BALTIMORE (WJZ) —The Downtown Partnership released its annual “State of Downtown Baltimore Report” and despite the economic and social disruptions of 2020, researchers are hopeful cities, including Baltimore, will make a comeback.

The report reinforced that many sectors in the city are interconnected. The hotels are connected to live performance venues, the venues are connected to the restaurants and the list goes on; so when one industry is affected, employees all over the region are impacted.

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“When you talk about 2020 and our museums being closed, and our hotels not being activated, a lot of our frontline workers lost employment, and so that was very hard,” Shelonda Stokes, President of the Downtown Partnership, said.

According to the report, “By the end of 2020, Downtown’s total employment dropped from 124,785 to 117,970.”

Another area for concern was the overall vacancy rate for office spaces. According to the report, vacancies increased from 17.75% in 2019 to 23.3% in 2020. This figure is higher than Baltimore City as a whole, and even the national average for office vacancies, which according to the report stands at 15.88%.

But Richard Florida an author and researcher in urban studies said there’s reason for optimism because downtown districts are resilient.

“This is not the end of cities. Baltimore and our other great cities will survive. [There have been] previous pandemics far worse than this – – none of them have damped down this long arc of urbanization,” Florida said.

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In a break-out session after the report was delivered, participants pointed to other anecdotal evidence as proof that activity is picking up downtown. Some of the evidence referenced included increased traffic and more demand for parking garage spaces.

The report also lists certain groups as the drivers behind reopening.

“Millennials and Gen Z are more risk-tolerant and report more dissatisfaction with telework-through lost professional development and mentoring opportunities, for example. Look for them to be the first ones back at their desks, dining out, at the gym, and supporting entertainment venues,” the report said.

While employment may have been impacted, the report said downtown housing did not decrease.

Stokes said rebuilding will be an incremental process, but there is widespread optimism for Baltimore City in 2021.

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“This is the resurgence and I think sometimes you get some of the best opportunity through challenge,” Stokes said.

Ava-joye Burnett