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City tourism group offering 3-D map app on Android devices

Baltimore's tourism bureau is expanding its free app for tourists and convention planners to new platforms and neighborhoods.

The 3-D app of the city, known as BaltimoreInSite, will be available free for Android devices and downloadable from Visit Baltimore's website by mid-2013. The app is currently available on the iPhone. Since it was launched last year, 60 people have downloaded the app. 

The app's map will cover about half the city by this summer and the rest by next year, says Brian Russell, integrated practice manager at Ayers Saint Gross Inc. The Baltimore architectural firm developed the app, which currently covers about one-fourth of the city. 

“We are applying video game technology to telling about the city in a unique way,” Russell says. 

Baltimore InSite now covers the Inner Harbor to Amtrak’s Penn Station, including Canton, Fort McHenry and Locust Point. Future coverage will extend to Station North Arts & Entertainment District and the Charles Street corridor along with major institutions and attractions like Johns Hopkins University, the Baltimore Museum of Art, the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore Zoo and M&T Bank Stadium. The app links to hotels, restaurants, retail and attractions that are Visit Baltimore members.
 
Visit Baltimore  CEO Tom Noonan says the app has several uses. Convention and hotel sales teams use it to show potential convention customers the layout of the city and its attractions. It is a media planning guide to find restaurants, caterers and venues. Tourists use the app to find attractions and walking tours.
 
Noonan says the app is an ongoing project.  The web version will link to other websites, and new buildings and attractions like Horseshoe Casino will be added as they open.
 
The app cost about $40,000 to develop, paid by Visit Baltimore and Ayers Saint Gross, which also contributed pro bono work to the project. 
 
Sources: Brian Russell, Ayers Saint Gross; Tom Noonan, Visit Baltimore
Writer: Barbara Pash

MICA, Hopkins, Launch Joint Degree

Johns Hopkins University Carey Business School and Maryland Institute College of Art are teaming up to offer a joint MBA/MA in Design Leadership next fall.

Billed as the first program of its kind in the US, the program will marry traditional business courses with those in art and design to train leaders in architecture, architecture, the fine arts and other creative fields.

The partnership anticipates enrolling students of diverse educational backgrounds including grads in business management, fine arts, finance and design. The new program will be an 18 to 20-month, 66-credit program of study.

Writer: Amy McNeal
Sources: MICA and Johns Hopkins University

Baltimore Celebrates 9 New Electric Vehicle Chargers

Baltimore now has 9 new chargers available for drivers of electric vehicles. Mayor Stephanie
Rawlings- Blake, Department of General Services Director Theodore “Ted” Atwood, Parking
Authority of Baltimore City Executive Director Peter Little, and John Murach of Baltimore Gas
and Electric were on hand at the dedication celebration for the new chargers. The Mayor
also took a spin in a new Chevy Volt, which is being considered as a fleet vehicle by the
Department of General Services.

The 9 new car chargers are located at city owned garages around downtown Baltimore.
Electric vehicle chargers have been installed at the Arena Garage, the Baltimore Street
Garage, the Caroline Street Garage, the Lexington Street Garage, the Little Italy Garage, the
Penn Station Garage, the Redwood Street Garage, the Water Street Garage, and the West
Street Garage.

The celebration ceremony for the 9 new chargers is a part of the city's efforts to reduce
energy consumption. During the month of October, which has been designated “Energy
Awareness Month,” Baltimore City officials have also held energy awareness and green
initiatives seminars. Baltimore's city government is also holding a City Employee Energy
Challenge, pitting different city departments against one another in a competition to
reduce energy use. According to the Department of General Services, the Baltimore City
government is on target to meet its goal of a 20% reduction in energy use by 2015.

Writer: Amy McNeal
Source: Department of General Services, Baltimore City

Baltimore's Inner Harbor Gears Up for Summer Tourism

Tourism is heating up for the summer in Baltimore. As the city enters a summer packed with headline-making events like the Grand Prix and Baltimore Pride, the hospitality sector is looking forward to a busy and profitable season. 


"Tourism is lifting itself, and doing very well," says Tom Noonan, President and CEO of Visit Baltimore. 

At the Inner Harbor, increased tourism spending is providing opportunities for growth. The Rusty Scupper, a staple of the Inner Harbor tourist trade, expects revenues to increase 25% this year. The National Aquarium and The Maryland Science Center are also experiencing increases in visitor traffic and revenue. Baltimore's popular free bus service, The Charm City Circulator is experiencing increased ridership, and expects to reach 2 million riders this year. 

Visit Baltimore has taken the expected increase in tourism seriously. Through its Certified Tourism Ambassador program, Visit Baltimore aims to have hundreds of specially trained personnel around the city to provide welcoming help to visitors. The program will train hospitality industry workers, police officers, cab drivers and workers in other tourism related industries to help tourists navigate the city and answer questions about history, venues and landmarks. 

"We're training a knowledgeable force, so that as a guest you'll run into someone who is certified, has taken a class and passed an exam," adds Noonan. 

Hotel occupancy is increasing, fueled by both a rebounding travel market and a healthy convention business downtown. Baltimore's hoteliers are adding approximately 2,500 new rooms to handle the increased demand. The city's hospitality profile will increase with the addition of the new Four Seasons Hotel in 2012.

