Thanks to a seemingly never-ending pandemic, and weeks that continued to blur together, in some ways 2021 felt like an extended version of 2020. And while it’s easy to get caught up in the negative headlines, we’re here to remind you that Downtown Baltimore actually saw a lot of positive change this last year. From large scale redevelopment projects, to the opening of new small businesses, and the return of in-person events — the wins add up. To round out the year, and to ring in 2022, we’ve compiled a list of 21 Wins for Downtown Baltimore in 2021.
What has become one of our flagship initiatives, the Downtown BOOST (Black-Owned and Operated Storefront Tenancy) Program, Presented by Fearless, was born from a desire to create a more equitable economy in the Central Business District. BOOST supports the long-term success of Black and brown entrepreneurs in Baltimore through grant funding, business development, marketing, and legal support. In 2021 we announced the first 5 BOOST business winners, the BOOST Cohort Program, and saw the opening of our first BOOST storefront in Downtown Baltimore — Genius Guice Studios at 106 N Eutaw Street.
Earlier in the year, Baltimore Arena Co., a joint venture of Los Angeles-based Oak View Group and Maryland-born Kevin Durant’s venture capital company, won the bid to redevelop the aging Baltimore venue and sports facility. Updates to the arena have been long needed, and investment in the property could have large impacts on the Downtown tourism economy. Improvements are slated to begin in February 2022.
Overseen by Waterfront Partnership, this $16.8 Million renovation of Rash Field features walking paths, a rain garden, new planters, a full skate park, and an Adventure Park play area for children. The coming months will bring more improvements, including a new cafe operator to the pavilion and decorative trash bins painted by local students.
In just eight short months after their acquisition of 225 E. Redwood Street, and 223 E. Redwood St. Byrnes & Associates — along with local investor David Gupta — renovated the two properties, rebranded them as Vickers Exchange and Redwood Exchange respectively, and signed a whopping 21 new office leases. One of which includes a new tenant in the historic Werner’s Diner street level retail space (now open!).
In the spring, Governor Hogan announced a $50 million budget allocation to help cover the costs of a multi-agency relocation, from moving expenses to buying furniture and fixtures to printing stationary with new addresses. Downtown Baltimore will effectively become the new State Office Center over the next several years as Maryland officials shift about 3,500 employees from the current State Center complex. At the close of the year, four RFP’s have already been released.
A $40 million reimagining of Baltimore’s historic Lexington Market remains on track for completion in mid 2022. Development firm Seawall continues to push their vision of boosting small business ownership for communities of color, hoping to create an anchor of entrepreneurship and community hub in Baltimore’s Westside. Baltimore Public Markets Corp. announced several new vendors this year including Sausage Master, Fleurs D’Ave, Blue Island Malaysian, and Connie’s Chicken and Waffles.
What earlier in the year were alleys littered with garbage and congestion (“red” alleys), nearly 50 alleys have been transformed to clean thoroughfares with dumpsters up to code (“green” alleys) as part of DPOB’s ongoing Alley Beautification Initiative. Moving into the new year, these “green” alleys will be considered for larger, alley beautification projects that feature placemaking, programming, art, and lighting.
The iconic, 70-year-old neon sign that graced the Baltimore Harbor went dark back in March. Lucky for us, the sign was only being taken down to make way for a more modern, environmentally friendly, LED version with the same look, and it was relit in July and we love it just the same.
According to 2020 Census data that came in this year, the numbers show, once again, that Baltimore’s traditional Downtown has the highest population growth in the city by far. The number of people living in Census Tract 401, which is what most people think of when they picture Baltimore’s Central Business District, grew 70%. Zooming out to the larger Community Statistical Area (Downtown/Seton Hill), the residential growth rate was almost 47% over the past decade.
Howard Street saw some much-needed rejuvenation thanks to five health-focused businesses that opened on the 400 block this year. Plant-based ice cream shop, Cajou Creamery; fresh pressed juice shop, Vegan Juiceology; loose leaf tea shop, Cuples Tea House; natural skincare company, Unique Beauty Blends; and a gym, Memphis 40/50 Fit.
