The Compass - Planning Department Year in Review

Compass Logo over photo of rowhomes

An Annual Report of the City of Baltimore Department of Planning

Image of Thomas J. Stosur

A Message from the Director

Happy New Year to all subscribers of the Baltimore City Planning Department’s Compass Newsletter and a special welcome to new subscribers, and those seeing our newsletter for the first time.  I hope all of you will become Compass regulars! 

This special edition features highlights from the year just closed.  In terms of planning and development, you’ll see that 2013 was a very busy one for us, due in part to the welcome return of a robust development market for multi-family housing in many spots around the City.  We are truly on the path of progress towards meeting the Mayor’s goal of adding 10,000 new households to the city, while we continue the important work of improving the quality of life for all of our existing residents. 

We’ve also achieved further milestones with the TransForm Baltimore zoning re-write legislation, with the completion of the Planning Commission recommendations on the legislation, as well as the initial City Council hearing process.  Planning has also launched a new master plan effort for a wide swath of South Baltimore.  Implementation will be driven by Local Impact Aid from the new Horseshoe Casino operations (scheduled to open Fall 2014) for decades to come.

I hope you enjoy this “year in review”, and we look forward to your involvement in helping the Department achieve even more in the coming year.


Thomas J. Stosur


The Land Use and Urban Design Division (LUUD) serves as the staff for the Planning Commission and the Urban Design and Architectural Review Panel. In addition, the Division reviews all major construction and renovation projects to ensure that they meet high development standards and are appropriate to their surroundings.  The following is a review of some of the major projects they reviewed and added design value to in 2013.

Horseshoe Casino

The Baltimore Horseshoe Casino is currently under construction on Russell Street, including its 4,000 space parking garage on Warner Street.  The Department of Planning assisted this project through an extensive design review process.   The Site Plan Review Committee reviewed the site layout to ensure safety and efficiency of traffic movement and special Site considerations given its location within the Chesapeake Bay Critical Area.

Drawing of Future Casino Building

The Urban Design and Architecture Review Panel (UDARP) also worked with the development team to create what will become a dynamic gateway building for visitors arriving in Baltimore from I-295.   The project was ultimately presented to the Planning Commission for its review and final design approval. 

Overhead Site Plan for 25th St. Station

25th Street Station PUD

The 25th Street Station project is a mixed-use Planned Unit Development (PUD) with a variety of proposed residential and commercial development, including a Walmart, mid-sized retailers, and smaller, neighborhood commercial spaces.  The Department of Planning assisted this project through site plan review, several architectural reviews, and extensive community outreach and participation.  Charged with creating a more urban experience with a more traditional retail format, the development team worked with the Department of Planning and UDARP to create a site plan that reflected the site’s urban context.  As a result, a better overall project design was achieved. 

Image of future harbor point development

Harbor Point PUD Phase I – Exelon, Central Plaza, Parking & Related Roads

In 2013, the previous Planned Unit Development (PUD) for Harbor Point was repealed and a new PUD and corresponding development plan was approved.  The new PUD increases the maximum build-out of the site to 3.02 million square feet, and is based on a master plan that underwent extensive design and technical reviews.  Phase I of the development will include the new Baltimore Headquarters for Exelon, along with ground-floor retail fronting on a central park, 103 apartment units, and structured underground parking. 

The development team, led by Harbor Point Development LLC, worked through the UDARP design process to create significant urban and pedestrian spaces throughout the development area.  The UDARP Panel worked with the design team to simplify the central park space design to really serve as a focal point for the community of buildings that would be forth coming.  The design of the Exelon building was enhanced to breakdown the large building mass while allowing it to front the park with a more elegant design.  The Department of Planning also assisted the development team and the Department of Transportation to better place the project into the context of Harbor Point and the City around it.

Drawing of future amazon distribution facility

Chesapeake Commerce Center - Amazon Distribution Center

The redevelopment of the former GM plant site continues with the construction of a one million square foot distribution center on Broening Highway for The remainder of the site is also being redeveloped for other industrial, warehousing and distribution uses.  The new Amazon Distribution Center will provide more than 1,000 jobs.  Recognizing the time-sensitive nature of this project, the Department of Planning helped get this project through an accelerated site plan review process, and coordinated necessary reviews by other agencies. 

