Living directly on Patterson Park, I have the privilege of witnessing the change of its inhabitants on a daily basis. I’m not referring to my neighbors or friends, but to the “winged” inhabitants that call the park home or at least a stopover as part of a larger journey.
When my son, Vincent; dog, Ferris; and I head into the park for our daily morning walk, the avian community’s constant fluctuations leave us with questions such as:
Where are they coming from? How long will they stay? Where are they going? Why did they leave?
These very questions can be transposed to our work at Live Baltimore. By understanding the migratory patterns of prospective, current, and former residents, can we affect how many more people choose to move here and stay here? Our answer is yes. We can effect this change.
The attributes and amenities that attract seem to be broad and easily identifiable. Growing with new neighbors is something we are doing well. But as circumstances change and needs evolve, are residents staying in touch with the resources and valuable offerings here for them? Our belief is no, but not for the fact they don’t exist. Perhaps the path of delivery simply isn’t as apparent.
For 17 years Live Baltimore has strived to eliminate barriers to informational resources, overcome outside perceptions, and instill civic pride in our residents. We ensure our delivery of our information is clear.
Whether it’s the family on your block, or the empty-nester couple whose home seems much quieter now, the newly badged police officer, or the aspiring tech entrepreneur, you can be certain that we are working to grow our city with residents like them. We have aggressive plans to “flip the script” on Baltimore’s story and we want you with us when we do.
Our annual report reveals our approach, showcases our successes, and previews our work going forward. While we are achieving much, we want more.
The exciting part of my morning walk isn’t witnessing the rare birds resting their wings before continuing their journey, it’s taking notice of those birds that stop, and instead of flying on, build a nest and stay. I welcome that and invite others to do the same in Baltimore.
–Steven Gondol, Executive Director
As Live Baltimore was preparing last year to celebrate its 16th anniversary, a friend asked me, “But what does Live Baltimore do? And why should I care? I already live here.” Her questions made me realize that as an organization, we have much work to do to inform people about Live Baltimore’s mission, our work, and its impact on both future and current city residents.
Live Baltimore’s mission is to accelerate Baltimore’s growth by promoting the city as a great place to live and accentuating its thriving neighborhoods. To achieve that, a few words about what we do.
Live Baltimore works to raise the profile of Baltimore as a great place to live through the “I love city life” campaign and the “Balti-MORE” regional advertising campaign that launched this year on billboards, print media, and other signage. Pieces of the campaign, which featured actual Baltimore City residents, can be seen in the pages of this report, and response to it has been overwhelmingly favorable — as a welcome and factual response to the negative imagery that fictional media use to depict our city.
We support the Mayor’s initiative to grow the city by 10,000 families. Our “Way to Stay” campaign helps educate young families that already live in the City about their options for schools, recreation, single-family homes and other conveniences of city life that make urban living a great choice for families. We work with the Collegetown Network to attract and retain recent college graduates, introducing them to rental options and lifestyles that are particularly attractive to millennials. We help renters become homebuyers by introducing them to the great financial incentives for first-time and other homebuyers. We invite “empty nesters” to come back. And we are working to expand Live Baltimore’s services to the increasing immigrant community by promoting our bilingual website and developing events that are accessible to all.
Live Baltimore is working with our corporate community because there is great strength when employees live and work in the same community. The Live Near Your Work program allows employers, with a match from the City, to give employees assistance of up to $36,000 toward a first-time home purchase near their place of employment. We work with companies to share our expansive knowledge of city living, developing for participating employers the kits, presentations and other custom products that can help them recruit, relocate, and retain employees.
Finally, Live Baltimore works to make happy and educated homebuyers. Our free Six O’Clock Sessions deliver helpful guidance on aspects of the home-buying process. Our City Living Starts Here tours introduce prospective residents to Baltimore neighborhoods that they might not otherwise think to consider. The bi-annual Buying Into Baltimore events combine both—educational seminars and guided tours of neighborhoods and homes for sale, plus event booths by our real estate, lending, and community partners.
