BALTIMORE & JAY BRODIE OFFER CORRIDOR'S HOUSING SOLUTION
By Amrit Dhillon
Shooting up over 100 feet in the air and less than a mile from where the national anthem was scribed, a remnant of Baltimore's industrial past is in the midst of a flip.
Soon, an old grain elevator will be open for business again, fully converted into uber-modern condos with floor-to-ceiling views of the Inner Harbor and Fells Point.
That mix of history and urban amenity is what some people are counting on to attract thousands of new residents to Charm City.
A location central to two military installations providing Maryland with the single largest employment growth activity since World War II thanks to the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) decision doesn't hurt either.
"There's potential, not a guarantee, but the potential is wonderful" said M.J. "Jay" Brodie, president of the Baltimore Development Corp., on what BRAC means for Baltimore.
With or without BRAC, the city faces challenges from crime and escalating property taxes to a bevy of school system woes. How Baltimore chooses to deal with issues that have plagued it in the past may determine how much of a windfall BRAC really is.
The realignment process is expected to bring more than 45,000 federal and private sector jobs to the state, the majority at or around Fort George G. Meade in Anne Arundel County and Aberdeen Proving Ground in Harford County, according to the Maryland Department of Planning.
More than 25,000 households come with those jobs and most are expected to land in an eight-county radius, with Baltimore at the epicenter.
While the bulk of the residents will likely be in Harford and Anne Arundel Counties, the other Baltimore-Washington Corridor counties- Howard, Montgomery and Prince George's - should cumulatively corral about 24.2 percent of the newcomers, according to the state.
But, the department of planning anticipates at least 10 percent of the new residents will relocate to Baltimore City.
According to Andrew B. Frank, Baltimore's deputy mayor of neighborhood and economic development, the city can comfortably accommodate 170,000 new people, while some of the counties have barriers to increasing population.
"We have the infrastructure in the city," he said. "We can relieve pressure on areas challenged by growth."
To understand the opportunity the realignment poses and to prepare for it, the city has developed a blueprint dubbed "BRACtion."
The draft plan outlines improvements to transportation and infrastructure as well as marketing and policy efforts to accommodate population growth. Also included are various workforce development initiatives to prepare city residents for up to 3,000 potential new jobs. Reaching out to new businesses and contractors are also central to the city's vision.
"We want to position the city so it's a viable choice," Frank said.
Part of the reason Baltimore City is so eager is because over the last 15 years, there has been an exodus. The population has dropped from 736,014 in 1990 to an estimated 635,815 in 2005, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Preparing Baltimore for BRAC isn't much different from growing the city in general, said Frank, noting the master plan already accommodates impending growth.
"We didn't know BRAC was coming, but we knew the future was coming," Brodie added.
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