The Rotunda

The redevelopment of the Rotunda will result in a multi-family, mixed use community with a new 5-7 story residential building adjacent to the existing building, and a three to four-story apartment building along West 38th Street and Elm Avenue. 

In addition, the first floor of the existing Rotunda building will be completely renovated with outward-facing retail.  When complete, the project will include 383 residential units, 1,100 parking spaces (garage and surface) and 84,391 sq. ft. of retail.  A new 12,060 sq. ft. central plaza is also proposed. 

Image of Rotunda Development

In its reviews of the project, Planning and UDARP challenged the design team to design the new buildings in a way that transitions well toward the adjoining communities.  The result is a successful stepping down of building forms with a blend of traditional and contemporary architecture.  In addition, the pedestrian environment compliments the well-established feel of existing streets.  A new “central green” adds to the appeal.

Drawing of future public market building

Marketplace at Fells Point

The Marketplace at Fells Point Planned Unit Development (PUD), established in 2007, proposes the renovation of the Broadway Markets; the renovation and redevelopment of retail, office and residential on the adjacent blocks; and enhancing the open space in the 800 block of South Broadway.  This project has been guided by input from the Historic and Architectural Preservation staff within the Department of Planning to ensure compatibility with the surrounding district. 

Construction of the buildings on the east and west sides of Broadway is currently underway.  The South Market has already been renovated, and renovation of the North Market is also underway.  Improvements to the pedestrian square are expected to begin soon.  In 2013, the development team requested a minor amendment to remove the parking lot adjacent to the North Market and replace it with a landscaped plaza and street trees.  Additionally, the developer proposed the construction of a new 5,044 square foot South Market on the site of the existing parking lot.  Not only does this project work towards the City’s goal of attracting 10,000 new families, it also protects and enhances one of Baltimore’s premier historic neighborhoods. 

Image of Whitehall Mill Development

Whitehall Cotton Mill PUD

The Whitehall Cotton Mill redevelopment project is the site of an historic mill building that was later used as a warehouse.  The renovation and rehabilitation of the mill will benefit from the use of historic tax credits, and convert the building to a mixed-use retail and residential building. 

The intention is to preserve this historic structure, as has been successfully done with other historic mills in the Jones Falls valley, and was therefore reviewed by Historic and Architectural Preservation staff within the Department of Planning. 

One of the challenges of this site is its location in the flood plain and flood way of the Jones Falls River.  Consequently, the Department of Planning provided additional floodplain-specific review and assistance by coordinating reviews by other agencies for life safety purposes.  The result is the preservation of an historic building, while providing for its safe re-use. 


The Comprehensive Planning division manages community planning efforts, urban renewal plans and coordination of plan implementation. Working closely with citizens, neighborhood organizations, community based non-profits and other City agencies, the Comprehensive Planning Division helps provide the City with realistic plans that can be successfully implemented.  The Comprehensive Planning Division also manages the development of the City’s Capital Improvement Program, which targets infrastructure dollars in support of our community and economic development goals.  

Photo of Citizens at East Baltimore Academy

East Baltimore Leadership Academy

Over the course of 3 days in late April and early May, approximately 150 East Baltimore community members joined Citizen’s Planning & Housing Association (CPHA) and the Department of Planning for an exciting and dynamic capacity-building workshop.  The goal of the workshop was to equip residents with essential leadership, community engagement, and urban planning knowledge that they could then use to strengthen their communities. 

Photo of Mount Vernon Place

Mount Vernon Master Plan

On December 19, 2013, the Planning Commission approved the Mount Vernon Master Plan.  Mount Vernon is a vibrant mixed-use neighborhood just north of downtown and one of Baltimore’s most prominent historic districts.  The plan area has a wide variety of development types, including a mix a historic structures and new construction, including residential, institutional and light commercial uses. 

This plan seeks to enhance the experiences of residents, property-owners, institutions, businesses, employees and visitors of Mount Vernon through streamlining the development review process, improving the open space network, and balancing a range of transportation modes.