At Live Baltimore, we envision Baltimore City as a fast-growing, diverse and vibrant urban hub that people choose to call home. The pages of this Annual Report begin to explain the steps we are taking to make the vision a reality. We hope that whether you are a current or future city resident, you will share our vision, spread its word, and join us in building a better Baltimore.
–Stacie Tobin, President of the Board
2014 was a banner year for Baltimore City and Live Baltimore reveled in all of its excitement—from school construction to the development of new living spaces, and especially in preparations for the culmination of the two-year celebration of Baltimore’s role in the War of 1812. With one of the largest historical events honoring our city set to take place outside many of our front doors, Baltimore City was on the national stage and we took the opportunity to influence the way people see and hear about our communities.
Rooted in research, first-hand experience, and deep understanding, Live Baltimore made significant headway toward accelerating population growth and showing off our city’s successes. We were ready for conversations with corporations, and we’ve helped them grow by supporting and enhancing their Live Near Your Work programs. We worked with City Schools to open their doors and share their achievements, showing growing families options and opportunities to stay in the city. We propelled current Baltimore City residents to the forefront of our mission and enlisted them on the front lines—and they are sharing the good news about Baltimore in every way imaginable: in person and in their neighborhoods, by email, phone, and on the streets.
We are grateful for the ongoing support of our donors, volunteers, partners, collaborators, and friends—without whom our work would not be possible. From volunteering at our events, to driving around town with a Live Baltimore license plate, referring new residents to us for assistance, or making an annual gift, we appreciate all that you do.
Accelerating Baltimore’s opportunities for growth requires a broad understanding of the way the city operates, but perhaps more importantly, it requires building relationships with the people operating within it. In 2014, we continued many of our successful programs while also turning our focus to the future and to collaborations with the partners who are integral to our work.
"What you can’t do in the suburbs is just walk over to your local bakery and eat fresh pastries for breakfast.”
Mark Parker led a Live Baltimore walking tour through his neighborhood, Highlandtown, on a sunny Saturday morning in June. Later, he sat with his son Luke, 4, and his daughter Sarah, 9 months, as he reflected with us on the experience of having over 100 prospective city residents explore his community.
While Mark considers the event, Luke eats a pastry from Vargas, a bakery just a few blocks away. Thinking about what makes living in the city so special, Mark notes, “what you can’t do in the suburbs is just walk over to your local bakery and eat fresh pastries for breakfast.”
Mark was born and raised in Baltimore and though he left for a few years, he’s returned to the city and become a bit of a neighborhood celebrity. On June 7, Live Baltimore hosted City Living Starts Here, a new walking tour held four times a year in different neighborhoods across the city. Attendees are accompanied by neighborhood residents as they explore homes, businesses, and amenities.
As a pastor at the Breath of God Lutheran Church and an extraordinarily active community member, Mark both recognizes and is recognized by almost every neighbor his group passed on the tour. When the group passed a school-aged boy walking down the street, Mark called him over by name and asked him to tell the group what he likes most about attending Highlandtown #215, one of two schools in the neighborhood. As the tour kept moving, Mark introduced the group to the head of the school’s Parent Teacher Organization who was out walking with her daughter.
Passing local small business, Rooftop Hot, Mark told the story of the owners of the corner market who were concerned about where their food was coming from and saw a need for local produce. They started growing fruits and vegetables on their roof to provide the neighborhood with fresh, organic options. Recognizing Mark, one of the owners came out to talk to the small crowd that had gathered outside his door.
City Living Starts Here asks people to lace up their shoes and explore Baltimore City neighborhood by neighborhood. It also provides people the opportunity to walk through these neighborhoods side by side with the people who live there, to see communities as they are seen by residents. Mark’s love for his hometown is apparent. He says what we all know, “Baltimore is awesome.”
Britt Olsen-Ecker was one of Live Baltimore’s very first Neighborhood Know-It-Alls. Though she’s not a Baltimore native, in the past 10 years she’s lived here, she’s become an integral part of the Baltimore community and a huge champion for our city. She talks to prospective residents about her neighborhood, Harwood, and the city as a whole.
