Baltimore, Maryland’s “Inner Harbor” is far more than just a body of water. The name is used to describe the seaport that has existed since the 18th century and the land surrounding it, which includes a number of historic attractions, cultural and entertainment venues, and a number of development projects. The area has been plagued by weather-related issues, such as the 2003 flooding by Hurricane Isabel that left the Baltimore World Trade Center shut down for more than a month, economic shortfalls, including a number of developments that stalled out during the housing crisis. There are also social complications local leaders seek to address in innovative ways that keep “endangered” youth involved and feeling welcome in the Inner Harbor area.
The Inner Harbor has a history of setting urban development trends, and was among the first areas in the United States to effectively enact an urban renaissance in the Harbor area that lasted from the 1960s through the 1980s. At that time, the city of Baltimore actively focused on renewing the business district around the harbor, adding in hotels, dining, and retail to keep the population engaged in the area, also building a public park and promenade. In the late 1970s, the National Aquarium, the Maryland Science Center, the Harborplace festival marketplace, and several convention centers moved into the area as well, cementing Inner Harbor’s redevelopment and expansion as a landmark success.
While there is little room for massive new development in the Inner Harbor area, the district, which has never ceased in its original function as a vitally important port area, has seen a number of projects rise and fall, uncompleted, in the limited space that remains available. According to the Waterfront Partnership of Baltimore, “little has changed at the Inner Harbor since the National Aquarium, Harborplace, and Science Center first opened.” The group observed in a recent report that “significant signs of wear are evident throughout the Inner Harbor,” including corroded electrical systems, deteriorating brickwork, and a penchant for frequent flooding thanks to damaged bulkheads and pilings.
The Waterfront Project’s signature master plan, Harbor 2.0, plays off the strengths of Inner Harbor’s history as one of the most successful implementations of a community master plan, proposing that the last undeveloped open space in the Inner Harbor, Rash Field, be redesigned as a “multi-use open space” that can accommodate public programming and large events rather than continue to fall subject to attempts to redevelop or fully reimagine the space as a more densely-built area. Thanks to recent development on the east side of Inner Harbor that includes condominiums, retail space, restaurants, and hotels all in a highly walkable design attractive to millennials and young professionals, retaining Rash Field as green space will likely be a successful venture that adds to the value of property in the area.
Value Trends in Inner Harbor
In the past year alone, certain areas of the Inner Harbor have experienced dramatic changes in real estate values. For example, Little Italy median sales prices are up 33 percent year-over-year, but Federal Hill prices per square foot have fallen more than 13 percent year-over-year. Nearly the entire area immediately adjacent to the Harbor is relatively more valuable than the areas in the “outer circle” area of the Harbor, but this could easily change if the Inner Harbor continues to experience a second “renaissance.”
If you want to know where growth is heading in this area, “Watch what is happening with the traffic, watch what is happening with new stores,” recommended Sherman Ragland, founder of DCREIA, in an interview with Think Realty. “When you are investing, you have to look at all the things that could happen in an area,” Think Realty Resident Expert Sonia Booker chimed in. “You have to be able to see what’s going on, what forward thought process could make a property better, and then see the potential upside,” she said. Booker and Ragland are both involved with Think Realty’s National Conference & Expo in Baltimore June 24, 2017. You can reserve your spot at the Expo and have the chance to meet them.
A Market for Visionaries
Inner Harbor is replete with potential upside and, unlike many areas attempting to leverage the shining vision in their master plan into reality, Inner Harbor and its home city know exactly what it is capable of. In fact, Baltimore and the surrounding area, including much of D.C., is, in many ways, something of a “visionary’s market.” Few, if any other places in the country is there so much activity in terms of forward-progressing, innovative, emotion-laden growth than in our nation’s capital and the surrounding geographic area. The area’s combination of idealism, passion, and a healthy dose of federal money trickling outward into the surrounding region creates an extremely dynamic market environment. Add to that the high level of market desirability for a population that wants to live in proximity to the Capitol, and local markets and local market initiatives emerge, evolve, and become successes (or failures) very quickly, as does investment strategy.
“Our market is changing so fast that marketing tactics and other acquisition strategies that have been taught year after year no longer work the same way here [that they do elsewhere],” observed Amy Presley, co-organizer of Baltimore Washington Investors (BWI) meetup and a local estate liquidation specialist. Appropriately, BWI will host a market insights panel at the Think Realty Baltimore Expo titled “Finding Your Place (and Profiting in It) in the Baltimore Market.” Presley’s partner, Andy Spagnolo, added, “It’s so important to understand not just where to invest and what strategies to use there, but also what makes marketing effective for real estate investors in our area. Without all the information, it can be hard to gain a foothold in this market.”
Whether the Inner Harbor district is the area that attracts you with its unbridled growth potential or you prefer closer to the Capitol, as does Ragland, who boasts that his “sweet spot is 90 miles around the White House,” or you opt for an interstate-based strategy, like market panelist and flipper Craig Fuhr, who cites I-695 as his guideline for acquisitions, the Think Realty National Conference and Expo in Baltimore is the place to get all the information not just about the local market but also how to leverage real estate strategy effectively and profitably at any level. Reserve your spot here.