Casino Area Master Plan

Bikers on Gwynns Falls Trail in Middle Branch

When the Horseshoe Casino opens in 2014, millions of dollars a year will flow to the City to be spent in the neighborhoods immediately surrounding the site.  To prepare for these investments, the Planning Department launched a long-range planning process to help set the vision and priorities for how these funds will be deployed over the coming years.  To date, several hundred people have participated in four public meetings.  The planning will continue in 2014 and culminate in an adopted master plan this summer.  The planning is being done in consultation with the Local Development Council, a body established in State law to monitor and make recommendations about spending priorities.

Local Impact Aid Spending Plans

The Planning Department has worked with the communities and Local Development Councils around Pimlico Racetrack and the new Horseshoe Casino to develop spending plans for gaming revenue that is allocated to these areas in the form of Local Impact Aid. The approved FY13/FY 14 Pimlico Local Impact Aid Spending Plan and the draft FY15 Pimlico Local Impact Aid Spending Plan were reviewed by Pimlico Community Development Authority and the draft FY 15 Casino Area Local Impact Aid Spending Plan was reviewed by the Casino Local Development Council. 


The Research and Strategic Planning (RSP) Division provides information, research, and analysis that guides the City’s planning related policies and activities.  The Division provides City agencies and the Mayor’s Office with data analysis, research reports and funding opportunities for programs like housing, community development, transportation, the natural environment, the economy, real estate and public health. The Division works with information and mapping  technologies, such as Geographic Information Systems or GIS, to help inform elected officials, developers, planners and communities of the impact and status of development in the City. RSP staff also participates in cooperative forecasting activities at the Baltimore Metropolitan Council and plays a key role in the analysis of periodic data releases from the U.S. Census Bureau on citywide, community and neighborhood levels.

Photo of Small Businesses on Charles Street

Economic Development Strategic Planning

In 2013, the Planning Department formalized a partnership with the Baltimore Development Corporation (BDC) to combine the City’s Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) with BDC’s strategic plan to create a more in-depth Strategic Plan for Economic Development.  With the help of a grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Agency (EDA) and internal funding, a consultant was brought on board and the public planning process launched in November.  This process commenced with a series of focus groups, stakeholder interviews, community forums and an online survey for both businesses and residents.  Completion is targeted for summer 2014.  For more information, please visit the project webpage at

Photo of Inner Harbor

Inner Harbor 2.0

The Department of Planning partnered with the Waterfront Partnership and a consultant team led by Ayers Saint Gross to develop a new vision for Baltimore’s world class inner harbor, Inner Harbor 2.0.  As part of that effort, the Research and Strategic Planning division designed and implemented a community survey that helped inform the plan’s vision and develop recommendations for improving the Inner Harbor, making it even more attractive to both residents and tourists.  For more information please visit the Inner Harbor 2.0 website.

The Opportunity Collaborative

The Research and Strategic Planning division represents the City in a number of regional planning initiatives, which included active participation in the Opportunity Collaborative throughout 2013.  Planning will continue to play a key role in the ongoing work of the Opportunity Collaborative, a 25 member consortium charged with developing Baltimore’s Regional Plan for Sustainable Development (RPSD).

Opportunity Collaborative Logo

Over the course of the next three years, the Collaborative will develop a plan that links our region’s housing, transportation and workforce development plans and investments with specific focus on reducing regional disparities. Government, philanthropic and private sector partners are working together with community members to develop a practical plan to connect all of our citizens to a prosperous and sustainable future. The process will include extensive community education and engagement, citizen leadership development, real world demonstration projects and the writing of regional housing and workforce development plans. For additional information please visit the Opportunity Collaborative website.

Sustainable Community Area Map

Sustainable Communities and Plan Maryland Designations

As a result of the Maryland Sustainable Communities Act and Plan Maryland, the Department of Planning was required to submit applications for designation of smart growth areas within the City of Baltimore’s Priority Funding Area.  RSP staff prepared a strategy to support each submission and forwarded them to the Maryland Department of Planning and Department of Housing and Community Development where they were reviewed and approved.  As a result, the City of Baltimore was one of the first municipalities to complete the process of designating Growth and Revitalization Areas, Established Community Areas, and an amended Sustainable Communities boundary.  In 2014, the process will continue with the designation of environmentally sensitive areas and climate change impact areas in accordance with Plan Maryland as a result of the recently passed DP3 plan (see above). For more information please visit our website.