Thanks to an increased monitoring of “Safe Stats” data, we’ve been able to more appropriately track incidents of crime and tailor safety deployments accordingly. The average number of all types of incidents per month has decreased steadily over the last 3 years. With 275 average monthly incidents in 2019, 171 average monthly incidents in 2020, and 110 average monthly incidents in 2021.
In response to a growing trend of businesses leaving behind their offices in Balitmore’s CBD, Downtown Partnership launched a digital campaign aimed at reigniting a sense of community and pride for business owners and senior executives located in Baltimore’s economic core. The campaign featured the likes of business leaders like Augie Chiasera of M&T Bank, Andrew Hinton of GL Capital, and Jayson Williams of Mayson-Dixon Companies.
In 2021, we saw the opening of properties like The Redwood Campus Center, Prosper on Fayette, 22 Light Apartments, 410 Lofts and more. Most new housing in the core of Downtown comes from office conversions, helping to decrease vacant class C office space and turn these spaces into thriving residential hubs that provide city living at its best – walkability, harbor views, access to restaurants, jobs, and entertainment.
The Charles Street Promenade was initially created during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, to safely bring awareness and encourage support of the many incredible small businesses along Historic Charles Street. The response to the event was so positive from both residents and businesses, that the partner organizations brought it back again as a recurring event in 2021.
Despite hardships many businesses suffered throughout the course of the pandemic, Downtown Baltimore was still able to welcome a handful of new outposts in 2021. Places like Liora, Double Zero, Rod Dee Thai, NOLA Seafood and Spirits, Hard Water Bar & Grill, BLK Swan, Manor Restaurant & Lounge, Crafty Crab, Motion Clothing, Viva Books, Genius Guice Studios/The Black Genius Art Show, Allora, Cajou Creamery, Cuples Tea House, Central, Sandra’s Kitchen, Cloudy Donut Co.,Vegan Juiceology, Sporty Dog Creations, and many more!
After a virtual celebration took place in 2020, the annual lighting of the Washington Monument returned for a valiant, in-person 50th Anniversary Celebration sponsored by BGE, Verizon and Mercy Medical Center. The event featured live music from the likes of Brandon Woody, Rufus Roundtree and Da B’more Brass Factory, Zadia, and The Morgan State Choir. Local eats were provided from Ekiben, Gypsy Queen, Bmore Greek Grill, Dizzy Cow Pizzeria, and more! This year’s event also featured a local makers market, sponsored by WPM Real Estate Management. The evening was capped by an official countdown and fireworks display.
Events like the Bromo District’s Art Walk remind us why we love Downtown. Both summer and fall events brought diverse groups of patrons, increased foot traffic and vibrancy to Baltimore’s Bromo Arts District.
Officials from US Soccer and FIFA, soccer’s international governing body, visited Baltimore as part of the city’s 2026 World Cup bid. The visit included a Ravens game, as the tournament matches would be held at M&T Bank stadium if Baltimore is selected, and potential training sites at local college campuses. Baltimore is among 17 American cities, and 23 candidate cities in total, that are vying to host a World Cup game. World Cup organizers will announce which cities will host tournament games in January or February of 2022.
While at the northern tip of what we consider Downtown, this is big news for all who live, work, and visit Downtown. Penn Station’s long-awaited renovations began in October with plans to bring high speed rail service, new office space, and a modern new station. Amtrak is funding the $150 million project and it’s expected to take about two years to complete.
In 2021, Downtown Partnership’s Clean Team upgraded neighborhood trashcans with sensors that have modernized sanitation services, making the work much more efficient and data-driven. DPOB also launched the Downtown Cleaning Corps, a program created in partnership with The Mayor’s Office of Employment Development, that accomplishes two goals at once — creating much needed, entry-level jobs for individuals seeking gainful employment, and providing extra attention in the areas of cleanliness to Downtown neighborhoods.
The Inner Harbor Ice Rink returned to the Ampitheatre bigger and better than ever and was joined by the return of Baltimore’s German Christmas Village in West Shore Park. The Inner Harbor was full of smiling faces, family gatherings, and much needed foot traffic. Just to the north a bit, Center Plaza was transformed into Candy Lane — a holiday wonderland with larger-than-life art installations, thousands of lights, and holiday programming. Live theatre returned at the Hippodrome, Center Stage, Everyman and Chesapeake Shakespeare Company, rounding out a very merry holiday season for all.