You might expect the nonprofit’s executive director to be partial to one of Charm City’s iconic sights such as the winking red Mr. Boh or Federal Hill’s stunning cityscape. Surprisingly, however, it’s Hunting Ridge, a tiny neighborhood tucked in Gwynns Falls Park. Though Milli has lived in the city since graduating college, she only discovered the charming residential alcove in 2014.
“At Live Baltimore, we take a staff trip to a different neighborhood each month to hear directly from the neighbors,” Milli explains. “That’s when I realized: I thought I loved this city, but the city that I loved was really small. I realized that I had never heard of neighborhoods that are now my favorite places in all of Baltimore.”
Take it from someone who has visited nearly all of the city’s 278 neighborhoods: There’s far more than the traditional tourist destinations of Fells Point and Federal Hill, she says, and Live Baltimore wants to match you with the perfect one … no matter your circumstance or preconceived notions.
“We work very hard to have up-to-date, honest information to offer people,” Milli says. “We’re very forthright with data about the neighborhoods and present people with all of the information they might need to make a decision about what neighborhood is right for them. We don’t shy away from difficult conversations.”
The current subject of many of those conversations? Baltimore’s declining population, which made headlines early this spring as the second-largest U.S. decline recorded in 2017. Chicago saw the largest.
Milli doesn’t deny the distressing stat, but she does dispute its lack of context. After all, she explains, the number of households in the city went up in the same year, indicating that many people are coming to Baltimore even as larger households head out.
And when it comes to the primary reason many of these families leave, Milli didn’t hold back.
“People need more information about making educational choices,” she says, referring to the many families who move with the hopes of giving their children a better education in the suburbs. “We have more choice in the city than in any of the surrounding counties. While in many ways that’s a benefit, it’s really a double–edged sword because it puts more on the families to make a decision themselves. We try to give people information about school zones, etc., and see what would work for their child, from charter schools to private and parochial school options, and what tuition assistance might look like. People are usually very appreciative and excited about the opportunity to stay.”
So, who is Live Baltimore’s typical customer? According to Milli, she’s a single African American woman, ages 22 to 44, with an income between $44,000 and $106,000. And in recent years, she’s had plenty to choose from. Since the recession, the city has added nearly 10,000 new housing units, Milli says — but she cautions that they quickly fill up.
Though she herself is partial to the city’s historic homes, Milli admits she sometimes wishes she lived in one of the city’s newer units, like the Rotunda’s ICON.
“I fantasize all the time about how amazing it would be to raise my child in an apartment complex,” she says, laughing. “All the common areas she could use and all the interesting people she could meet …”
No matter where in the city you choose to live, however, Milli’s main hope is that you’ll stay.
“This is a place where you don’t just walk by people who live on your street and wave–you know their names, you have dinner in their houses. It makes all the difference in living a really rich and fulfilled life.”
WHAT’S SHE WEARING
Dress, $45, Compañia Fantastica, and necklace, $65, One Story, both at doubledutch boutique. Tagua Nut Earrings, $35, and shoes, $120, Privileged by J.C. Dossier, both at Ma Petite Shoe. Watch, model’s own.
Model: Annie Milli
Photographer: David Stuck
Stylist/Writer: Kimberly Uslin
Makeup: Owen Michael O’Donnell
Location: ICON Residences at the Rotunda