Baltimore Planning 2013: A Year in Review

TransForm Baltimore

Photo of Citizen examining new zoning map

In 2013, the Planning Commission held over seven hearings on City Council Bill 12-0152, Transform Baltimore The Zoning Code Rewrite. The initial report of the Planning Commission was sent to the City Council in March 2013 with some additional study items.  Staff reviewed the remaining items recommended modifications and a final report was sent to the City Council in September 2013.

The City Council completed their initial hearings in the Fall 2013.  Very few issues were brought up by citizens, businesses or property owners.

We look forward to working with the City Council in 2014 in work sessions to finalize the new code.

Sustainability & Environmental Planning

The Division of Sustainability and Environmental Planning is the home of Baltimore’s Office of Sustainability, which staffs the Commission on Sustainability.  The Division is also home to Baltimore’s Food Policy Initiative.  The Sustainability Office and Commission are in the forefront of promoting the City’s Green agenda.  Here’s a review of some of their notable 2013 accomplishments.

Historic photo of Jones Falls Flooding

Disaster Preparedness Project and Plan (DP3)

Baltimore’s Disaster Preparedness Project and Plan (DP3), adopted by the Planning Commission on October 3, 2013, propels our city to the forefront of sustainability, preparedness, and resiliency. The DP3 addresses existing hazards while simultaneously preparing for impacts caused by climate change.

Records show that natural hazards are growing in severity and frequency. In the past decade, we have seen entire cities submerged by hurricanes like Katrina and Sandy—and Baltimore is not immune.  A year ago, Hurricane Sandy caused severe flooding in Fells Point and Inner Harbor. Just months earlier, Baltimore suffered power outages, building damage, and citizen injury during a massive heat wave and the resulting derecho. Baltimore City has taken a proactive approach to dealing with these impacts.

Image of Hurrican Isabella

Through its six goals, 50 strategies, and 231 actions, the DP3 offers a comprehensive, forward-thinking plan that provides clear guidance to Baltimore’s government, partners, and citizens. The plan integrates hazard mitigation with climate adaptation efforts to help Baltimore minimize vulnerabilities, reduce the loss of life and damage, upgrade infrastructure, and increase overall resiliency.

The extensive process to develop the DP3 included technical information provided by an Advisory Committee, and information discovered during a risk assessment (hazard identification, vulnerability assessment, and impacts analysis). The innovative nature of this process and plan serves as a model for other municipalities nationwide.

For more information, please visit the DP3 website.

Image of Creates Captain and promotional sign

CREATES - Creating an Energy Efficient Baltimore

Baltimore City was recently awarded funding through the Maryland Public Service Commission’s Customer Investment Fund for energy efficiency programming. This new funding expands and streamlines existing energy conservation programs, education and outreach, residential energy savings equipment installation, as well as energy and weatherization assistance.

In addition, trees will be planted and cool roofs will be installed in targeted neighborhoods, both of which reduce hot summer temperatures.  Baltimore City will also use these new resources to preserve home ownership, promote economic development, reduce health costs and provide long-term savings, while supporting a strong, stable and growing future for Baltimore.

Baltimore Energy Challenge

The Baltimore Office of Sustainability's flagship program, the Baltimore Energy Challenge (BEC), is a critical component of the CREATES program. BEC is a public private partnership between the City of Baltimore, the Baltimore Community Foundation, and Civic Works. BEC is the City’s energy conservation resource program that teaches residents, businesses, and nonprofits low- to no-cost ways to save energy through grassroots’ efforts in neighborhoods, businesses, and schools.

Image of school child enjoying the BEC Display

As part of the program, participants sign a pledge committing to reduce their energy use through changes in behavior. Consistent energy saving behavior, along with energy saving products, have helped communities reduce their energy usage by as much as 13%. With additional funding and programming through CREATES, BEC will reach over 30,000 households, as well as hundreds of businesses over the next three years, continuing to assist and motivate energy savings.

For more information, please visit the BEC website.

Green, Healthy, Smart Challenge for Schools

The first goal of the Baltimore Sustainability Plan under Education & Awareness is to “Turn every school in Baltimore into a green school,” and the Baltimore Office of Sustainability has been focusing on this goal since it began. In 2013, we saw our greatest success yet, as the number of city public schools designated as “Maryland Green Schools” by the Maryland Association for Environmental & Outdoor Education leaped from 16 to 21, an increase of more than 30%.

