Abell Salutes: Live Baltimore

January 2005 / Salutes / Community Development

For reversing the figures by spreading the words.

Although in the heat of a battle it is hard to see who’s winning, the generals know; Tracy Gosson, Executive Director of Live Baltimore Home Center is the general in Baltimore City’s battle to attract more residents. She knows.

She’s winning. In 1960 the City’s population was 932,000 and falling at a rate as high as 1,000 a month by the 1990’s. Ms. Gosson’s mission is nothing less than the reversal of these figures. To get things happening, Live Baltimore first, had to identify prospects for city living; then, to persuade them to move into Baltimore City. Her weaponry consists of the words—arguments, data, documentation, incentives—reaching out to prospects with news releases and editorial comments, with advertising and PR, in brochures, and on the world-wide web.

Words at work

The prospects receive:

  • “Welcome to Baltimore City Living” Relocation Kit (over 7,000 distributed to date);
  • Incentives to “Live Near Your Work,” a program with over 85 companies participating (employees are awarded $2,000 toward the purchase of a new home in Baltimore City; in 2002 there were 322 homes sold under the program);
  • Invitations to the “Buying Into Baltimore Home Buying Fair,” which sponsors tours throughout city neighborhoods. $3,000 down payments are awarded annually to 100 new homebuyers –- more than $1.8
    million has been awarded to date;
  • The “Baltimore City Living Resource Guide” provides rental and home buying information—free, distributed bi-annually throughout the Baltimore Metro area;
  • The “Preferred Real Estate Professional” Program boasts 115 members and over 850 agents have taken their training class since 2000;
  • The Washington, D C campaign, consisting of a program of paid advertising and P.R. which has put Baltimore City living in front of prospects on TV, radio and print in Philadelphia, New York, and Washington;
  • Their “Home Center,” offering a complete one-stop shop for the persuade-ables with on-site professionals to assist them and events (providing educational programs in Baltimore City and in Washington);
  • And more, much more—events, bumper stickers, volunteer and resident referral programs, grassroots fundraising support.

How does Tracy Gosson know how the battle goes? While it is impossible, and hardly fair, to attribute Baltimore City’s continuing recovery of population to any one factor, or agency, the energy and inventiveness of Live Baltimore and their staff of seven has to figure heavily in it. Data tells the story: The population figure of 939,924 continued its decline until 2000, when it stabilized at 651,164; as for those monthly losses (as high as 1,000) the figures have been dropping precipitously, with the 2003 estimate at only 33 per month and (hopefully) still falling. Meanwhile, prices of Baltimore City houses have soared; the house that sold for $63,000 in the City in 1998 sells for $124,000 today.

The Abell Foundation salutes Live Baltimore and its leadership under Tracy Gosson for closing in on its goal — reversing the population decline of Baltimore City. Though the war is far from over, it is being won—battle by battle, word by word.