Can a community like ours help Baltimore grow?

In last month’s Bulletin a local breakdown of the 2020 Census showed that Bolton Hill and most other midtown neighborhoods were growing or holding steady even as the city lost nearly 6 percent of its population.

But in a Zoom presentation to BHCA’s board this month, a representative from the Baltimore Neighborhood Indicators Alliance (BNIA, part of UB’s Jacob France Institute) pointed to worrisome signs:

  • Only Baltimore among all the cities on the East Coast actually lost population. From Richmond (+ 11%) to Boston (+9.4%), every other city gained in what was part of a nationwide trend toward urban growth. Nearby Washington, D.C., (14.6%) and Philadelphia (+5.1%) contrasted with Baltimore (-5.7%). 
  • Of 40 cities across the country with 400,000 or more residents in 2010, only four had negative growth by 2020: Baltimore, Detroit, Memphis and Milwaukee. Of those, only Baltimore and Detroit lost more than 5 percent.

Seema D. Iyer, Ph.D., from BNIA, which is dedicated to producing reliable quality of life indicators for Baltimore neighborhoods, said central and southeast Baltimore, the so-called “white L,” were mostly stable or growing. Meanwhile, several historic neighborhoods in the west, northwest and east parts of the city continue to shrink.

Those neighborhoods, she said, were suffering from one or more forms of inequity: mobility, digital or racial, in addition to the legacy effects of redlining and disinvestment. “However, there are plenty of neighborhoods that were historically redlined that are prosperous today,” she said, pointing to formerly industrial and impoverished areas like Canton and Highlandtown.

While the big issues of growth and turning around population loss depend mostly on public leadership, she said, there are ways that strong neighborhoods like Bolton Hill can help their less thriving neighbors. She suggested BHCA or a group from within could:

  • Identify vacant properties that are occupant-ready and support efforts to find tenants.
  • Help renters in this neighborhood and nearby prepare to become homeowners.
  • Identify nearby properties needing renovation and reach out to potential renovating buyers.
  • Help those people and others qualify for renovation tax credits and other assists.
  • Help would-be buyers figure out how to pre-qualify for home mortgages.

BHCA leadership will consider whether there is a role for the neighborhood to play. If you wish to be part of the conversation, contact

Bill Hamilton