Johns Hopkins Gazette | February 16, 2009
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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University February 16, 2009 | Vol. 38 No. 22
IPS Students Study EBDI's Impact on Neighborhood

By Amy Lunday

Crime is down and property values are up in the area near The Johns Hopkins Hospital where East Baltimore Development Inc.'s $1.8 billion revitalization is well under way, according to a study by five students in the university's Master of Public Policy program.

As the capstone project in the course Policy Analysis for the Real World, students examined Baltimore housing and crime statistics as well as census data to observe changes that have occurred in the area before and after EBDI's acquisition, demolition and construction began six years ago.

Trends varied within the EBDI revitalization area, according to Sandee Newman, professor and director of the Institute for Policy Studies, who teaches the annual course. In the area near the hospital, where most project activities have taken place to date, changes are positive: These include a 50 percent decrease in adult violent crime, a 200 percent property appreciation rate and a 17 percentage point decline in abandonment levels. Farther away from the hospital, where revitalization activities have yet to begin, changes were mixed: Properties appreciated by 30 percent, while abandonment increased by 10 percentage points.

EBDI was one of five city revitalizations in progress evaluated by student teams, Newman said. The others were Sandtown-Winchester, Bon Secours, Station North and Poppleton.

Each year, the semester-long study of Baltimore gives Newman's students a strong foundation on which to build their future as public policy analysts. Of the six different analyses on which the students work during the term, one focuses on a public policy problem in Baltimore and aims to find a solution. The students conducted the work during the fall 2008 semester and presented their findings to city officials and neighborhood association leaders in December. IPS will publish the final study this spring.

Newman said that revitalization was an intriguing topic for her students because such initiatives are often plagued by issues of perception versus reality. Because revitalization projects usually involve public intervention, people affected by the plans sometimes make negative assumptions about changes without having all the facts. Part of the problem, Newman said, is that nobody studies the work in progress the way her students did this past fall.

"Everybody has tremendous interest in all the revitalization going on in Baltimore, but we don't have a lot of information about the projects while they are still in progress," Newman said. "Most of the attention is focused on the end game of revitalization, but we realized that the process also brings with it measurable change that is worth looking at and may be a marker for what will happen down the line."

Newman also asked the student groups to conduct a "spillover analysis," moving out from the center of the area each studied to see if they could find whether the benefits or costs of neighborhood revitalization activities to date are far-reaching.

In the case of EBDI, the students determined that it's too early to tell how surrounding neighborhoods targeted by later phases of the project will fare in terms of crime and property values, according to Kelly Biscuso, one of the students who studied the EBDI initiative.

"We did not observe any speculative buying in the areas targeted for later phases of the EBDI development," Biscuso said. "We observed either no change, evidenced by patterns of distress mirroring the other neighborhoods around it, or potentially a disinvestment in the area due to uncertainty — people might not be sure this is going to work. Those who are homeowners might assume their homes will be taken by eminent domain and be disinclined to invest in them. But it's really too early to tell."

An audio recording of the students' presentation is available online at:


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