South Baltimore Begins Implementing Strategies for Casino Impact Money

| May 22, 2014 | 2 Comments

“Almost unprecedented” was the term continually used by Anirban Basu of Sage Policy Group, a subcontractor of McCormick Taylor, and Wesley Mitchell of McCormick Taylor when describing the $10-$18 million per year in casino impact funds that will be coming to the South Baltimore communities in the Casino Master Plan area. These areas include Port Covington, South Baltimore, Riverside, Sharp-Leadenhall, Federal Hill, Otterbein, Stadium Area, Ridgely’s Delight, Barre Circle, Pigtown, Camden-Carroll, Saint Paul, Westport, Mt. Winans, Lakeland, and Cherry Hill. “This is a rare chance for a community to decide how to spend money,” said Basu.  

photo 1 copyThose impact funds will come from slots revenues from the soon-to-open Horseshoe Baltimore Casino with the following breakdown. For every dollar lost in a slot machine by a gambler in Baltimore, the state will get roughly $.50 of that dollar. The majority of that money will go into the Maryland Education Trust Fund, but also less than 2% will go to the gaming commission and 5% will go to local impact funds. A small portion of the local impact funds statewide will also benefit the Park Heights neighborhood because it is located by Pimlico Race Track.

McCormick Taylor is working closely with the Baltimore Casino Local Development Council (BLDC), the Baltimore City Department of Planning and members of the community to develop long, medium and short term plans for the impact funds that will begin in Fiscal Year (FY) 2015 (October ’14-September ’15).

The BLDC is made up of 15 members including Senator Bill Ferguson, Delegate Luke Clippinger, Councilman Ed Reisinger, local developer Samuel Himmerlich, Matt Tary of Vac Pac Inc., Pastor Alvin J. Gwynn of Leadenhall Baptist Church, and Chad Barnhill of Horseshoe Baltimore, as well as a representative from Westport Neighborhood Association, Westport Community, Sharp-Leadeanhall Planning Committee, Ridgely’s Delight, Citizens of Pigtown, Federal Hill Neighborhood Association,  South Baltimore Neighborhood Association, and the Camden-Carroll Business Association.

Through recommendations from BLDC, The Mayor’s Office has already produced a Year 1 Spending Plan with $2 million going toward infrastructure upgrades, $1.8 million for additional police coverage, $1.025 million for fiber optic cables and cameras for CitiWatch, and $1 million for the Complete Streets Plan. There is also money designated for sanctions, an employment connection center, and more.  

Members of the community, business community, BLDC, and the Baltimore City Department of Planning convened on Tuesday, May 20th for the Phase II of Casino Area Master Plan Workshop to brainstorm ideas on how to use the impact funds, as well as learn about the long and short term needs of the communities. Two more workshops will be held on March 22nd and June 5th at 6pm at Montgomery Park. A master plan will be submitted in November after continual work with the communities and the BLDC on spending plans for the next 5-20 years.

“Every year we will spend money on short term needs, but we always need to keep our eye on long term needs,” said Tom Stosur, director of the Department of Planning. “We are not going to be able to solve every issue, but we can be smart in the way we invest.”

As the money starts to come in on a yearly basis, McCormick Taylor is hoping the funds are spent on investments that will last. Basu urged the members of the workshop to think about community and children needs.

Allysha Lorber of McCormick Taylor presented a vision of how South Baltimore can use these funds to become a model for many other areas around the world. She highlighted innovation and sustainability, presenting ideas such as broadband for the area and investments in renewable, environmental improvements, including making the Middle Branch safe for people to swim and fish. She also spoke on keeping area streets and parks cleaner, economic growth through thriving business districts, port expansion, job training, improved public transportation and light rail stations, as well as improving crime and pedestrian safety, eliminating food deserts and making healthy foods more available, expanding health care, and improving quality of life including better parks, events, libraries, and entertainment spaces.

The crowd then split up into work groups to brainstorm short and long term needs for the area, and then shared those ideas with the entire group. Short term needs were highlighted by improvements to local infrastructure including traffic mitigation and problem areas like Hanover St., the Hanover Street Bridge, and Annapolis Road; job and entrepreneurship training; increased police presence; the elimination of healthy food deserts in areas such as Pigtown, Westport, and Cherry Hill; and, area sanitation and cleanliness.

Long term goals included improvements to the Middle Branch waterfront and water quality; improved parks and athletic facilities; improved schools; the expansion of the Charm City Circulator; vibrant small business growth in places like Pigtown Main Street, Cherry Hill, and Westport; affordable home buying opportunities for Westport and Cherry Hill; lower property taxes; and, improved area fiber optics.

Through previous workshops and Tuesday’s meeting, more than 450 ideas have been presented for area improvements. Many of those ideas will be further discussed at the future workshops, and McCormick Taylor, the Department of Planning, the BLDC, and the community will continue to work on the completion of the master plan

About the Author:

Founder and Publisher of SouthBmore.com, longtime resident of South Baltimore, and a graduate of Towson University. Diehard Ravens and O's fan, beach volleyball enthusiast, dog lover, and "bar food" foodie. Email me at [email protected] and follow me on Twitter at @SoBoKevin.
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