Investing in Baltimore's future

October 13, 1992

A few minutes before hefting a shovelful of dirt yesterday as part of the ground breaking ceremony for the new Christopher Columbus Center in the Inner Harbor, Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke swept his gaze from the towers of Harborplace to the towers of the Lafayette housing projects and metaphorically connected the dots for his audience:

"We are making a magnificent investment in the future of Baltimore," he said. "This project represents a broadening of opportunities that will include everyone in Baltimore City. We are looking to the future with pride and optimism."

Mayor Schmoke's remarks neatly encapsulated the twin elements of hope and opportunity that characterize the Christopher Columbus Center of Marine Research and Exploration's arrival in Baltimore. The project is mind-boggling in its audacity: to reinvent the city as a world-class center for marine biotechnology research and high-tech industrial manufacturing based on the life sciences.

As a first step, the Columbus Center will represent one of the most important urban renewal efforts in the city's history. As Baltimore moves into the 21st century, the project promises rewards that will reach far beyond the Inner Harbor.

Located on 11.4 acres on Piers 5 and 6 in the Inner Harbor, the center is envisioned as a powerful engine of economic growth attracting hundreds of new businesses to the city, creating thousands of jobs and resulting in $300 million annually in new revenues. At its heart will be a state-of-the-art Center of Marine Biotechnology, the only marine science institution in the U.S. dedicated to marine molecular biology and molecular genetics.

The complex will also include a Center of Marine Archaeology, focusing on deep-water exploration and diving technology, underwater robotics and salvage. An exhibition area will allow visitors to the Inner Harbor to witness directly the work of the center's scientists and technicians.

The Columbus Center represents a long-term investment in the city's future at every level and it promises a broad-based payback that benefits the entire Baltimore community. Some 40 percent of the construction will be awarded to women and minority contractors. City public schools and community colleges will work with area colleges and universities to create the improved teaching methods and educational reforms required to train the work force of the 21st century.

By the turn of the millennium, the life sciences will be attracting even more of the intellectual and physical capital that translates into better jobs and a better life for thousands of people in the Baltimore region. Yesterday the city took a big step toward realizing that lofty goal.

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