A case study on redevelopment in downtown Baltimore, and strategies for downtown urban revitalization




Mangum, Brett Adam

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Baltimore is one of the most notable examples of a city that has revitalized and improved its downtown core to become a world-class destination. In the 1950s, Baltimore faced a slate of problems similar to many other cities across the country: a declining manufacturing and industrial base, increasing rates of suburbanization and sprawl, and the advent of the superhighway. Downtowns large and small were losing businesses, residents, and investments to the hinterlands at an alarming pace. Planners attempts to intervene, while sincere, generated short term gains but produced deleterious consequences over the long term. The foresight of Baltimore’s population and it's elected officials allowed the city to take a different path than that of other post-industrial cities whose fortunes continued to decline well into the 1970s and 80s. Turning an eye towards their natural surroundings, Baltimoreans transformed their harbor front into a front yard, turned their Central Business District into a vibrant, mixed-use 24 hour neighborhood, and emphasized the charms and historic value that had been notoriously undervalued and unappreciated for many decades. Today, Downtown Baltimore is the crown jewel of the region, with a growing residential base, ample services and attractions, and host to more than 22 million visitors annually.

In addition to looking at the specific elements that made Downtown Baltimore’s turnaround a reality, this paper will delve into strategies and procedures that other cities and communities can utilize in order to revive and reinvigorate their downtown districts. Each community faces its own unique set of demographics, trends, and future challenges. It must be stressed that the intention of this paper is not to imply a one size fits all solution to planning issues, but that certain measures, when appropriately tailored to a local setting can have beneficial outcomes. Urban downtowns in particular require a distinct approach due to their function as a regional focus for jobs, energy, and infrastructure. The success or failure of a city's core can have geographically far-reaching implications, and this paper will examine the strategies and mechanisms that promote a healthy, viable downtown that can serve as a positive anchor for a city and a metropolitan region.



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