South Baltimore Gateway Partnership Created as Benefits District to Manage Casino Impact Grants

| April 12, 2017 | 0 Comments

The South Baltimore Gateway Partnership (SBGP) is a new community benefits district that has been formed to accomplish the goals outlined in the South Baltimore Gateway Master Plan, which was adopted in 2015. The SBGP includes the neighborhoods of Barre Circle, Carroll-Camden Industrial Area, Cherry Hill, Federal Hill, Lakeland, Mount Winans, Otterbein, Pigtown, Ridgely’s Delight, Riverside, South Baltimore Neighborhood, Sharp-Leadenhall, Saint Paul, and Westport.

The SBGP was created at the end of 2016 as a result of state legislation led by Maryland Delegate Luke Clippinger and a Baltimore City Ordinance. Otterbein resident and Baltimore Corps Interim Vice President Jason Israel was appointed Chair of SBGP. A Board of Directors was also formed with community representatives from the Casino Local Development Council (LDC) and two appointees from Senator Bill Ferguson, four appointees from Maryland House Speaker Michael Miller, and single appointees by Baltimore City Mayor Catherine Pugh and City Council President Jack Young. Senator Ferguson is the Chair of the LDC.

The SBGP Board includes:

Acacia Asbell – STEAM Center Director, Lakeland Elementary
Erin Chamberlain – General Manager, Horseshoe Casino
Alvin Lee – ABC Ventures & Cherry Hill Resident
Andrew Gervase – Sharp Leadenhall Improvement Assoc.
Bernard “Jack” Young – City Council President (Proxy: Liam Davis)
Beth Whitmer – Federal Hill Neighborhood Association
Bill Reuter – Ridgely’s Delight Association (Proxy: Chris Firehock)
Colin Tarbert – Office of the Mayor
Debbie Ally-Dickerson – WORK Printing and Graphics
Delora Sanchez – Cornerstone Government Affairs
Eric Costello – City Council 11th District
Garrett Schiche – South Baltimore Neighborhood Association (Proxy: Mike Murphy)
Jason Israel – Baltimore Corps
Jill Johnson – MedStar Harbor Hospital
Keisha Allen – Westport Neighborhood Association
Leonard Bush – Len the Plumber, Inc.
Rev. Alvin Gwynn – Leadenhall Baptist Church
Aparna Jain – Citizens of Pigtown Community Association
Walter Ettinger – South Harbor Renaissance
Wayne Vance – STX (Proxy: Bill Bollinger)
The SBGP is in the process of hiring an Executive Director who will further build the organization and look into office space for the organization. Consultant Brad Rogers of Advanced Placemaking was hired by the City to assist in the creation and implementation of the SBGP. The three priority subject areas for the SBGP are:
  • Community Development and Revitalization: Improving the quality of neighborhoods by increasing the marketability of properties, stabilizing and improving housing and promoting redevelopment and investment
  • Environmental Sustainability: Making neighborhoods greener, cleaner, and healthier by improving and upgrading parks and other green space, increasing tree canopies, and assuring clean air and water.
  • Health and Wellness: Ensuring that all people in the area have equitable opportunities to lead healthy lifestyles by expanding access to healthy foods, wellness programs and space for recreation and physical activity.

The SBGP is funded by the casino Local Impact Grants from Horseshoe Casino Baltimore, Maryland Live, and MGM Grand National Harbor. For every dollar lost in a slot machine by a gambler at those three casinos, the state will get roughly $.50. The majority of that money will go into the Maryland Education Trust Fund. Less than 2% will go to the gaming commission and 5% will go to Local Impact Grants. The Local Impact Grants generated by the three casinos are put into a pool and divided evenly to the communities surrounding the three casinos in South Baltimore, Anne Arundel County, and Prince George’s County.

Previously, the Local Impact Grants from Horseshoe were given to the City of Baltimore and the LDC advised the City on how to spend the money. Now, Baltimore’s share of impact funds from the three casinos is divided evenly between the LDC and SBGP. In Fiscal Year 2018, which runs from July 1, 2017 to June 30, 2018, the SBGP and LDC are estimated to each have $7 million budgets. SBGP was given $1.1 million in Local Impact Grants by the LDC in Fiscal Year 2017 to get the benefits district up and running.

The LDC had a projected budget of $11.35 million in Fiscal Year 2017. Large expenditures included $1.7 million on increased police staffing; $1.1 million to fund the SBGP; $900,000 for environmental sustainability including park upgrades and shoreline and water quality improvements; $780,000 on safety measures including new CitiWatch cameras and Baltimore City Fire Department (BCFD) station repairs; $675,000 for employment training; $600,000 on a Complete Streets Plan; $550,000 for education initiatives; $520,000 for expanding the services of the Employment Connection Center (ECC); $500,000 on Department of Public Works (DPW) staffing for servicing corner trash cans and responding to 311 calls; $500,000 for expanding the city’s fiber optic network; $326,000 on increased medic services and additional BCFD fire house repairs; $240,000 on recreation programs; and $84,000 on traffic enforcement. See the entire budget here.

The LDC and SBGP are viewed as sister organizations and partners, and may pool funds for certain projects. “There are certain things the City government is good at spending money on, but it has it is limitations,” said Rogers. “The SBGP is more nimble and flexible, and has an entrepreneurial function that can act more quickly and be more creative. The LDC process is great, but SBGP is much closer to the neighborhoods.”

