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Cityscape: Volume 24 Number 1 | An Evaluation of the Impact and Potential of Opportunity Zones


An Evaluation of the Impact and Potential of Opportunity Zones

Volume 24 Number 1

Mark D. Shroder
Michelle P. Matuga

Missed Opportunity: The West Baltimore Opportunity Zones Story

Michael Snidal
Columbia University, Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation

Sandra Newman
Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health

This paper presents a qualitative evaluation of how Opportunity Zones (OZs) have attracted capital and economic development to highly distressed neighborhoods in West Baltimore. Based on 76 interviews with community and government officials, program managers, developers, businesses, and fund managers, we assess the strengths and weaknesses of OZs in West Baltimore and Baltimore City. We find that OZs are stimulating new investment conversations and building local economic development capacity. However, we also find OZs fail at oversight and community engagement, do not spur new development, and are a missed opportunity to incentivize actors and institutions critical to revitalizing distressed neighborhoods. To spur development in distressed neighborhoods, OZs require reporting standards, the removal of non-distressed census tracts, dollars for education and infrastructure, the incorporation of Community Development Financial Institutions, and incentives for non-capital gains holding investors.

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