By Erica L. Green, The Baltimore Sun
8:23 PM EDT, June 24, 2014
Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake will sign a pact with several leading universities and hospitals Wednesday to work together on some of the city's most vexing challenges, officials said.
The Baltimore City Anchor Plan calls on city agencies and the local institutions to discuss how they can share goals and resources to address public safety, business and the quality of life in the city.
Set to sign the pact are the leaders of the Johns Hopkins University, Bon Secours Hospital, Coppin State University, Loyola University Maryland, the Maryland Institute College of Art, Morgan State University, Notre Dame of Maryland University and the University of Baltimore.
City officials say the institutions, which are among the largest employers in the city, are integral to the mayor's plan to build the city's tax base through strong neighborhoods. The city wants to coordinate resources to maximize common goals.
"The whole point is making sure that we know what the anchor institutions' plans are in the community, and make sure that our plans are [in] lock step," said Kaliope Parthemos, the mayor's chief of staff. But as important as the anchor institutions are, and as strong as they are, in order to attract residents, it's important for the community around it to be strong as well."
The agreement is not legally binding. But it sets forth overarching goals and institution-specific action plans.
Bon Secours and Coppin State, for example, plan to train with Baltimore police on "street smarts," coordinate pedestrian safety, sponsor career fairs and share job openings across city agencies to promote local hiring.
Representatives from the city and the institutions will agree to meet quarterly and the mayor and presidents will meet the biannually to discuss progress, officials said.
In Baltimore, colleges and universities in particular have embraced the role of anchor institution. Hopkins has poured millions into neighborhood revitalization. The Maryland Institute College of Art created a long-term strategy more than a decade ago to combat the vacant houses, drug abuse and crime in its neighborhood that threatened to hurt enrollment.
The school took the lead in revitalizing a stretch of North Avenue, painting murals, offering grants for community projects and jump-starting volunteer programs.
In the agreement to be signed Wednesday, MICA would commit to hosting a meeting on policing and housing around McCullough Homes, Pedestal Gardens and Bolton Hill.
It would join neighbors, including Hopkins and the University of Baltimore, in promoting programs like the city's Vacants to Values program to reduce the number of abandoned properties.
Officials at Coppin State said the school has long considered itself an anchor institution in West Baltimore, where it runs a high school and has replaced some blighted homes with a science and technology center.
"We look forward to an expanded partnership with the City of Baltimore and applaud the mayor for mobilizing key institutions to contribute to the City's economic growth and quality of life for its residents," university President Mortimer Neufville said in a statement.
Terry Sawyer, vice president for administration at Loyola University Maryland, said signing the pact will give the school new energy around its plan to enhance the York Road corridor.
In the past, Sawyer said, the school's partnership with the city was implied — Loyola could call City Hall if it needed something. Now it's official.
"There's words on the page in the agreement, and they mean something," he said. "And more importantly, there is a spirit or an attitude of collaboration that's been enhanced since the mayor's been serious about this anchor plan. It's not just all doing good things, but doing it in a comprehensive and organized manner."
Sawyer said that there are many ways in which Loyola could use the city's help in its quest to bring more residents and businesses to the York Road corridor, such as being creative with traffic patterns, streetscaping, housing and vacant buildings.
"We have so many mutual interests," he said, "it really behooves all of us to work together."
Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun