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Old January 31st, 2007, 12:44 AM   #1
Silver Springer
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BALTIMORE: Downtown jobs, housing boom

Downtown jobs, housing boom
Studies of growth patterns in Baltimore indicate a vigorous jump in the center city over next 5 years

By Lorraine Mirabella
Sun reporter

Originally published January 30, 2007

Downtown Baltimore is poised for a substantial housing and job growth spurt over the next five years that could solidify its emergence as an urban hub where people live, work and shop, according to a forward-looking series of reports by the Downtown Partnership of Baltimore.

In the next six years, downtown can absorb more than 7,400 new housing units and will pick up more than 17,000 jobs, thanks to hospital expansions, biopark development and the federal military-base restructuring, the partnership's Outlook 2012 estimates.

Still, the reports raise questions about whether that degree of residential growth will actually happen - and how many new downtown residents would stay long term - because of concerns ranging from crime to pollution to high parking costs.

The partnership commissioned the studies last year, with support from the Goldseker Foundation, in part to back up with numbers the changes that many have seen in downtown. As recently as five years ago, few people lived in the central business district, but now new residents can be seen jogging, walking dogs and even grocery shopping at the area's first new supermarket.

The center-city population has doubled to 10,000 in five years. And more than 37,000 people live within a one-mile radius of Pratt and Light streets, ranking downtown's core eighth in the nation for population density and number of households earning $75,000 a year or more, according to the report.

"It gives specific, updated information to what people suspected was going on but couldn't demonstrate," said Timothy D. Armbruster, president and chief executive of the Goldseker Foundation. "The ... population of center city may very well at least double in the next five years. The potential for this to turn into a real community, and - if the population does grow - a really substantial civic and political influence, is something people should understand."

New downtown residents are predominantly young, white and highly educated, with household incomes of $50,000 or more, the report found. Nearly three of every four come from out of state.

"The new residents are fairly different than what the Census shows for Baltimore City, but the downtown area is much different from other areas of Baltimore City," said Matthew Kachura, a research analyst for the Jacob France Institute at the University of Baltimore, which surveyed 470 new downtown residents.

But keeping those new residents downtown could be a challenge, the report suggests. New residents surveyed listed crime and drugs, dirt and pollution, lack of parking or expensive parking as negatives in living downtown. A third of those surveyed expect to move within five years, and more than a third were unsure of their future plans. Just over a quarter said they intended to stay for five years or more.

"What this is saying is there are significant drivers from the major institutions expanding, so there will be a lot more jobs downtown and the potential then for continued strong downtown housing market," said John McIlwain, a senior resident fellow for housing at the Washington-based Urban Land Institute.

But McIlwain said he wouldn't anticipate a boom, "and 7,400 units would really be a boom."

"Baltimore's downtown is an attractive place to live," he said, "but there are still challenges ... and the strength will depend clearly on job growth but being able to manage crime and to link some of the neighborhoods that are growing together so they become one cohesive fabric."

The outlook included separate studies on housing demand, demographics, retail and job growth. The partnership commissioned Zimmerman/Volk Associates to update a 2001 report that looked at housing demand in downtown and adjacent neighborhoods.

At that time, researchers projected that the downtown market could absorb about 5,000 new residential units over five years. Since then, about 3,000 new units have been completed, with an additional 1,000 under construction, and rents and sales prices have gone up.

The update shows demand for about 7,430 new homes through 2011, including 2,980 apartment rentals, 2,200 for-sale condo units and 2,250 townhouses.

"Baltimore is definitely going to continue to have a rebirth," said David Hillman, chief executive of Southern Management Corp., a developer, owner and manager of about 2,000 apartments in nine city buildings. "The national trends are going that way. People are tired of commuting two hours. People are going to want to be where the jobs and services are. And as more people move into the city, retail services will follow, and they employ people, too, and they want to live close to work."

Southern Management, one of the first developers to complete a residential conversion on downtown's west side with the Atrium apartments, is converting the BGE building on West Lexington Street into 183 apartments. After several years working to attract a supermarket to Charles Plaza, the company was able to bring in an upscale, urban version of Super Fresh, which opened recently.

The jobs report, by Baltimore-based Sage Policy Group, found that even economic blips such as the national downturn in the real estate market would likely be overcome by growth in hospitals, bioparks and base restructuring that is bringing new jobs to Aberdeen Proving Ground and Fort Meade. Those expansions will generate 17,584 jobs, $987.5 million in associated income and $2.2 billion in business revenue, according to Sage research.

