New Study Details Baltimore’s Flawed Revitalization Efforts

Institute for Justice · June 23, 2008

Arlington, Va.—Although Baltimore’s Inner Harbor is often touted as the example par excellence of government-subsidized redevelopment, Baltimore “is today two cities, separate but unequal, not in spite of its extravagant and interventionist redevelopment program, but because of it,” finds a new study from the Institute for Justice. Baltimore’s Flawed Renaissance: The Failure of Plan-Control-Subsidize Redevelopment, by Loyola College Economics Professor Stephen J.K. Walters and graduate student Louis Miserendino, closely examines Baltimore’s 50-year failed attempt to bring investment back into the city.

Baltimore’s Flawed Renaissance (found at: is the Institute for Justice’s third Perspectives on Eminent Domain Abuse, a series of independently authored reports that examine eminent domain abuse from the vantage point of noted national experts.

According to Walters and Miserendino, Baltimore’s “‘plan, control and subsidize’ doctrine is antithetical to the types of policies that would have created a far more inviting environment for investment and a far more organic, widely shared and enduring renewal.”

“Often, areas that were well-functioning (if unappealing in planners’ eyes) became emptied-out slums only after they were designated as part of a renewal area or were unlucky enough to sit in the path of a planner transit artery thought necessary to revitalize downtown,” Walters and Miserendino continue.

Although Baltimore’s Inner Harbor has recently become the city’s premier attraction, the rest of the city remains a relic of post-WWII urban decay and bears the scars of failed government-backed redevelopment in decades past. Walters and Miserendino recount the city’s failed attempts since the 1960s to revitalize the city: high-rise public housing, which only lasted four decades; 1.4 mile I-70, the highway to nowhere; and the attempted condemnation of the Colts’ National Football League team. Although the city continued efforts at revitalization, the city’s businesses fled for the surrounding Baltimore County or other places in the state (or country) where they would not be threatened with eminent domain and, at the same time, not taxed exorbitantly, note Walters and Miserendino.

“The city’s lack of progress on so many fronts is a direct byproduct of its failure to understand and treat the real source of its problems: hostility to private property rights and a resulting flight of capital that largely drained the city of its economic lifeblood,” the authors conclude.

“The beneficiaries of eminent domain abuse always parade the Inner Harbor as their poster child for the benefits of eminent domain,” said Christina Walsh, coordinator of the Castle Coalition, which helps home and business owners nationwide fight eminent domain abuse. “But they conveniently neglect to mention the devastating havoc the city’s efforts have wreaked on the rest of Baltimore. This ground-breaking study finally sets the record straight: ‘plan-control-subsidize redevelopment’ does not work, and the proponents of eminent domain for private gain can’t hide behind the Inner Harbor anymore.”