baltimore-mayor-to-announce-blueprint-for-downtown-growth-at-downtown-partnership-event

Baltimore Mayor To Announce Blueprint For Downtown Growth At Downtown Partnership Event

Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott announced plans Thursday evening for a blueprint for downtown growth that aims to add more residents and businesses, improve safety, cleanliness and pedestrian access, and attract arts and entertainment.

“Downtown RISE – Baltimore’s Downtown Action” will help chart the next chapter of downtown, according to a website for the effort. Scott announced an initial set of actions to enhance downtown’s atmosphere, such as removing graffiti, fixing potholes and brightening spaces with lighting and murals, during the Downtown Partnership of Baltimore’s annual meeting Thursday evening.

Scott previewed the announcement in an op-ed in The Baltimore Sun Thursday, saying a project team would introduce strategies and initiatives to revitalize the downtown core in coming weeks. The group will gather feedback from residents and other stakeholders as well and release a comprehensive plan by early next year.

Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott (Karl Merton Ferron/Baltimore Sun)

“As we look forward to the future of downtown, we must prepare for challenges that could hinder progress,” Scott said in the op-ed. “The demand for increased safety and the rise of remote work, leading to reduced demand for office space, require us to rethink the future of downtown.”

The broad effort is being led by the mayor’s office in partnership with the Downtown Partnership, Baltimore Development Corp., Greater Baltimore Committee, Waterfront Partnership, Live Baltimore, Visit Baltimore and others. Scott said his administration is bringing together business and community organizations to develop a comprehensive plan “aimed at stabilizing the region’s economic engine while paving the way for sustainable change.”

Momentum already exists for a downtown renaissance, according to the Downtown RISE website, with more than $6.5 billion in development earmarked for downtown by 2028, including the completed redevelopment of CFG Bank Arena and Lexington Market, the Baltimore region’s selection as a federal tech hub and more visitors coming downtown for sporting events and concerts. In addition, Harborplace, the now mostly vacant shopping pavilions that sparked a 1980′s downtown renaissance, are slated for redevelopment, with a new owner envisioning two residential towers, new commercial space and a larger waterfront park.

Downtown RISE will focus on public safety and cleanliness, community and economic development, arts, culture, entertainment and placemaking, as well as infrastructure development.

Some immediate actions to improve public safety were highlighted during an annual meeting marking Downtown Partnership’s founding 40 years ago, when it began with a mission to promote and advance the downtown core’s economic health.

Some initiatives include a graffiti removal program and the addition of planters. The blueprint puts in place “data driven” improvements to street and sidewalk lighting, with an emphasis on high-crime areas.

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The plan aims to double down on the existing Squeegee Collaborative’s work to prevent squeegee workers in disallowed zones, expand those zones and continue outreach to squeegee workers. The RISE team also will work with the Downtown Partnership to create a new strategic operations center, which will serve as a hub for sharing public safety and community resource information.

Under community and economic development, the team expects to advocate for state legislation that would remove barriers preventing small restaurants and cafes from obtaining Class B liquor licenses. The plan seeks to expand and add to programs such as Boost, run by the Downtown Partnership to offer minority-owned small businesses access to commercial space.

It also calls for the continued funding of a Facade Improvement Grant Program to help owners restore business facades. A new stakeholder group would review expiring commercial leases and work to retain major office tenants. And networking and professional events will be created to help encourage and welcome workers back downtown.

The arts and culture component includes a new position in the mayor’s office to handle special event permitting for citywide special events, easier permitting for murals and outdoor art, and affordable retail space for artists and makers. The plan envisions more frequent closings of downtown streets for pedestrian-friendly special events and activating vacant and blighted commercial space with exterior murals, building wrapping and photo exhibits. Another goal would create a Black history tour to highlight Black-owned businesses.

Infrastructure improvements include better coordination of traffic signals in the central business district by spring, as part of the city Department of Transportation’s ongoing citywide efforts.

The plan also aims to address 311 requests for pothole repair within 48 hours and repair, repaint and replace faded crosswalks and street signs along East Pleasant, President, Pratt, Lombard, Light, Fayette, St. Paul, Baltimore and Charles streets, as well as Martin Luther King Boulevard and Key Highway.

This story will be updated.

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