Baltimore is becoming a global health center, the Sage report showed, with Johns Hopkins Hospital's $1.2 billion renovation and expansion of its medical campus, Kennedy Krieger Institute's investment of $50 million over the next few years and the University of Maryland Medical Center's new construction of a $329 million ambulatory care center. Mercy Medical Center, meanwhile, plans a $258 million clinical tower. Both Johns Hopkins University and the University of Maryland, Baltimore are developing biotechnology research parks, which will account for more than $1 billion in investment on downtown's east and west sides in the next decade.

Nan Rohrer, the partnership's retail development director, said retailers who dismissed downtown Baltimore a few years ago are giving the city a second look.

"Retailers are waking up to the fact that there is a large and rapidly growing market in the city," she said.

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Old January 31st, 2007, 12:59 AM   #2
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Great article SilverSpringer. I read it earlier and got mixed reactions from it. Don't get me wrong, I'm ecstatic about the strides downtown Baltimore is making, but the fact that crime is still an issue after all these decades is nagging the hell out of me. Baltimore would easily surpass the 900,000 pop. mark if not for the continuous downward spiral of corruption and political grievances. I see better days ahead of us especially since downtown's development is leading into other areas of the city we thought were forgotten. It's great to finally see that happening.
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Old January 31st, 2007, 01:09 AM   #3
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crane spotting

On my way home from Hunt Valley I noticed a couple cranes being set up near hammerjacks. Is this for the new mercy garage? It looked like it was right next to the Fort Knox Warehouse.

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Old January 31st, 2007, 01:12 AM   #4
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Hopefully some of that population change happens before the 2010 census.
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Old January 31st, 2007, 06:08 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by southbalto View Post
crane spotting

On my way home from Hunt Valley I noticed a couple cranes being set up near hammerjacks. Is this for the new mercy garage? It looked like it was right next to the Fort Knox Warehouse.

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Old January 31st, 2007, 05:57 PM   #6
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I read somewhere that Seattle has managed to keep there public schools competetive with the suburbs and prevented one of the main causes of surburban flight. If you look at Seattle population it never dropped in the 60's -80's like almost every other major city.

Maybe we could find out what there secret is.
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Old January 31st, 2007, 06:46 PM   #7
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The actual reports that the above article is based on are available here. They were combined into a single 114 page report:

There are quite a few surprises in it that were not reported in the Sun! It's great reading.

1. Demand still vastly outstrips supply for downtown housing resulting in rapidly rising rents and sales prices.

2. Most people moving downtown are either baby boomers or young. Forty eight percent are between 24 and 34 years old.

3. 89% of the new downtown residents work in Maryland. Only 7% go to DC.

4. Of those who work in MD, 69% of them work in Baltimore City, 6% in Columbia, and 3% in Annapolis, and 2% each in Linthicum, Owings Mills, Laurel, Fort Meade, and Towson.

5. 65% make more than $75,000 a year.

6. Most of the new residents were born in Maryland (26%), PA (13%), NJ (8%), NY (8%), OH (4%). Only 3% were born in DC.

7. Most of the new residents moved downtown for "Urban Amenities, they Perfer and Urban Environment, Proximity to work, and Cultural Attractions".

8. Grocery stores and Department Stores are the most requested new retail.

9. "Downtown Baltimore ranks 16th (out of top 25 Metro areas) for tatal employment with 102,812 jobs, similar to Cincinnati and Atlanta."

10. Even the crime "problem" that the Sun thought was negative, really isn't. The actual question in the survey of residents was "Which of the following reasons would most likely cause you to move out of Downtown Baltimore." I would have checked crime too because yes, it would indeed cause me to move out. But the fact is Downtown is one of the safest city neighborhoods and there isn't that much crime.

They should have asked, "If you are planning to leave Downtown Baltimore, what is your reason for leaving?"

The question in the survey is theory. The question I pose is factual.

11. "Advocte for funding a new Downtown Arena with retail on all street fronts."

The data seems to prove what the article on the Ritz stated a few weeks ago. This Downtown boom is home grown and is not being driven by the DC market. the Ritz article stated that the developers were surprised that 80% of the buyers were from Baltimore with the rest being from PA, NY, NJ, and DC. This seems to be the norm for downtown residential and not the exception. Furthermore, the boom of BRAC and Health Care related jobs should be enough to continue to propel the redevelopment of downtown regardless of what happens in other employment sectors or with the national economy, short of a recession.

Last edited by wada_guy; January 31st, 2007 at 07:58 PM.
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