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REPORT: Baltimore Ranks Among Top U.S. Cities In Apartment Construction

Baltimore's skyline across the former Perkins Homes site. A new mixed-income community is planned for the former public housing site.

Baltimore ranks among the national leaders in building apartments downtown over the past decade, according to a new report.

Developers have built more than 9,000 new units downtown, an increase of 33%, since 2013, according to data compiled by Yardi Matrix and StorageCafe. The report also found more than 1,144 apartments are now under construction in what it defines as downtown, which includes several of Baltimore's fastest-developing urban areas.

By those metrics, Baltimore ranked No. 11 out of the nation’s 20 most active downtown areas in apartment construction. Baltimore trailed No. 10 Minneapolis on the list that was led by Atlanta, Los Angeles and Houston.

“While office workers aren't yet returning in droves, people still seem interested in living in downtown Baltimore,” according to the report’s researchers. 

The high-water mark for building new apartments, according to Yardi’s report, arrived in 2018, when 2,000 units were tacked on to Baltimore’s inventory. 

However, Yardi’s report isn’t a perfect snapshot of what most Baltimore residents would call downtown. The study includes data from several Baltimore ZIP codes outside the 21202 area that covers what’s considered Baltimore’s traditional downtown. 

Area codes the firm used to define downtown include neighborhoods like Harbor East, Locust Point, Fells Point, Canton and portions of West Baltimore surrounding the University of Maryland BioPark.  

While some of those neighborhoods have outpaced Baltimore's traditional downtown in apartment construction, city officials for years have tried to reinvent the Central Business District as a live-work-play neighborhood to varying degrees of success.

Last week, Mayor Brandon Scott praised downtown as the city’s “fastest-growing neighborhood.”  

While there has undoubtedly been an increase in construction of multifamily units, their impact on the number of residents living in the area has been modest at best. 

The Downtown Partnership of Baltimore's most recent State of Downtown report, which was released this spring, found the number of residents living downtown grew by 150 residents between 2020 and 2021. 

That represents much slower growth than what the partnership’s last detailed housing survey, which was completed in 2017, projected. At that time, the partnership’s researchers expected the area encompassed by a 1-mile radius around Pratt and Light streets to support about 7,000 new rental and for-sale housing units annually during the ensuing five years.   

While the growth downtown in terms of news residents has been modest, the city government has pursued policies intended to support growth downtown. Over the past decade the city’s elected officials approved incentives for developers to build units downtown. 

In particular, the city government has created incentives in the forms of tax credits to entice developers to transform the Central Business District’s abundance of outdated office stock into apartments. 

To date, several downtown buildings north of Pratt Street, such as 10 Light St. and 2 Hopkins Plaza, have transitioned from office space to residential units. 

This summer, when the iconic One Charles Center building went up for sale, its broker, Cushman & Wakefield, touted the potential to build more than 300 luxury units in the 60-year-old property. 

Those same city incentives have also spurred the construction of new apartment buildings. When the $160M, 394-unit building at 414 Light St. opened in 2016, Questar Properties CEO Steve Gorn said city tax credits made the project possible.