Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke has asked David Gillece, president of Baltimore Economic Development Corp., to explore merging BEDCO with Center City-Inner Harbor Development Inc. Both are quasi-public development agencies.
The mayor yesterday appointed Gillece as acting president of Center City.
The move comes after the resignation of long-time Center City head Albert M. Copp, who left the agency in September after receiving harsh criticism from City Council members and others for the agency's allegedly secretive operating style and poor handling of several downtown development projects.
Schmoke said that he has charged Gillece with exploring a plan to merge BEDCO, which handles industrial and business development citywide, and Center City into a single agency with two units: one for industrial development and another for downtown development.
Since taking office in 1987, Schmoke has said that he wanted tmerge the city's development agencies into a single, more efficient unit. He said the changes are needed to save money and to better coordinate the city's development efforts.
Schmoke started that process by forming Center City and then moving the city's Market Center development unit into what was formerly the Charles Center-Inner Harbor development agency.
Schmoke's appointment of Gillece and his move toward merging development agencies was applauded by at least one City Council member who has crossed swords with Center City and its predecessors in the past.
"Hallelujah!," said Councilman Wilbur E. "Bill" Cunningham, D-3rd. "I think the mandate is timely and overdue. I've been asking for something like this for a long time."
During deliberations over the fiscal 1990 budget, Cunningham was successful in having the council hold half of the agency's budget in escrow.
"Basically, we wanted to have some leverage for a performance review," Cunningham said. "We didn't like the fact that the agency had closed the process and was very unresponsive to the council."
Among the Center City decisions that were widely criticized were approval of a 28-story addition to the IBM building near the Inner Harbor and demolition of the McCormick spice factory.
Last year, Center City's downtown jurisdiction was expanded to include the neighborhoods just east of the Inner Harbor in Little Italy and Fell's Point.