“I know that becoming a Neighborhood Know-It-All was right for me because I’ve lived so many places in Baltimore and I am a transplant who truly loves this city,” Britt gushes. Neighborhood Know-It-Alls come from all corners of the city and create profiles on Live Baltimore’s website. They can be Baltimore born and raised or transplants like Britt. They are available to be contacted by phone, email, or through Live Baltimore’s website, to talk about where they live.
When discussing neighborhoods, Britt has found that “honesty is key. Baltimore is a real place, not a cookie cutter city. This often reassures people in their searching and gives them a clearer idea of where they may want to live. [Neighborhood Know-It-Alls] will tell people the ins and outs of the neighborhood, great coffee shops to visit, how far the grocery store is, and what kind of walk it is to get there.”
Those who contact Neighborhood Know-It-Alls value the personal stories and “insider-information” they receive. This special touch is changing the way people see Baltimore. While researching places to move with his family, Andrew Higgins (who wanted to learn about shops, restaurants, the best places to look for housing, affordability, and above all, safety) reached out to two Neighborhood Know-It-Alls living in Hampden.
“Our greatest attraction was living in a walkable, urban community with a rich architectural and cultural history, as well as proximity to things we like to do in off-time that we wouldn’t have to drive to,” said Andrew. “We’ve never been to Baltimore and our only reputation gathered of the city is consistently negative from national media.”
Britt and more than 100 other Neighborhood Know-It-Alls are altering this perception, simply by sharing their own experiences. As Andrew learned about the city through Live Baltimore’s Neighborhood Know-It-Alls, he was encouraged, saying: “If they feel safe, then I am comfortable with my wife and two young boys there.”
Making sure the voices of our residents are heard and providing them a platform from which to share their own experiences is vital to showing off the best parts of Baltimore. We know that the individuals and families living in here are often the best people to talk to about life in the city. What would you tell someone who was considering moving to your neighborhood? Become a Neighborhood Know-It-All and share your stories.
"Baltimore is a real place, not a cookie cutter city.”
"To see so many great improvements being made, it can only have a positive impact on the neighborhoods surrounding these schools.”
In the summer of 2014, Live Baltimore took partners on a tour of our public schools in order to highlight the exciting developments taking shape in Baltimore City education.
Live Baltimore works with real estate agents because we know how important it is to have professional partners who understand the particulars when it comes to financial incentives, property taxes, tax credits, and other aspects of city living that vary from neighborhood to neighborhood. With increasing interest in city living from families, it is especially important for these agents to understand how to navigate educational choices in the city.
June Piper-Brandon has been a real estate agent with Live Baltimore for 15 years. She appreciated the behind the scenes view of the progress that’s been made in the schools and shared what it means to her as an agent selling homes in the city. “It was great to see so many strides being made in education in the City of Baltimore,” she shared. “I know, personally, one of the biggest worries families have about buying in Baltimore City is the quality of the education and to see so many great improvements being made, it can only have a positive impact on the neighborhoods surrounding these schools. Having Live Baltimore highlight some of these great improvements to its membership gives us an added advantage over our competition too and allows Live Baltimore agents to be the agents of choice for families moving to Baltimore.”
Live Baltimore’s focus on schools is but one facet of our family retention campaign, which will provide families with a veritable roadmap of family resources in Baltimore City. Starting with the “gatekeepers to home ownership,” our real estate agents, we’re working to ensure prospective residents are presented with an accurate picture of urban education rather than an outdated one.
Our focus on reaching new individuals was evident in 2014, with 60% of all customers working with us for the first time.
*Please note that our customer data collection methods changed between FY 2013 and FY 2014, making direct year-to-year comparison difficult.
Live Baltimore worked with a diverse audience of current and prospective residents in 2014. Our work touched individuals in every age bracket, from each of the city’s major racial categories, and from a broad spectrum of incomes.
