Mayor sees report as plan for global city

Tourism, neighborhoods among 20-year goals

April 23, 1999|By Ivan Penn | Ivan Penn,SUN STAFF

Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke yesterday called the city's new Comprehensive Plan a blueprint for a global city, renowned for its medical and biotechnology research institutions, port facilities and world-class cultural assets.

"We don't want to lose the things that are our strengths, but we also have to understand that globalization is impacting us," Schmoke said during his weekly City Hall news conference. "Making our global city a great neighborhood is the goal."

The city's Comprehensive Plan is Baltimore's first since 1971. Schmoke officially released a draft of the document, called PlanBaltimore, yesterday. The report charts the city's course for the next 20 years.

The 228-page outline is the culmination of 15 months of open meetings with city officials and more than 5,000 residents. It maps a strategy for neighborhood preservation, tourism, parks, transportation, schools and crime prevention.

The plan's seven goals are: managing vacant properties; attracting and retaining middle- income residents; decreasing poverty; maintaining clean and attractive neighborhoods; reducing drug abuse and crime; improving schools; and building strong communities.

The report comes as the mayoral race heats up, and Schmoke, who is not seeking a fourth term, said he hopes the document will help foster robust debate among candidates about the city's future.

With the loss of a third of the city's population during the past three decades, city officials expect a comprehensive revitalization strategy to play an important role in restoring Baltimore to its prominence in the state and region and throughout the world. The city has a high poverty rate and the nation's fourth-highest homicide rate.

Critics have said that much of Baltimore's problems stem from a lack of vision or a plan. The $500,000 study is likely to help deflect some of those attacks.

"It will help us plan for the future," Schmoke said. "We think this is very important."

Even with the plan, city officials expect the population to continue declining, from about 656,000 now to 622,802 in 2020.

Schmoke said the continued population decline does not bother him as long as efforts to increase middle- and working-class residents succeed.

"It's not whether you're at 700,000 or 600,000 people," Schmoke said. "That doesn't disturb me. Part of the strategy is making sure we don't have this tremendous concentration of poverty."

PlanBaltimore follows three themes, including making Baltimore a global city with emphasis on its ports and its joint bid with Washington for the 2012 Olympics.

The second theme is to encourage more regional strategies, such as the state takeover of circuit courts. The third emphasis is on city neighborhoods, which now have a guide for crafting development strategies.

"Baltimore has a lot of strengths," said Charles C. Graves III, director of planning, at the news conference. "The plan really builds on Baltimore's strengths."

Schmoke said that the Fannie Mae Foundation, which helped finance the study, is pledging support for implementation of its recommendations. In addition, he said, the city will look at strategies such as "tax increment financing" to help pay for some of the plan's proposals.

Tax increment financing uses bond money to pay for projects rather than raising taxes.

The mayor said he plans to issue a final copy of the document to the Planning Commission for its approval in July.

City officials have scheduled two public meetings on the PlanBaltimore document -- at 7 p.m. May 4 at Harbor Hospital, 3001 S. Hanover St., and 7 p.m. May 18 at Roland Park Middle School, 5207 Roland Ave.

Pub Date: 4/23/99

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