Author: Amy McNeal

Source: Tom Noonan, Visit Baltimore


Baltimore's vital signs looking good says report

A new statistical analysis of Baltimore shows that the city has made important improvements in areas central to the city's improvement, including crime, housing, and education prior to the recession. Other social conditions, such as the number of teen births and the number of children with elevated levels of blood lead, have also improved according to the latest "Vital Signs" report by the Baltimore Neighborhood Indicators Alliance-Jacob France Institute. However, the report shows that while there have been significant improvements in a variety of economic and social indicators in Baltimore, not all neighborhoods within the city have benefited equally.

Available on the BNIA-JFI's new website, analyzes data from nearly 80 indicators provided at the Community Statistical Area level. CSAs, created by the Baltimore City Department of Planning, are clusters of neighborhoods organized around Census Tract boundaries, which are consistent statistical boundaries. Neighborhood borders don't always fall neatly into CSAs, but CSAs represent conditions occurring within the particular neighborhoods that comprise a CSA.

"This latest edition of 'Vital Signs' will help us access how our neighborhoods are doing and what we can do to help improve outcomes," says Janice Hamilton Outtz, senior associate for Civic Site and Initiatives at the Annie E. Casey Foundation. "I am excited about the new report."

The 8th edition of "Vital Signs reveals the following important trends currently impacting the city:

  • The city's population declined by 3 percent, from 651,154 in 2000, to 631,815 in 2008. While a handful of neighborhoods lost population, several more, including downtown (22 percent), Loch Raven (8.4 percent) and Northwood (9.9 percent), experienced a growth in population.
  • Median sales prices for homes in the city increased by well over 100 percent in the past eight years, although the pace of that increase has slowed considerably since the start of the recession.
  • Both adult and juvenile crime has decreased in Baltimore City. In particular, Baltimore City's Part 1 crime rate has declined from 106.0 incidents per 1,000 people in 2000 to 78.3 incidents per 1,000 per people in 2008.
  • The number of residential properties receiving rehabilitation investment is climbing, and may be continuing as the recession lingers and more homeowners choose to stay in their current home.
  • Baltimore's high school completion rate is on the rise, while its rate of truancy in elementary, middle school and high school (including students who drop out of high school) is in decline.
  • The teen birth rate dropped from 83.3 teens out of 1,000 in 2000 to 66.1 teens per 1,000 in 2008a decline of 17.2 percent.

Other measurements, such as the larger number of Baltimore residents visiting local emergency rooms for non-emergency diagnoses and treatment, expose a city that continues to be constrained by larger trends such as rising health care costs and a lack of adequate medical insurance.

"While Baltimore City has made significant improvements in areas such as crime and education, we appear to be hampered by many of the same things that have struck other urban areas in this recession," says Matthew Kachura, program manager for BNIA-JFI at UB. "But we also are seeing some resilience, such as the increase in home prices, median household income, and an impressive number of small businesses based in well-established city neighborhoods like Edmonson Village and Greenmount East, and by the growing number of city residents who claim at least some higher education in their backgrounds."

BNIA-JFI began in 1998 as a partnership between the Annie E. Casey Foundation and the Association of Baltimore Area Grantmakers. In 2006, BNIA joined with the University of Baltimore's Jacob France Institute in an expansion of its capabilities. BNIA-JFI has strengthened the "Vital Signs" report and provided additional services and resources for those who seek data, information, and analysis about the city.

BNIA-JFI's latest product is a new Web site, www.bniajfi.org, which provides a wide variety of data, maps, and information for the City of Baltimore and its neighborhoods. Anyone interested in how Baltimore measures up can find easy-to-use statistical analyses, maps, reports and links relevant to the city.

This information is reflected in the latest "Vital Signs" report. For example, Edmonson Village reports the city's highest percentage of successful small businesses (69.2 percent), while a total of 50.9 percent of all city residents reported some type of college attendance as of 2008.

"These trends of educational attainment, lower crime and rising housing prices may not lead to a total revitalization for the city," Kachura said, "but show that many neighborhoods are improving and these improvements paint both a better and a realistic picture of Baltimore. The larger question is whether these trends can be maintained and translated into long-term improvements for Baltimore and its neighborhoods. For the most part, though, they are good news for the city."

Source: Baltimore Neighborhood Indicators Alliance-Jacob France Institute at the University of Baltimore
Writer: Walaika Haskins


City teams with Harbor East employers to ease traffic congestion

Baltimore city  has teamed with business leaders on an initiativefrom the Waterfront Partnership of Baltimore to promote alternative forms of transportation for employees in Harbor East and other waterfront areas. The goal is to ease traffic congestion, employee commute time and pollution.

"From the Charm City Circulator and the Light Rail to vanpooling and bike riding, Baltimore employees have tons of options for their commute to work," says Laurie Schwartz of the Waterfront Partnership. "The goal of this initiative is to help educate area employees about what's out there and why this is beneficial for everyone!"

The new Transportation Mangement Association in the Harbor East area is made up of area employers who have joined to educate their employees that there are other ways to get from home to work without driving their cars.

"Harbor East is probably one of the most congested areas in the city. And we're trying to get people to walk, bike, carpool, or use transit, including the new water taxi,  to get to work," says Jamie Kendrick, deputy director of the city's Department of Transportation.

Source: Jamie Kendrick, Baltimore City Department of Transportation
Writer: Walaika Haskins
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