Civic News

As she starts grad school in New York, Caroline Peri reflects on her time in Baltimore

Peri, who worked with many startups through the Downtown Partnership of Baltimore's TechConnect program, is studying urban planning at NYU this fall.

Caroline Peri in Baltimore.

(Courtesy photo)

Caroline Peri helped organize the Reinvent Transit Hackathon at Betamore in 2013. That’s where she met Chris Whong, and the two talked about NYU’s Wagner School of Public Service.
Three years later, Peri is beginning studies in the school’s Master of Urban Planning program.
Peri, a now-former economic development director at the Downtown Partnership of Baltimore, moved to Brooklyn with partner Chase Gilliam in August. She said the chance to explore New York and be closer to family helped make the decision easier. Professionally, after working at an organization that is working to activate a key urban area, she said she wants to dig into the ideas behind that action.
“Graduate school was right for me at this time because I am looking to add the theoretical ‘hows and whys’ understanding of planning to the practical experience I have gained during the last five years working in urban economic development,” she said.
In addition to co-organizing the transit hackathon and volunteering at Betascape, Peri met many members of the tech community through her work on the Downtown Partnership’s TechConnect initiative, which provides grants to companies to relocate to downtown Baltimore, and also works with landlords to determine what’s available in the market and let them know that startups could be potential tenants. (She was sure to point out that Downtown Partnership President Kirby Fowler initiated the program, and said she worked with Mackenzie Paull Kisiel to develop its structure).
Working with startups, she said she learned that there’s no homogeneous approach to attracting scalable tech companies from an economic development perspective.
“Each one wants something different from their office space and environment and has differing priorities,” she said. At the same time, she noted that Downtown Partnership of Baltimore’s work to improve green spaces and retail options in general is also part of what will attract startups.


On a personal level, she always found the Baltimore tech community to be open and inviting.
“Wherever I wanted to get involved with something, be it a Tech Crawl or the Rails Workshops for Women, people were quick to say ‘yes’ or extend an offer to participate,” she said. “I hope that the communities here will be as welcoming, and look forward to bringing that spirit of inclusiveness and collaboration to my own work going forward.”
During our separate interview with Gilliam, we asked what Baltimore could’ve done to keep him from leaving. He turned it on its head, and said the question was more about what the city could do to help him return. We posed that question to Peri. She noted the growth and momentum of the wider city, specifically the redeveloping Howard Street corridor and construction of the Maryland Avenue cycle-track near their former apartment in Mt. Vernon. It leads her and Gilliam to joke that they are leaving at the wrong time.
But among other challenges, she pointed to the city’s transportation system and streets.
“I would like to see greater investment in infrastructure for safe streets and broader support for policies that would make Baltimore a more walkable, bikeable and transit-connected city,” she said.

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