Image of Students Recycling

Since 2010, the Baltimore Office of Sustainability has run the Green, Healthy, Smart Challenge program, offering $1,000 grants to “Green Teams” of student leaders at Baltimore City public schools for environmental projects. The program awarded 64 grants in three categories in 2013, and has reached 90 individual city schools since its inception.

In spring 2013, we asked student leaders from all corners of the city to tell us about their work in their own words, resulting in a powerful 10-minute video called “Green Teams Speak Out” . A group of dedicated young people helped plan our end of the year celebration, GreenScape 2013: A Green Schools Summit. Check out footage from GreenScape here.

Photo from launch of Homegrown Baltimore

Homegrown Baltimore

The Baltimore Sustainability Plan’s Greening Goal #2 calls for us to “Establish Baltimore as a Leader in Sustainable, Local Food Systems”, with urban agriculture as a key part of this vision. In June 2013, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake launched Homegrown Baltimore: Grow Local, Buy Local, Eat Local, the City’s initiative to support the growing, distribution, and consumption of locally produced foods. The launch was announced at the ribbon-cutting for Strength to Love Farm, a brand new 1.5 acre urban farm on city-owned land in West Baltimore’s Sandtown-Winchester neighborhood.

In November 2013, the City made another big step forward for urban farming by adopting “Homegrown Baltimore: Grow Local”, Baltimore’s first ever urban agriculture plan. This 67-page plan is a comprehensive look at Baltimore’s past, present, and future for growing our own food, and offers 25 concrete recommendations for how to build a robust agriculture movement in our city. In December 2013, we took yet another step forward by releasing a Pre-Qualification Application for farmers to apply to lease land from the city, open to all and with a rolling deadline. For more information please visit our website here.


The Baltimore Food Policy Initiative (BFPI) was established in spring of 2010 and has been working ever since to increase access to healthy, affordable food in Baltimore City Food Deserts. The Baltimore BFPI is currently implementing the 10 Food Policy Task Force recommendations and the newly established Food Desert Retail Strategy to overcome food policy barriers, and build stakeholder capacity to expand food access in Baltimore City. A few highlights from BFPI’s work in 2013 are below.

Image of Healthy Food in Promotional Bags

Get Fresh, Get Fit in Baltimore’s Public Markets

BFPI has expanded the Get Fresh Get Fit program to increase the availability of healthy food by working with 38 carryout vendors across the public markets. The new Get Fresh Public Markets website includes vendor profiles, information on healthy eating, and links to social media. BFPI secured a $30,000 grant from United Way of Central Maryland to launch healthy kid menus and an edible art program to promote fruits and vegetables in Lexington Market.

Supporting City Schools in Providing Healthy Foods

In 2013, Lunch Lessons, LLC concluded its school food assessment for the Baltimore City Public School District, a project contracted and coordinated by BFPI. The assessment culminated in a strategic report and recommendations that were presented to City Schools and the project funders in August. BFPI works with the district to implement these recommendations, as well as in expanding the number of schools participating in school breakfast.

Photo of Mayor in Eastern Market

Food Desert Retail Strategy

BFPI launched and is implementing a food desert retail strategy (FDRS). BFPI has advocated for food retailer needs as they relate to SNAP on state and federal levels, as well as provided technical assistance and direct support to small retailers. BFPI continues to collaborate with the Baltimore Development Corporation in meeting the needs of independent grocers, and building  capacity for a grocery job training program, along with other community partners.

Food Desert Mapping

BFPI worked with The Reinvestment Fund (TRF) to support the creation of “drilldown maps” and economic and demographic analyses to highlight areas for supermarket investment. BFPI continues to work with Planning’s Research and Strategic Planning staff and Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future on Baltimore City Food Desert Maps. The newest iteration of the map contains refined methodology and will be released in March 2014. These maps are used as policy tools and are used by BFPI and many other city government agencies to set context and identify target areas for intervention.