“The SBGP is liberated from certain elements of normal bureaucracy that keep a city going, but not as freewheeling that it won’t spend appropriately,” Rogers added.

The $1.1 million budget in Fiscal Year 2017 for SBGP was spent on enhanced services including improvements to the Middle Branch Park Boat House and Gwynns Falls Trail, and funding for the Gwynns Falls Trash Wheel, the YouthWorks program, and a redevelopment Master Plan for connecting the B&O Railroad Museum campus to Pigtown, Mount Clare Junction Shopping Center, and Carroll Park. Transformational projects include $150,000 to Middle Branch Waterfront Planning, and $150,000 for a redesign of MLK Boulevard by Ridgely’s Delight, Pigtown, and Barre Circle. See full budget details in the graphic at the bottom of the article.

SBGP has three key areas where grant funds will be spent: 20% will go to Community Grants, 30% to Enhanced Services, and 50% to Transformational Projects.

As described by the SBGP:

Community Grants are available to either a Nonprofit organization with 501(c)(3) tax exempt status, a Mission-Based Organization without 501(c)(3) tax exempt status, a Faith Based organization, a School, a Government Agency, a Community Organization, or a Team/Group of community members from the SBGP neighborhoods.

Enhanced Services” supplement the services already provided by the City or other partners. These can take the form of ongoing programs (e.g. youth programs), maintenance (e.g. grass cutting), or capital investments (e.g. new playground equipment). These Enhanced Services improve upon the baseline services provided by the City, and are not a way for the City to meet its basic obligations to communities/residents.

Transformational Projects are important efforts that dramatically improve conditions in the District, and clearly advance our strategic priorities. These could be either major capital projects or major programs. Transformational projects have implications that affect the entire District, often generating long-term outcomes over multiple years of funding and partnerships. There is no predetermined maximum funding level for Transformational Projects.

There are three types of Community Grants:

Tier 1 Community Grant – Up to $5,000

Tier 2 Community Grant – Up to $50,000

Tier 3 Community Grant – Up to $100,000

The application period for Community Grants will be from May 1, 2017 to June 30, 2017, and from January 1, 2018 to February 28, 2018. The SBGP is also accepting suggestions for Enhanced Services and Transformation Projects. SBGP holds monthly meetings and ideas can be submitted on its website. SBGP is also hosting grant writing workshops to support organizations needing additional support in applying for grant funds.

While ideas on Transformational Projects will continue to be discussed, Rogers told SouthBMore.com that something the SBGP has talked about is investing time and energy into creating a network of “world class” parks and ball fields which will also give the area increased connectivity to Port Covington.

“We are very committed to making a meaningful and measurable change in the subject areas we work in. When we look back in five years we can say, ‘Yes! This is what we accomplished,'” said Rogers.

“Since the SBGP board first convened last fall, I’ve been impressed with how each members of the board have really come together to think through solutions across the District, rather than solely in their neighborhood,” Israel told SouthBMore.com. “One of the concerns I hear often is that neighborhood organizations often lack the capacity to apply for community grants then see a project through to completion, so we plan to fund assistance to applicants when needed to help them through the process. Our board is a dynamic and diverse group of leaders, from the public and private sector, who live and/or work in South Baltimore and are dedicated to its success.”

“The SBGP is the culmination of four years of work to create greater certainty that casino impact dollars immediately and effectively benefit neighborhoods surrounding the casino,” Senator Bill Ferguson told SouthBMore.com. “While the work of the Local Development Council has been beneficial as an advisory body, we needed a vehicle for empowering the community and ensuring residents were determining how best to improve their own communities. The SBGP is that vehicle, and I’m very excited to see its full launch and development in the months and years ahead.”

“SBGP is the newest of five community benefits districts in the City,” Councilman Eric Costello told SouthBMore.com. “While the others are funded by an additional property tax surcharge, the SBGP is unique in that it is funded by casino local impact aid. We have been working diligently to spread the word about opportunities for strengthening the neighborhoods in the SBGP. We recognize the opportunities for partnership with the State, City, and other organizations such as SB6 and Southwest Partnership and look forward to working side by side.”

The SB6 is an organization that represents the South Baltimore communities south of Port Covington including Brooklyn, Cherry Hill, Curtis Bay, Lakeland, Mt. Winans, and Westport. The SB6 reached a $139.5 million community benefits agreement with Port Covington developer Sagamore Development. The Southwest Partnership is coalition made up of the Barre Circle Community Association, the Hollins Roundhouse Neighborhood Association, the Franklin Square Neighborhood Association, the Mount Clare Community Council, Citizens of Pigtown, Poppleton NOW!, the Union Square Association, the B&O Railroad Museum, Bon Secours Baltimore Health System, the University of Maryland Baltimore, the University of Maryland BioPark, the University of Maryland Medical Center, and Wexford Science and Technology.

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About the Author:

Creator of SouthBmore.com and resident of SoBo. Graduate of Towson University and owner of Incept Multimedia, a full service video production company. Diehard Ravens and O's fan, beach volleyball enthusiast, dog lover and "bar food" foodie. Email me at Kevin@InceptMM.com and follow me on Twitter at @SoBoKevin.
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