Baltimore wins $19 million in loans, grants for community development

Baltimore organizations are getting nearly $19 million to help develop three areas of the city and ensure that new construction will mean better jobs for low-income residents.

The city is one of five that won funding from Living Cities, a collaborative of large foundations and financial institutions trying to improve urban revitalization work. The money, a combination of loans and grants, will be announced Thursday.

"We're grateful for this infusion of capital," said Betsy Nelson, president of the Association of Baltimore Area Grantmakers and chairwoman of the partnership receiving the award. "It's anchored in improving lives for our low-income residents."

Living Cities awarded up to a total of $80 million in Baltimore, Cleveland, Detroit, Newark and Minneapolis/St. Paul. Baltimore's share will come as $2.75 million in grants, $12 million in commercial loans and up to $4 million in low-interest-rate loans.

Nelson said the organizations that joined forces in Baltimore — more than a dozen, from the Annie E. Casey Foundation to Johns Hopkins University — plan to put the money to work in east, west and central neighborhoods in the city. A key goal is to connect hundreds of residents with jobs, so some of the groups brought on board specialize in worker training.

The Reinvestment Fund, a community-development financial institution that's a member of the partnership, hopes the $19 million will help leverage enough money to allow the construction of 400 homes and nearly 350,000 square feet of commercial space.

One location that organizers intend to invest in is the East Baltimore Development Inc. area, a massive redevelopment effort that includes new homes and a biotech park. Organizers also want to focus on transit-oriented development opportunities in West Baltimore around the proposed Red Line light-rail system. And they're planning to put some of the new funding into central neighborhoods such as Barclay and Greenmount West.

Reinvestment Fund President Jeremy Nowak said one of the possibilities is building market-rate houses and a supermarket in the East Baltimore Development area.

"It would be terrific if there could be some movement on those things," said Nowak, whose organization is based in Philadelphia.

Living Cities said it invited 19 cities to apply for the money and awarded it to partnerships that showed how they could make economic development work better for low-income residents. It looked for "game changing" proposals.

"This chunk of money will hopefully accelerate what they want to do and actually give people confidence to be even more ambitious," said Ben Hecht, president and chief executive of Living Cities. "We think we can help cities catalyze change and attack long-term problems."

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