In the first year of ownership alone, properties purchased in 2014 by Live Baltimore customers will generate nearly $4.2 million in transfer, recordation, and city property tax revenues.
As in years past, our customers included many incentive award recipients. In 2014, Live Baltimore helped to directly facilitate 76 downpayment and closing cost awards to homebuyers, through Buying Into Baltimore and City Living Starts Here events, for a total of $361,000 in combined incentive assistance.
Live Baltimore customers' home purchases accounted for more than a third of home sales in 11 city neighborhoods.
|Neighborhood||Percentage of Purchases
by Live Baltimore Customers
|Ednor Gardens - Lakeside||37%|
The average purchase price among Live Baltimore customers in 77% of these areas was higher than the overall neighborhood average — showing a positive impact on values in Baltimore's still-rebounding housing market.
Live Baltimore’s marketing and outreach efforts had their greatest impact in Greenmount West, Johnston Square, Glen Oaks, Ednor Gardens-Lakeside, and Washington Hill.
Live Baltimore was funded through a variety of sources in 2014, including:
In March 2014, Live Baltimore celebrated 16 years of loving city life with a Sweet 16 party at the 1840s Ballroom. The event brought together hundreds of people who are committed to Baltimore’s bright future.
With a competition to determine Baltimore’s “sweetest” neighborhood, we introduced attendees to 15 of Baltimore City's premier local bakeries, restaurants, and dessert shops that exemplify how “sweet” city living can be.
They brought donuts, cupcakes, cookies, cocoa, and more for guests to sample and the winner, Roy’s of Baltimore, was awarded $500 for community investment. Their win was donated to Waterfront Partnership, which invested the funds in Pierce’s Park—a waterfront green space featuring native plants, natural play areas for children, and original sculptures designed for exploration and fun.
The creativity, energy, and determination of Baltimore City’s neighborhoods is at the heart of Live Baltimore’s work and we are committed to shining a light on everything that makes living in Baltimore a reason to celebrate. Over $47,000 was raised to support Live Baltimore’s mission through our Sweet 16 event.
2014 was a year of action, setting the stage for even more to come at Live Baltimore in 2015. As we begin our new fiscal year, we’re building on programs summarized in the preceding pages while preparing to launch additional new initiatives.
Thank you to our FY 2014 individual, corporate, and foundation supporters.
I got involved with Live Baltimore in the early 2000s after moving back to Baltimore City in 2000. I think the first thing I did was buy a Live Baltimore license plate for each of our cars. My husband and I had decided we really wanted to move back to Baltimore and when we did I wanted to let people know I really liked the city and the license plate was a good way to do that.”
Driving Live Baltimore’s mission through the streets of Baltimore City and beyond: an extra special thank you goes out to those who purchased “I ♥ City Life” license plates this year!
"At the Johns Hopkins University, we are invested in the Baltimore community and committed to its bright future. We know that creating great neighborhoods and a magnificent city demands a collaborative and strategic approach, directed by highly skilled, innovative, and passionate leaders. Since 2000, Live Baltimore has played an important role in Johns Hopkins’ actions to serve our employees and grow Baltimore’s population. Live Baltimore has consistently delivered cost effective PR value and served as a regular resource for information. Their dynamic approach to promoting Baltimore City as a great place is a true asset to Johns Hopkins.”
Every effort was made to ensure the accuracy of this listing. If we have inadvertently omitted your name or listed it incorrectly, please accept our apologies and notify us of the error.
* Term started in FY 2015
This report was compiled by Live Baltimore and reflects Fiscal Year 2014 (July 2013–June 2014). Live Baltimore is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization incorporated in the State of Maryland. A copy of our current financial statement is available upon request from our office. Financial documents and information about Live Baltimore submitted to the State of Maryland under the Maryland Charitable Solicitations Act are available from the Office of the Secretary of State for the cost of copying and postage. Copies of our federal tax returns (known as Form 990) may be found at www.guidestar.org.