Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke took a step yesterday toward merging the city's two major downtown development groups into a single agency.
The mayor has asked David M. Gillece, president of Baltimore Economic Development Corp., to look at the feasibility of merging BEDCO and Center City-Inner Harbor Development Corp.
Center City-Inner Harbor Development was created last year by combining the operations of Charles Center Inner Harbor Management Corp., which was responsible for development around the Inner Harbor, and Market Center Development Corp., which oversaw development around Howard and Lexington streets.
BEDCO, a quasi-public agency formed in 1975, is charged with retaining businesses in Baltimore and attracting new ones.
Mr. Schmoke also has named Mr. Gillece to succeed Walter Sondheim Jr. as the temporary head of Center City-Inner Harbor Development. Mr.Sondheim resigned last year, at the age of 81, but came back temporarily in August when his successor, Albert M. Copp, resigned.
Mr. Gillece said yesterday that there is no guarantee the proposed merger will ever take place. "The mayor clearly wants it looked at," he said, "but he has not said it will happen."
Mr. Gillece said he wants to move into the Center City-Inner Harbor Management office and learn its day-to-day operations. He said he also will consult with corporate leaders and real estate developers to get their views on the feasibility of the proposed merger.
"I would hope that within a period of 45 days I could make a preliminary assessment and go back to the mayor with a recommendation," said Mr. Gillece, who has been president of BEDCO since July 1988.
Mr. Gillece said that saving money is the dominant factor in considering a merger. He said there also might be some duplication of effort between the two agencies.
The BEDCO president said that a merger of the two agencies probably would result in some city workers' losing their jobs, but he declined to say how many might be displaced.
BEDCO has a staff of 24 and a budget of about $1.3 million. About 90 percent of the money comes from the city, the rest from the private sector.
Center City-Inner Harbor Management has almost 30 employees and a budget of about $1.7 million, Mr. Gillece said. He said two-thirds of its funds come from the city, one-third from the federal government.