New Plans In The Works To Fill Downtown Baltimore Vacancies

BALTIMORE (WJZ)—The number of empty buildings downtown is growing. Now the mayor wants to do something about it.

Andrea Fujii has more on the new recommendations to get downtown business booming again.

The mayor is looking for more success stories like Milk and Honey–a six-month-old Mount Vernon cafe already attracting regulars to its mostly local fare.

“It was definitely to fill the need.  This building was vacant before.  There was nothing going on here.  The owners came in and revamped the whole place; it used to be a pharmacy,” said Ethan Cook, Milk and Honey general manager.

There are a lot of spaces that used to be something but now are rundown nothings.  There’s a 20 percent office vacancy in downtown Baltimore. That’s double what a healthy office market should have.

The mayor’s task force released its assessment on how to change the landscape.

“Downtowns are about foot traffic and people on the street.  So whether it’s a resident or an employee, we don’t care as much as long as there’s great activity.  ‘Cause once you get more people on the street, there’s better retail, there’s more safety,” said J. Kirby Fowler Jr., Downtown Partnership of Baltimore.

To fill all of the vacancies in downtown, the mayor’s committee came up with a few ways to incentivize people to move to downtown or start businesses: Attract new businesses such as start-ups or vendors working with current downtown companies; publicize new incentives such as tax breaks; and convert unused office space into residential.

There is also a marketing plan to be hatched focusing on downtown’s highlights. Businesses that are making it work ask for recognition so that they can stay in their locations.

“Publicizing and supporting local business.  It’s really important.  It would be easy to go to Trader Joe’s and get some of this stuff or go to Whole Foods, but I can come here,” Cook said.

Downtown Partnership is releasing its two-year study Thursday. One major difference is that their findings point to a need for better open, public spaces.

The task force has determined next steps but not specific timelines.


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