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Breakthrough In Baltimore: How Amtrak’s Plans For Penn Station Could Re-Establish The City

Breakthrough In Baltimore: How Amtrak’s Plans For Penn Station Could Re-Establish The City

Baltimore’s Penn Station is getting a makeover, and it could change the face of the city. 

The city of Baltimore has consistently trailed behind larger East Coast cities like Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia, but the new initiative from Amtrak could lead the biggest city in Maryland to new heights.

The transportation giant will work with a team of development firms to renovate the station, which will catalyze a wave of transit-oriented redevelopment in the surrounding area. 

In addition to serving the MARC rail system, the commuter rail system that connects to D.C. and the region’s suburbs, Baltimore-Penn Station is the eighth-busiest station in Amtrak’s national network and serves as Baltimore’s main transportation hub. The station’s overhaul is expected to stimulate the local economy with jobs, creating a spike in economic growth that will spread throughout the city. 

“This development is a historic opportunity for Amtrak and Penn Station Partners to bring to life a bold future for Penn Station, generating jobs and sustained economic opportunities for our Baltimore communities and beyond,” Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh said in a statement.

For residents and visitors alike, the redevelopment is long overdue. In 2014, the city of Baltimore and the state of Maryland found that necessary improvements would cost over $67M. Amtrak, along with several public sector and nonprofit groups, has since spent $20M on basic station improvements. But all parties agreed there was more to be done. 

Breakthrough In Baltimore: How Amtrak’s Plans For Penn Station Could Re-Establish The City

Project scoping and financial negotiations for the redevelopment are underway. Preliminary plans include an expansion of the station’s amenities and a refurbishment of the upper floors. The property around the station could add up to 1.6M SF of mixed-use space. 

The development comes as spikes in office and multifamily rental prices in the D.C. region are pricing people out of the nation’s capital, and TODs around the renovated station could lure price-sensitive Washingtonians and their businesses. Baltimore, 30 miles north of D.C., is becoming an increasingly attractive option for people looking to live more comfortably. The average monthly rent in D.C. is $800 higher than rent in Baltimore. 

"The redevelopment of Penn Station is incredibly important, as it is the first impression of Baltimore to anyone traveling by rail to the city," Baltimore Development Corp. spokeswoman Susan Yum said. "The station has much more potential as both a transit hub and a key gateway."

The project is part of a larger, citywide initiative to further development in the city of Baltimore. The plan calls for a transit-oriented approach, encouraging development of mixed-use spaces around transit stations. Successful TOD projects can improve public safety, boost economic growth and preserve history and culture in the surrounding area. Amtrak’s development aims to impress tourists, and keep them coming back to visit. 

As city officials and real estate developers continue working to improve Baltimore’s image, the region is entering uncharted territory. Several local neighborhoods and master-planned communities like Highlandtown and Waverly are seeing smart growth and development. As Baltimore’s largest transportation hub repositions itself as a business and residential destination, the rest of the city takes note. 

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