The Challenge

Despite decades of effort and noteworthy progress on vacant property reclamation, Baltimore’s abandonment crisis has persisted. There remain over 14,000 vacant properties in Baltimore, along with over 21,000 vacant lots and over 34,000 nearby at-risk properties. Worse, Baltimore’s chronically vacant properties are rising: 8 in 10 vacant properties have been abandoned for decades and are effectively no longer part of the local housing market.

These properties are concentrated in East Baltimore, West Baltimore, and Park Heights, where they perpetuate population decline, concentrated poverty, and desperate living conditions. They also cost the city over $200 million dollars every year in mitigation costs and lost revenues.

The Whole Block Solution

Through the generous support of an the Abell Foundation, the Robert W. Deutsch Foundation, and an anonymous donor, ReBUILD commissioned czb, a leading planning firm, and longtime ReBUILD friend Alan Mallach, to complete a sweeping study of Baltimore’s abandonment crisis. The study—Whole Blocks, Whole City—analyzed the scale of the crisis in unprecedented detail.

It also offers bold and actionable steps for how the crisis can be resolved. The study puts forward a “whole block” model that would change both how we measure the crisis and how we fix it.

The study recommends the following comprehensive strategies:

  • STRATEGY: Design reinvestments to prioritize reestablishment of “whole blocks”—and then “whole areas”—where the toxic impact of abandoned properties and vacant lots is 100% eliminated.
  • SITE CONTROL: Create and implement more powerful legal tools to gain control of neglected privately-owned abandoned properties.
  • CAPITAL: Infuse a 20-year public investment of over $2.5 billion into rebuilding Baltimore neighborhoods—an amount considerably lower than the annual cost of vacancy.
  • CAPACITY: Build capacity of local community developers and builders.
  • COMMUNITY LEADERSHIP: Commit to community partnerships as the basis for all redevelopment and reinvestment decisions.

As ReBUILD continues striving to transform Johnston Square and serve East Baltimore, we are committing ourselves like never before to do our part to help resolve the abandonment crisis citywide.

We encourage you to read the executive summary of the “whole blocks” study—or explore the full study—and to consider the possibilities that this approach could offer our city.