Thursday, September 17, 2015

Is the new "South Baltimore Gateway Plan" really a guide how to use casino proceeds?

The casino discussion brought about many deals including a community benefits agreement. Many predicted that the benefits from a vice like a casino will be fraught with the burden of their origin.
From the pockets of people back into the

Maybe that is an overly moralistic view, but now with the casino operating and producing large amounts of money (although somewhat less than predicted) the community benefits are much harder to find than the casino itself. Instead there are squabbles and diversions, such as casino benefits money being diverted to pay for the relocation of utility lines under Warner Street, a public street that was taken out of commission for the sole benefit of the casino. The utility relocation was a direct result of that closure. So the casino should have paid for the relocation as the entity that benefits. But the money was taken from the community benefits kiddie. With that as the beginning, one could only wonder what would be next. Many were kept wondering since the modus operandi of the Local Development Committee remained a mystery for many. It oversees the community proceeds from the casino and also guided this plan.
the plan area is also the extent of the community benefits area
From the report

The genesis of the South Baltimore Gateway Plan is somewhat telling in that context: A request for proposals (RFP) was issued in 2014 and consultant was hired to develop a masterplan with what many considered an insufficient budget for a task this large. The masterplan fee was budgeted out of the estimated casino proceeds for the first year which had been apportioned without much debate. Nobody could explain exactly why masterplanning had a much smaller budget than streetscaping, for example, when obviously, streetscaping should be the result of masterplanning and not a stand-alone entity funded separately .
Warner Street was closed for the casino

Now the masterplan is public in draft form and is open for comment. It has 157 pages (not counting the appendix) and one can safely say, it includes much fluff. Full page pretty pictures and 42 pages are used to describe what is there. The balance of the pages is devoted to a set of goals, strategies and proposed improvements whereby only the last element has any specificity. The goals, visions and strategies divided in nine areas from transportation to infrastructure are so general, so motherhood and apple-pie that they could have been written up without ever having a community meeting, a workgroup session, a site visit or any kind of analysis.
Table of contents: 42 pages for a description of what is

This may sound like a very unkind evaluation of the result of 18 months of toiling by countless volunteers guided by city staff and consultants. Possibly the analysis-paralysis syndrome set in and it is precisely the committee approach that prevented a more concise plan that would guide and channel money in immediate and near term investments. Hard to tell without having participated in the process except for the kick-off meeting. What is lacking are actual concepts, designs, innovative ideas or overarching themes that are either specific to these communities or would make South Baltimore even more special. The Middle Branch as a second Baltimore waterfront,  the BW-Parkway linking this area directly to the airport and Washington and the many sites in the industrial belt ringing the southern gateway of the city that are underutilized present a huge opportunity to cast a new identity fueled by a presumably steady flow of casino money.

Check out the report yourself and see if you think this masterplan is a real blueprint for action. A real blueprint with strict guidance and not just a set of ideas is precisely what is needed to protect communities and get maximum benefits from developers pushing into the area in the wake of the casino such as Caves Valley in Sharp Leadenhall.

Klaus Philipsen, FAIA

The list of goals, each goal followed by strategies, recommendations and implementation charts

All goals are as much motherhood and apple pie as this one
and this one

Theproposed improvements like here for  transportation are bit more specific

The implementation chapter consists of tables listing the strategies and who is in charge
The southern gateway leaves much to be desired. In spite of the casino and the two stadia it is still
a very sketchy exerience and could use a strong master concept as part of a strategy to
draw Washington DC tourists up to Baltimore along the spine of the BW Parkway 

South Baltimore Gateway Plan
Gerald Neily also wrote about the Gateway Plan here

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