JAY BRODIE WAS Baltimore's housing commissioner in the 1970s at a time when urban homesteading and other innovations created a feeling of optimism about the city's future. His return to local government as president of the Baltimore Development Corp. shows Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke is serious about correcting some of the past deficiencies of his administration.
To further enhance BDC's credibility as a professional organization, Mayor Schmoke authorized the termination of Shapiro and Olander as the agency's chief counsel. The law firm's large role in city business has been controversial because the mayor's campaign manager and finance chairman are among its principals.
Mr. Brodie is a true Baltimorean, an architect intrigued by the living organism of the city. Even as he worked in Washington, D.C. as the head of the Pennsylvania Avenue Development Corp. he continued to live in Coldspring, the new town he helped create. His challenge at BDC is to revamp the agency and prove to doubters that he has the energy, business contacts and ability to strike the deals a successful economic promotion effort requires.
Although Schmoke loyalists are certain to deny it, BDC has for too long been a embarrassing amateur hour. While there are some good performers at BDC, many of its staffers have no place in economic development. Operating on the principle that changes are easier to make in the beginning, Mr. Brodie should shake up his staff without delay and hire competent people to provide him with guidance in areas where his own expertise is lacking.
Mr. Brodie's appointment comes at a time when Baltimore's Inner Harbor is on the threshold of major expansion. The opening the American Visionary Art Museum near Federal Hill has put a BTC spotlight on the whole southern shorefront. Meanwhile, the construction of the new Sylvan Learning System headquarters is making Inner Harbor East a reality. With the nearby AlliedSignal property being prepared for development, the whole Central Avenue corridor is ready for revitalization.
Unlike in the 1970s, the city is not a major property owner in this expansion but a facilitator. With Roger C. Lipitz now as chairman and Mr. Brodie as president, BDC is positioned well to coordinate the city's growth.