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Shrinking/Growing City: Baltimore’s Future?

The American Institute of Architects (AIA) in partnership with the Maryland Chapter of American Planning Association (APA) did a wonderful presentation on changing urban areas on October 12, 2011 at South Bond Street, Baltimore, Maryland. Tom Murphy, a senior resident fellow at Urban Land Institute; former mayor of Pittsburgh and a crucial member in the reinvention of that city was one of the notable speakers of Building on Innovation. Murphy presented the changing technology, demographic trends and the globalization of Baltimore and Pittsburgh cities. The population of Baltimore has inflated from 2,089, 438 in 1970 to 2,356,186 in 2010. The City of Pittsburgh also saw a growing population from 520,167 in 1970 to 305,704 in 2010. The 21st century looks very different and has altered everything in cities. The manufacturing industries dropped in Baltimore (54%) and Pittsburgh (35%) from 1990 to 2010. However, the professional and building services surged in Baltimore (55%) and Pittsburgh (23%). Educational and health services also started growing up in Baltimore (68%) and Pittsburgh (50%) from 1990 to 2010. There is a foundation of democracy and emergence of thousands of local governments and school districts.

Cities in 21st century are vibrant, people with more educational attainment, raw materials and capital availability. The base line for a city to be successful is that it should be well managed. The educational attainment from 1990 until the present time is gradually strengthening in cities. Places like Florida with Scripps Research Institute (TSRI), a $301 M public funded biomedical research facility; Cleveland Clinic and Lou Ruvo Brain center, Vegas, a $100M investment are endowed with incredible raw materials. The Research Triangle is a bragging high tech research park in North America with 157 companies, employing 39,000 people.

Murphy depicted that major regions like San Jose, Boston, San Francisco/ Berkeley and New York Metro are the leaders in venture capital, companies and investment since 1997. He also mentioned that these cities are long term leaders with organic growth, little public intervention and dominant universities. San Diego metro, Washington metropolis, Seattle, Los Angeles, Austin and Research Triangle in North Carolina are the emerging leaders. There is a list of places which are labeled as market movers in venture capital, companies and university research expenditures. Unfortunately, Baltimore and Pittsburgh are the cities that hold the hindmost spots of the list. In 2007, the total venture investment in Baltimore is $225 million and $198 million in Pittsburgh. The university research expenditure in Baltimore is $2,442 million and $889 million in Pittsburgh.

The second part of Murphy’s presentation emphasized on transforming Pittsburgh. “Deindustrialization in Pittsburgh was a protracted and painful experience. Yet it set the stage for an economy that is the envy of many recession-plagued communities” (New York Times, 2009). Pittsburgh formed by three rivers (Allegheny, Ohio and Monongahela) was once an environmentally degraded city. As industries died out, the city became livable and enjoyable place to live in. Pittsburgh’s downtown, the Cultural Trust District is the city’s third renaissance effort. The Cultural District includes art projects, cultural facilities, theatres, streetscapes, public open spaces, restaurants, fun places and attractions for people. Some of the successful public-private funded projects are the PNC Bank, First Side Center; 151 First Side, a 18 stories, 82 condo units; 3 PNC Plaza, a 780,000 SF mixed- use building; 3 rivers stadium; Heinz Filed, a $281 M project; PNC Park; David Lawrence Convention Center and North Shore development. Other eminent projects are the Pittsburgh Technology Center that sits on the former Jones and Laughlin steel mill, the Collaborative Innovation Center at Carnegie Mellon, the first inner city Home Depot development, Whole Food Market and Bakery Square in East Liberty. The city has successfully reclaimed its downtown and has developed its grand urban riverfront parks.

Downtown Pittsburgh

Source: Murphy Tom's presentation slides taken from www.marylandapa.org

East Liberty, Whole Foods and More

Source: Murphy Tom's presentation slides taken from www.marylandapa.org

Murphy concluded his presentation with a list of excellent and compelling points for the success of the city. His notable finishing points are that cities should have a strong leadership, vision, clear public who are well aware of their benefits, goals and values, institutional capacity as seen in Otterbein neighborhood in Baltimore, a transparent public process which made the successful Pike Place Market in Seattle, strong financing, land control which developed the successful Inner Harbor in Baltimore, design Excellence as seen in North Shore Water Steps, trust and confidence.

The other distinguished speaker of the evening was David Dixon, Principal and Director of Planning at Goody Clancy, Architects and Planners. He is the leader of urban design directions for Boston and his work has secured many national awards from American Institute of Architects, Congress for the New Urbanism, Society for College and University Planning and American Society of Landscape Architects. The focal point of his presentation was “Baltimore in the Age of the Walk Score”. As explained by Dixon, the walkability of a neighborhood is usually measured by the walk score and it is also ranked by a website walk score. Baltimore is considered as both growing and a shrinking city. The 2010 population in Baltimore (620,000) is only 65% of what were present in 1950 (950,000). The households have also declined from 1950 (350,000) to 2010 (295,000). However, there is still a big chunk of the city growing. Not all families are heading to suburbs. Demographics, personal and real estate values and economic development are the driving forces of new era of market-driven opportunity. Canton and Fells Point in Baltimore provides the housing and amenities the market is looking for.

Source: Dixon David's presentation slides taken from www.marylandapa.org
Source: Dixon David's presentation slides taken from www.marylandapa.org

Dixon’s presentation also insisted on strong leadership to bring jobs and people to Baltimore’s rich downtown neighborhood. The stimulating factors for the city to thrive are people with higher educational attainment, more jobs and housing. Singles and couples occupy 60% of households in Baltimore. Non-family households are numerous than the traditional families in the suburbs (Data from Laurie Volk, Zimmerman/ Volk). In 2007 there was a need for large lot suburban housing whereas in 2030, there will be demand for small lot urban housing. Mixed-use walkable developments are at a premium in the real estate markets. The research of CEOs for cities reveals that ‘each additional walk score point adds $600 to $3000 to housing prices. The research also brings to light that ‘roughly two-thirds of educated, creative workers under 35 seek communities that support their lifestyles’. Modern workers search for urban spaces. The analysis of CEOs for cities implies that there is an increase of 26% of young educated workforce living within 3 miles of downtown across the 51 biggest US metro areas of which Baltimore ranks fourth.

Baltimore draws $2.4 billion in research funding. People’s choices for living and working have gradually changed since 1990s. People now consider living near work, walkable environment, transit and fun as prime choices of way of life and working. Public leadership should aim at providing more dense living, develop circumstances for living and strengthen environmental responsibility. Density extends the options for walkability, sustainability and community. Healthy lifestyles, density, more housing choices and transportation result in creative and innovative work force. Public Interest Project’s research indicates that walkable developments result in higher fiscal return. Carbon footprint also plays a vital role in density. There is a dual benefit in denser cities. They increase the urban and suburban home values. Crime is definitely one of issues Baltimore is facing and the educational attainment is behind when compared to State of Maryland and other major cities in U.S. Dixon concluded his presentation with a list of urban agenda which incorporates to increase historic tax credits, establish performance standards for infrastructure investment, strengthen public education, and focus on public planning and design leadership. It was a fine presentation with valuable information by two eminent speakers.

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