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5 Real Estate Goals For Downtown Baltimore


It's that time when everyone assembles their wish list for the new year, and real estate execs are no different. The folks who spoke at Bisnow's 5th Annual Future of Downtown on Tuesday outlined five goals that could help transform downtown Baltimore.

1. A slowdown in apartment construction


There are 8,400 apartment units expected to come online in the next three years in Greater Baltimore, the most since Delta Associates has been tracking it for 20 years, SVP William Rich said. Half of those are in Baltimore City. Consequently, rental rates aren't expected to rise as quickly as they have been in the past, and developers can anticipate more competition to attract and retain residents.

"We're worried about influx of supply," said JK Equities principal Jordan Karlik (on the right, next to moderator and CohnReznick partner Adam Kleeman). Jordan anticipates apartment managers focusing even more on service and offer concessions to attract and retain residents. Rising interest rates and inflation could slow down construction, panelists said.

JK Equities converted the historic Equitable building into apartments.

2. Housing for folks other than Millennials


Baltimore's apartment boom is often credited to the influx of Millennials to the city. But panelists said the city needs to address the shortage of housing for other demographics, including seniors and Baby Boomers.

There are also few options for affordable housing, said Housing Trust of America president Wally Scruggs. "There's room to bring more affordable housing."

The Columbia developer will break ground Q1 2017 on the $17.5M L on Liberty, located in the heart of downtown at 216 North Liberty St. The project is modeled on its M on Madison project in Mount Vernon, which leased up in six weeks and has a 100-person waiting list.

3. A sense of community


One way to retain apartment residents is to create a sense of community. Marks, Thomas Architects principal Tom Liebel (left) said to do that, developers should push amenities such as lounges and other common rooms, which encourage residents to mingle with one another. If they make friends in the building, residents are less likely to leave.

One of the reasons the Time Group's apartment development at 520 Park Ave has been so successful is that its key amenity, Mount Vernon Marketplace, has helped create an identity for the project and a sense of place for the surrounding area, development director Dominic Wiker said. He's in the middle above, and to his right is Monument Realty SVP Josh Olsen.

4. More retail


There was a time when it was challenging for Baltimore to attract a 7-Eleven, let alone major retail and restaurant brands, said Downtown Partnership of Baltimore president Kirby Fowler.

A number of developments along Pratt Street promise to add to the city's retail offerings. Metropolitan Partnership and Corporate Office Properties Trust have proposed a three-level restaurant and retail project at Pratt and Light streets.

It's essential to push retail in order to continue attracting residents and tourists, said Metropolitan CEO Cary Euwer (right). The good news is that many retailers have been eager to come back to the city. Baltimore received a major PR boost after an endorsement from Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank at the International Council of Shopping Center's recent New York meeting.

5. Investments in underserved communities


Baltimore is often described as two cities, divided between the haves and the have-nots. To that end, business leaders need to bridge the two and create more economic development opportunities for those who have been underserved, said MCB Real Estate managing partner David Bramble.

"If we don’t get that partnership, it's going to get worse, and the bad will drag the good down with it," he said. Case in point: After the April 2015 riots, it was difficult to raise capital because of the negative perception of the city.