Monday, June 20, 2016

Innovation Village Baltimore: What's Next?

Lined up in front of the new Coppin Science and Technology
Center: Dignitaries describing the Innovation Village
as a "game changer" (Photo: Philipsen)
In a well attended public "press conference" long on speakers and short on specifics, Innovation Village, a private and non-profit undertaking got another boost in public awareness.

While the national media is still focused on the Freddie Grey trial, the Innovation Village concept looks to the future and to what is next under the theme "collaborate to innovate". Speakers ranged from Congressman Elijah Cummings to Steve McAdams from the Hogan Administration to an endless array of state and local dignitaries including One Baltimore chair Michael Cryor, Urban League President Howard Henderson, Sammi Hoi, President of MICA, Senator Pugh, Delegate Barbara Robinson, Delegate Keith Haynes, BDC CEO Bill Cole, Councilman Mosby and Leon Pinkett, III, Assistant Deputy Mayor for Economic and Neighborhood Development. Few speakers shed a lot more light on what exactly Innovation Village is, some seem to even confuse it with Coppin's shining new Science and Technology Center which served as the backdrop of the event, seemingly as testimony to the progress made on West North Avenue.
Presumptive Mayor Catherine Pugh: Innovation is
important for this city (Photo: Philipsen)
We are a partner because we share a vision of a sustainable creative community. Redefine the role of creative. Art and design can connect all of us. They infuse is with innovative spirit. Creative economy. Pathway of success and prosperity. (MICA President Sammi Hoi)
The most interesting announcements were the specific steps of bringing education, jobs and opportunities to West Baltimore. Jeff Cherry of Conscious Venture Labs asked: "What if entrepreneurs care as much about people as they care about profit?" He recounted how he had been enticed by former Howard County Executive Ken Ulman to come here from NYC and how Mike Pryor brought him to the City. "Our goal is to move [Conscious Venture Labs] to the City and invest in 300 Baltimore companies over the next five years", he stated. 

As proof how Innovation Village can be "challenging the minds of our young people and give them a chance to use their intelligence" (Delegate Robinson), Tamara Lucas of Moms as Entrepreneurs recounted how on one event on April 4 of this year 11 moms launched their own "mom owned businesses". Joe Jones spoke about the work of the Center for Urban families ("4000 households in just a few zip-codes in West Baltimore are owed $25 million in child support. They need a village"), Shedlon Caplis of the Food Hub stated his willingness to collaborate and reduce food insecurity.
"This is a faith event. It takes a village for a city to be healthy and children to be what they are meant to be. We finally have a model. We are under a microscope. How will we do in changing the trajectory of so many young people? ...Diversity is not our problem but our promise. We make sure we will be here for the launching" [of Innovation Village]. About that "all of Baltimore" should be rising: "I will say 'all' until I die". (Congreeman Elijah Cummings)
Tamara Lucas: Moms as entrepreneurs(Photo: Philipsen)
Lost in all the speeches was another specific step, the one to bring WiFi to the "WiFi desert" with the goal of providing connectivity to the citizens of West Baltimore so school children don't have to mooch school networks by crouching along school walls to do their homework. The earlier planned announcement on which buildings the Innovation Village would settle to create the first neighborhood hubs was further delayed.

Practically minded people in the community, people who have been in the trenches of actual community development work for years, ask what specifically the Innovation Village has done or will do. That is a fair question. Proclamations alone won't do. But the array of people in support of the concept is impressive and should help to get the last doubters on the same page as well.

Klaus Philipsen, FAIA


Elijah Cummings: Will all of Baltimore rise together?
(Photo: Philipsen)
Richard May: "the talent is already here"(Photo: Philipsen)