Pugh launches $55 million investment fund for underinvested communities

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Mayor Pugh addresses the media at her May 2 press conference. Image via Facebook Live.

Mayor Catherine Pugh today announced the city will start a nonprofit to invest in distressed neighborhoods that have for years been passed over for development.

By leasing city-owned parking garages and selling revenue bonds, the city will raise $55 million for the Neighborhood Impact Investment Fund, which the mayor hopes will spur additional private investment.

“Many of our neighborhoods have not seen investment for decades,” Pugh said at her weekly press conference. “When you think about riding down some of these streets in some of these neighborhoods, where you now see trees growing through the roof[s] of houses, that doesn’t happen overnight.”

The city will still maintain ownership of the garages and collect tax revenue from them.

Per a release from the mayor’s office, the board that runs the nonprofit will be comprised of business and civic leaders and representatives from the city.

The announcement comes as the city tries to secure federal funding for additional investment. Pugh noted Baltimore is a finalist for the Choice Neighborhood program through the Department of Housing and Urban Development, a step that was announced in April. Three jurisdictions will be selected, she said. If Baltimore is picked, Pugh said the money would go toward plans to redevelop the Perkins Homes in East Baltimore.

Last month, the state picked 42 neighborhoods to take part in Opportunity Zones, a different federal program that offers tax breaks to spur private investment in underinvested communities.

Pugh said she hoped the various programs would attract more housing, recreation and businesses.

Citing a recent analysis by The Sun that found the city and state’s efforts to tear down vacant homes had only resulted in a small net decrease in abandoned houses, Pugh said the program wasn’t moving as fast as she’d like. These new investments would be a more holistic approach.

“We have money from the state, as you well know, to begin to tear down some of these [vacants], but I want an aggressive plan to really move towards removing this blight from neighborhoods,” she said.

Brandon Weigel

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