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City seeks $100K consultant for casino funds

City planning officials say they will soon spend $100,000 to hire a consultant to write a master plan detailing how 16 targeted communities surrounding the Horseshoe Baltimore casino will spend an anticipated $17 million in gambling revenue this year and next.

The windfall will come from community-impact funds directed to neighborhoods like Westport, Sharp-Leadenhall, Cherry Hill and Federal Hill as part of legislation that established gaming in Maryland and, ultimately, the $400 million casino nearby.

Horseshoe Casino site

Construction cranes loom over the Horseshoe Casino site in Baltimore on Thursday, Jan. 9, 2014. (The Daily Record/Maximilian Franz)

Horseshoe Baltimore is expected to open this summer with a 122,000-square-foot casino floor. The casino will have 2,500 slots, 100 table games and a poker room with 25 tables.

Community advocates and representatives of the Baltimore Department of Planning began meeting last summer to draw up a master plan for the impact funds, expected to be $7 million in 2014 and $10 million in 2015. The amount could go as high as $20 million per year, experts have said, depending on gaming revenues.

The consultant, expected to be named within the next month, will help spearhead the effort and write a draft plan that will be presented to the communities this summer.

“We want to make sure we’re creating an inclusive and bold vision for this part of the city,” Planning Director Tom Stosur said on Friday.

Theo Ngongang, assistant director of planning, added that the master plan would help communities prioritize some concerns related to the casino — like environmental impact, traffic and public safety.

“Everybody’s concern tends to be safety, but we also have recurring themes such as improved quality of the waterfront and infrastructure in terms of connectivity,” Ngongang said, referring to common themes that emerged at several community meetings already held on the casino and the master plan.

Another meeting is planned for community leaders, casino officials and city planners on Jan. 17.

Keisha Allen, president of the Westport Neighborhood Association, said Friday she has attended most of the meetings so far. Westport is located about two miles from the Horseshoe site.

Allen said her association is made up of “tough cookies” who have constantly monitored the casino development.

“I would say one of the biggest concerns is safety, public safety,” she said.

“This is going to increase the traffic in the area, vehicular and pedestrian traffic, so we want to know what is all this going to bring? People view it as an asset,” Allen said. “Everything is geared toward Harbor East and the Inner Harbor, so we want to make sure we’re being proactive, that this new neighbor is going to be more of a blessing than a curse.”