Downtown Baltimore is most famous for its Inner Harbor and tourist destinations, and for good reason. Last year its arts and cultural attractions, restaurants, shops, convention center, and sports facilities attracted 24 million visitors. Lesser known but just as important are Downtown Baltimore’s strengths as one of the densest downtown residential and employment clusters in the country.
Within a one-mile radius of the Inner Harbor, there are more than 113,000 employees, 41,000 residents, and 19,000 students. This small area generates $17 billion in economic output and ranks 8th in the U.S. for population density and 15th for employment density. According to the recent IDA report, Downtown Rebirth: Documenting the Live-Work Dynamic in 21st Century U.S. Cities, Downtown Baltimore ranks in the top ten percent of U.S. cities for its total number of employees, and has one of the country’s highest employment densities with 119 jobs per acre.
Residential growth is the biggest story within Downtown. Census data shows that, between 2000 and 2010, Baltimore’s Downtown population grew by more than 5,700 people, with the fastest-growing neighborhood being Charles Center, the heart of what was once the central business district.
With apartment occupancy rates consistently averaging around 97%, office conversions into apartments can’t happen fast enough. In its 2012 Housing Outlook study, Downtown Partnership of Baltimore found there is demand for 5,600 new residential units. Since that study was released, more than 4,000 units have come under development.
Millennials are behind two-thirds of this demand. This generation will make up almost half of the U.S. workforce within six years and prefers living and working in a walkable, dynamic urban center with a strong quality of life.
Interestingly, Millennials are also behind Downtown Baltimore’s strong job growth (10,000 jobs added in 2012, 9,000 added in 2013). Employers are locating and expanding Downtown because this is where the best and brightest young employees want to be.
Behind the Success
While the renewal of urban centers as mixed-use destinations is a national story, there is a lot of work happening locally to put downtown districts in a position to be successful. Downtown Partnership of Baltimore has been behind many such efforts for the past quarter-century.
In additional to its traditional hospitality and cleaning teams, it has added parks management and taken on capital and placemaking projects to remove skywalks, add greenspace, program events, and improve signature thoroughfares.
Together with Visit Baltimore, The Partnership installed a track-level welcome sign at Pennsylvania Station so that Amtrak riders and regional rail commuters are greeted by video messaging about Downtown news and events.
The Partnership also created the popular free transit service, the Charm City Circulator that is operated by City government. Bright, airy busses connect Downtown neighborhoods with transit stops, employment centers, and key attractions.
In addition to operating the 106-block Downtown Management Authority district, The Partnership is a membership organization producing some of the region’s most popular events, such as Baltimore Restaurant Week, holiday events, and the Pratt Street Farmers Market.
These programs have expanded as Downtown’s base of stakeholders and office tenants evolved to include more residents and merchants.
Telling Downtown's Story
Regional perceptions about Downtown Baltimore haven’t kept pace with the times. Much of what people think they know about Downtown hasn’t changed in a generation.
So, Downtown Partnership launched a marketing campaign to present a more compelling view of what’s happening and to provide online tools to help residents, employees, and visitors easily tap into the Downtown experience.
The campaign uses print, web, and television commercials that highlight Baltimore’s dynamic urban center and direct people to a completely new GoDowntownBaltimore.com website.
GoDowntownBaltimore.com has been transformed into a consumer-friendly tool that helps new residents find an apartment, groceries, transit, and fun things to do. For existing residents and employees, the site offers tools such as: searchable lists of every retail store and restaurant; an event calendar; connections to transit and ride-sharing services; the ability to reserve garage parking spaces; maps; and directories for parks & plazas. A fully-mobile version of the site brings this functionality to smartphones so people can curate their Downtown experience on the go.
The marketing campaign and web tools are driving current and potential residents to The Partnership’s resources and social media channels, connecting them to Downtown in a way that feels meaningful. Ultimately, this connection might help them stay living and working in Downtown Baltimore for a generation to come.