The Division of Historical and Architectural Preservation serves as the staff for the City of Baltimore Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation (CHAP), which has helped to preserve our City's historic neighborhoods and sites since 1964. The CHAP mission is to enhance and promote the culture and economy of Baltimore through the preservation of buildings, structures, sites and neighborhoods that have aesthetic, historic and architectural value. CHAP goals include preserving historic architecture and monuments; promoting neighborhood revitalization; preventing demolition by neglect; and integrating our City's past into its future.

Image of Baltimore Rowhomes in Bolton Hill

Strengthening Baltimore’s Communities

It has been a record year for the Commission and CHAP staff.  Most notably, historic district permit activity was the second highest annual total on record, with 667 Notice to Proceed permits approved and issued within 33 locally designated historic districts as of December 26, 2013.

 In addition, the Commission approved a variety of major new projects, including the Washington Monument in Mount Vernon Place; new construction of an apartment building in Jonestown; Preston Gardens on St. Paul Place; Fells Point Market Structures, and mixed use new construction on Charles Street in Mount Vernon. CHAP also conducted a comprehensive review of the City’s historic preservation ordinance to identify necessary updates and improvements intended to achieve enhanced clarity and transparency for the benefit of the public.

Architectural Details on Historic Church

New Historic Designations

In 2013, CHAP approved the National Register designations of the Oak Street Garage, the Coca-Cola Bottling Company and the Brewers Hill Historic District. This year, 9 new Baltimore City Landmarks were designated by the Mayor and City Council, including the historic Frederick Douglas High School, Union Mill, Trinity AME Church and the Brinks Building.  Six additional Landmark designations are currently underway. The city-wide Landmark total is now 181 exterior and 2 public interiors. For additional information, please visit our website.

Photo of Rehabbed Rowhomes

Increasing Investment through the Historic Restorations and Rehabilitation Tax Credit

In 2013 the City’s Historic Tax Credit increased investment in Baltimore City. As of 2013, this successful program has generated approximately $611 million in investment in City historic properties with a total participation of 3,000 substantial projects.  There are currently over 1,000 restorations valued at approximately $600 million underway throughout the City’s historic districts.  This is significant, because for every dollar of historic preservation tax credits issued in the State of Maryland, an additional $6.70 worth of economic activity is generated; therefore, this local historic tax credit has leveraged an additional $4 billion worth of investment. In 2013 alone, the Preservation staff approved 445 New Applications and 291 Final Certifications, for a total investment of $48,819,054 in 2013.

Image of Lady Baltimore

Conserving “The Monumental City,” through its Outdoor Sculptures and Memorials

In 2013, the Commission’s Executive Director administered conservation projects, with special emphasis on Baltimore’s War of 1812 “Star Spangled Banner” monuments. This included relocation of the “Lady Baltimore” sculpture to the Maryland Historical Society and the installation of a reproduction atop the Battle Monument.  In addition, the Samuel Smith Monument, the Armistead Monument, the Berge sculptures at McCulloh Homes, and an additional 20 bronze sculptures and monuments received conservation treatments.  For additional information, please visit the CHAP website here.

Photo of Mayor at Poe House Reopening

Poe House and Museum

2013 was a milestone year for the Poe House.  The historic dwelling of “EAP” received an extensive facelift, including new exhibits.  The Poe House is now under the stewardship of a brand new non-profit organization, Poe Baltimore, which re-opened the house for the month of October to throngs of visitors.  Poe Baltimore continues to sponsor events and raise funds to fulfill its mission of promoting all things Poe, and keeping the Poe House open and accessible to all fans of Baltimore’s most famous literary resident.  See the Poe Baltimore website at

21st Century Schools Construction Program

The Planning Department collaborated closely with the Mayor’s Office, City Schools and State officials on last year’s House Bill 860, which authorized the issuance of up to $1.1 billion in bonds to finance approximately 30 new or reconstructed public schools around the City.  Following the passage of legislation, Planning participated with the other key stakeholders to craft a Memorandum of Understanding that governs the spending of those funds and stipulates important implementation aspects such as design review and public access to the buildings for community and recreational purposes.  Planning will also be closely involved with the disposition process for vacated and surplus school facilities—the 10 year vision calls for 26 school buildings to be vacated and re-purposed as part of the program.  In 2014, Planning looks forward to initiating a neighborhood planning process around each of the new and renovated school facilities. For more information, please visit the website, here.