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News Maryland Baltimore City

Income up, study says

A city-sponsored economic study shows Baltimore has about $1.2 billion more in aggregate neighborhood income than traditional markets have estimated, and city leaders say they plan to highlight these findings to developers in an attempt to revitalize four floundering shopping centers.

Mayor Sheila Dixon and other City Council members released the results yesterday of the Baltimore Neighborhood DrillDown study,which estimated that the city's population is 4 percent higher than the census bureau estimated in 2006 and that average household income is 5 percent higher than the 2007 traditional market estimate.

Dixon, speaking at a news conference at the shopping center where former Councilman Kenneth N. Harris was killed a month ago, says she will use the findings to attract developers to revitalize neighborhood centers such as Northwood Plaza. The plaza has been the site of dozens of robberies and has several vacant retail spaces.

City leaders plan to use tax incentives to encourage developers to acquire the centers and turn them into high-end retail areas, the mayor said.

Harris' mother, Sylvia Harris, held up a pink sign through part of the news conference that read, "Who really murdered my child?" Kenneth Harris was fatally shot Sept. 20 as he left a jazz club in the plaza. No arrests have been made.

Dixon acknowledged Harris' mother, saying police are doing everything they can to answer that question. Dixon added that Northwood needs a viable supermarket and retail stores. City officials say the plaza, located in Northwest Baltimore's Hillen neighborhood, could serve as a model for other shopping centers.

"Northwood is a prime example. Ken represented this district. That incident that happened, I believe that if this was a viable shopping center, it wouldn't have happened," Dixon said.

City leaders say they expect to have identified the four shopping centers that will take part in the initiative by next spring. The major incentive for developers would be the creation of a tax increment financing district, keeping the property taxes at the pre- development levels. The city, subject to council approval, would also make up to $500,000 available for transportation improvements.

Northwood, Washington Village and Edmondson Village are examples of neighborhoods that city leaders say could benefit from the shopping center initiative. City leaders expect to use the DrillDown analysis, which estimated the city aggregate household income at $13.8 billion, to attract developers.

The study was conducted by Washington-based Social Compact, which conducts neighborhood market analyses for local governments, community organizations and businesses looking to attract investment or spend money in inner cities. It focused on 13 Baltimore districts and found average household income higher than the 2000 census figures by at least 30 percent in Station North, Oldtown, Pigtown and along Pennsylvania Avenue.

Although the analysis is designed to find hidden population and income in urban communities, John Talmage, the president of Social Compact, said the findings rely on more extensive data than a census and other economic studies. Talmage said his organization has done similar studies in Houston, Washington and Detroit, and that the Houston study found no population increase.

Social Compact estimates Baltimore's population at 663,717 and the average household income at $51,800.

"Every community deserves to be a complete and whole community, and with this DrillDown study, we more than believe it - we can show it," City Council President Stephanie C. Rawlings-Blake said. "People, particularly investors, need to see the numbers, and now they have them."

study highlights

• Baltimore has about $1.2 billion more in aggregate neighborhood income than traditional markets have estimated.

• The city's population is 663,717.

• City leaders want to highlight the findings to revitalize four shopping centers.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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