UB Institute Looks to Grow Baltimore by Monitoring Neighborhoods’ Health
People move to and from a city for all kinds of reasons: jobs, schools, housing, even the weather. What’s clear about Baltimore is that over the last several decades, more people have been moving out than in.
Now, in an initiative supported by the University of Baltimore’s Jacob France Institute, that trend is understood better than ever—and it may be the start of a turnaround for the city.
Announced at UB in May, “Grow Baltimore: Who’s Moving, Where and Why” is part of a citywide initiative to increase Baltimore’s population by 10,000 new households by 2020. The Jacob France Institute’s Baltimore Neighborhood Indicators Alliance, which collects and publishes extensive information about city neighborhoods for public access, partnered with Live Baltimore—a local nonprofit focused on city living and residential investment—to generate a series of Grow Baltimore reports on aspects of life that either “push” people toward or “pull” them away from Baltimore.
The research for Grow Baltimore concentrated on property and public-school records as well as surveys and focus groups of recent movers conducted in collaboration with UB’s Schaefer Center for Public Policy. These large pools of information about the city present researchers with a much greater level of insight than was previously available, says Seema Iyer, associate director of the institute, director of UB’s undergraduate Real Estate and Economic Development program and a research assistant professor in the Merrick School of Business. In turn, leaders can use this “big data” to make important decisions for establishing a more attractive, more livable city.
Iyer says that by collecting, analyzing and—most importantly—sharing information about communities, it’s possible to spot challenges, such as a growing number of vacant homes on a block, or to identify elements that make a neighborhood special, including a concentration of community gardens.
“The data we provide serves as a continuous monitor on neighborhoods,” she says. “Only when you keep track of changes can neighborhood leaders address issues that impact residential attraction and retention.”
Steven Gondol, executive director of Live Baltimore, praised the Baltimore Neighborhood Indicators Alliance’s work: “We can now target our outreach in specific neighborhoods while also sharing otherwise hidden assets to families wanting to raise children in the city,” he says. “This intervention strategy will allow us to accelerate our goal of growing the city through family retention.”