City planners identify trends Baltimore residents help in revising comprehensive plan

First update since 1976

Population dropped 6.4 percent between 1980 and 1990

September 14, 1998|By Gerard Shields | Gerard Shields,SUN STAFF

Psssssst! Want to see a picture of Baltimore naked?

Take a peek at the city Planning Department's trends report, the first piece in an effort to create a new blueprint for Baltimore's future.

Over the past year, city planners have met with residents seeking their thoughts on issues such as public safety, education, transportation and environment. The meetings will conclude next month in a crescendo event featuring Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke.

The update to the city comprehensive plan will be the first since 1976. And the trends report -- created to ignite dialogue over the city's future -- starkly reveals the changes that have taken place. Among them:

Baltimore's population dropped 6.4 percent between 1980 and 1990, a loss of 40,000 people. In 1940, Baltimore accounted for 82 percent of the population of the region, which includes surrounding counties. Today, the city makes up about 28 percent of the region's population.

Since 1970, the city has lost 120,000 schoolchildren, while the 65-and-older population rose by 4,000 during the same period.

The number of married couples living in the city has dropped 22 percent in the last 20 years, giving rise to single-parent households. Only one in three Baltimore households is headed by a married couple.

Nearly three out of four of the region's poor -- 68 percent -- live in the city.

Baltimore has lost 40,000 jobs since 1974, mostly in the manufacturing sector, which saw 250 factories close.

The city's biggest job growth came in health care and higher education. Health care jobs increased by 21,000, with the city's colleges adding 6,000.

The idea to review the city's plan came from Planning Director Charles C. Graves III. Graves, hired five years ago, put together similar comprehensive plans for cities such as Cincinnati. With the turn of the century approaching, Graves saw a need to rewrite Baltimore's blueprint, he said.

Reviewing city's blueprint

"We have some great redevelopment taking place," Graves said. "But the question is, where is all of this taking us?"

The key piece of the $650,000 project is gaining input from city residents ranging from children to seniors, Graves said. The city has held a dozen meetings over the last year obtaining insight from the residents who walk every nook and cranny of Baltimore.

During a recent meeting on transportation, a resident suggested that transit leaders provide the same discounts to college students as it does to high school students to attract riders.

'Common-sense ideas'

"A lot of it is common-sense ideas and it's good that they come from the citizens and not the planners," Graves said. "The residents are the people who have to live in the city."

The input also has come from the mouths of babes. As part of the discussion, the planning department created coloring and workbooks given to every Baltimore school student.

Children were asked to write down what they liked most about the city, with many submitting crayon drawings of rowhouses, parks and churches.

Graves' 8-year-old son, Charles, helped by proofreading the children's books before they were published.

"We had words in there like infrastructure and he said, 'What's infrastructure?' " Graves said. "I said, 'The sewers and roads,' and he said, 'Well, why don't you just say that?' "

Hundreds of city residents have attended the meetings, which have become so popular that citizens asked the planning department to add meetings on the two topics of most concern: police and schools. Cheryl Casciani, executive director of the Citizens Planning and Housing Association, said the meetings have united Baltimore groups with a common goal: to improve the city.

"One of the best outcomes of it is that it has brought different kinds of people together," Casciani said.

Next meeting Sept. 23

The city received a $145,000 grant from Fannie Mae for the project and another $60,000 from the Casey Foundation. The next plan meeting will be on Sept. 23, focusing on commercial development, including home businesses. The meeting will take place from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Waxter Center at 1000 Cathedral St.

Once the meetings are concluded in October, Graves and his department of 55 planners will then begin compiling the information and rewrite the comprehensive plan, which they hope to publish by the end of the year.

"This is the toughest part," Graves said of writing the plan. "But it's a document that we think will be better than we originally thought."

Pub Date: 9/14/98

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