoods. 

The Department of Planning looks forward to your ongoing interest, input and participation as we continue to craft new visions for these neighborhoods, and then implement achievable strategies for a brighter future for all.


Thomas J. Stosur, Director


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CIP Spotlight:

National Aquarium of Baltimore - Black Tip Reef Exhibit

Photo of Sharks in Black Tip Reef Exhibit

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.  So each month The Compass will highlight a project from the City’s Capital Improvement Program (CIP).  This month’s featured project is the Blacktip Reef, the newest exhibit of the National Aquarium.

Reef Exhibit while under construction

On August 8, 2013, the National Aquarium, held the grand opening for Blacktip Reef.  The $12.5 million project not only refreshed the visitor experience, but the infrastructure of the building itself.

Blacktip Reef, a 13,500 square foot dynamic re-creation of an Indo-Pacific coral reef had a failing waterproof coating system, resulting in seeping of salt water into concrete and the subsequent rusting and expanding of the rebar supporting the concrete. In addition, the concrete within the tank and underneath the tank in the pump room was expanding, cracking, and breaking off.  These major structural failures needed to be rectified or 260,000 gallons of water would have flooded the pump room.

Image of tank construction

The renovations addressed the critical infrastructure work that included replacing the plumbing, filters, life support systems, wiring and controls, and concrete repair.  Approximately 25% of the projects costs went to renovate spaces the visitors will never see, including doubling the pump room responsible for the life support system for the Blacktip Reef and several other large exhibits, resulting in significantly improved water quality capabilities for handling over 800,000 gallon of water.   

Total Construction Cost: $12.6 million.

Baltimore City CIP: FY13 General Obligation Bonds (G.O. Bonds), $500,000.  Remaining funds came from State and private investment.

What are General Obligation Bond Funds?

These funds the city borrows for specific improvements by selling general obligation 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 Bond funds can be used for the improvements that were specified prior to obtaining approval; they cannot be shifted from one program to another. 

New Casino = A Master Plan for South Baltimore

The Horseshoe Casino, currently under construction on Russell Street in South Baltimore will soon be in operation. Based on the state enabling legislation, ((2012 Special Session 2, SB 1), the City of Baltimore will receive “Local Impact Funds” derived from the future revenues of Casino operations. These funds are to be used for improvements in the neighborhoods surrounding the Casino (As shown on the map below).

The City of Baltimore is projected to receive up to  $15-20 million per year in impact funds for South Baltimore. The law mandates that “prior to any expenditure of local impact grant funds a county or municipality shall develop, in consultation with the local development council, a multiyear plan for the expenditure of the local impact grant funds for services and improvements."

Map of Casino Master Plan Area

Above : Casino Master Plan Area - The pink dot represents the approximate location of the new casino.

The potential of this annual funding represents a tremendous opportunity for improving the quality of life for residents in these South Baltimore neighborhoods.  Funds may be spent for a wide array of purposes—public safety, parks, housing, jobs, transportation, infrastructure, public health, etc. 

In order to create a collective vision for the future of South Baltimore, and to identify the key priorities for improving the area, the Department of Planning is launching a comprehensive Master Planning initiative for all of the communities in the local impact area.

Built on the recommendations and strength of existing planning initiatives (Middle Branch Master Plan of 2007, Middle Branch Transportation Plan of 2011 and various smaller plans), the proposed Master Plan will capitalize on the many assets of the planning area. Planning staff envisions that the plan will revolve around three main themes: a bold environmental agenda; job training and economic development; and the creation and enhancement of healthy, livable communities.

The Local Development Council (LDC), along with the Planning Department, will serve as a steering committee for the master planning process.

The Local Development Council (LDC) is established by State law to review the spending plan.  The LDC is chaired by Senator Ferguson and members are appointed by the Mayor in consultation with the 46th district.  Delegate Clippinger and Councilman Reisinger serve on the LDC as well as community representatives.

Image of the Casino under construction and taking shape

In addition to the LDC, we want to hear YOUR concerns, issues and ideas so they may be incorporated into the plan, and prioritized for implementation as part of the multi-year spending plan for the Local Impact Funds, due in the Fall of 2014.

Please join us for the first Casino Area Master Plan public meeting to be held on:

     Saturday, September 21st

     9:00 AM to 12:30 PM

     Digital Harbor High School, 1100 Covington St.


In Related News:

Local Impact Aid Assisting Pimlico Area Neighborhoods

In 2007, the State legislature passed the Maryland Education Trust Fund – Video Lottery Terminals legislation (2007 SB 3), which provided slots revenue funding to the City of Baltimore over a period of 15 years beginning in Fiscal Year 2012 and ending in Fiscal Year 2027 to support community and economic development in the Pimlico area.  In 2012, the legislation was amended to extend the Pimlico area slots revenue funding from 15 years to 20 years.

Of the funds that are earmarked for the Pimlico area, at least 75% must be allocated for the Park Heights Master Plan area and up to 25% for census block groups within 1 mile of the track, excluding the Park Heights Master Plan area. 

One of the key components of the Park Heights Master Plan is redevelopment of the Major Redevelopment Area of Central Park Heights.  The FY 2013-14 Spending Plan provides $2.7 million for pre-development activities within the area and $1.1 million for development of a large park.  Click here to view the multi-year spending plan for Fiscal Years 13-14. 

TransForm Update:

TransForm Hearing Scheduled

The Planning Commission will hear amendments to CCB #12-0152, at its regularly scheduled hearing at 2 pm on Thursday September 19, 2013, based on the additional study requested at the March 2013 hearing and conducted over the summer.  The items to be reviewed are summarized here.  Through the same link, you will also be able to review the recommendations of other City agencies, including the Law Department.

The Planning Commission hearing will begin at 2:00 p.m. on Thursday, September 19th, at 417 East Fayette Street, 8th Floor. Please note that the security procedures in the Benton Building require that you bring photo-identification with you.

If you require special accommodations to attend or participate in the Planning Commission hearing, please provide information about your requirements at least five business days in advance of this event.  The building and hearing room are wheelchair accessible.

If you have any questions, please email Laurie Feinberg or call 410-396-1275.  Again for more information go to

All proposed amendments are posted here.

Reef under Construction

Pictured Above: National Aquarium's new Black Tip Reef exhibit being constructed. Pictured Below: Aquarium visitors enjoy the new Black Tip Reef Exhibit.

image of visitors enjoying the black tip reef exhibit