Whose property is it? Strange but true: City department must submit bid to manage city property.

December 30, 1996

SOME THINGS are accomplished faster when government is not involved. Government, with its regulations and bureaucracy, can slow down business that must not be delayed.

That's why the city created quasi-public agencies such as Charles Center-Inner Harbor Management Corp. and Baltimore Economic Development Corp. That's why four years ago those entities were merged to form Baltimore Development Corp.

The public wants the efficiency and speed a BDC provides, even if it means losing the ability to scrutinize the semi-private agency with the same degree of authority as City Hall agencies.

BDC's job is to bring and keep businesses in Baltimore. It is now responsible for the management of 65 city-owned commercial properties, ranging from the Fish Market, which is being turned into a children's museum, to a 20-story office building on E. Redwood St.

But BDC's forte is deal-making, not property management, so it has decided to hire a real estate management firm to handle the city's commercial properties. That professional manager will collect rent and respond to tenant complaints and requests.

BDC has received eight bids, including one -- surprise, surprise -- from the city's own real estate department. The bid caught even Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke off guard, but he has directed BDC to give the proposal equal consideration.

The real estate department would have to hire someone to work directly with tenants, but its bid should be competitive because it isn't looking for the profit that a private firm wants.

Even if the real estate department does not get the job, its bid is a welcome sign. It is further evidence that Comptroller Joan M. Pratt and city real estate chief Anthony J. Ambridge are shaking the lethargy from that agency.

Mr. Ambridge is finally getting information from other departments to determine exactly what properties the city owns. He and Ms. Pratt are right to look for ways to centralize the management of all that belongs to the city.

Pub Date: 12/30/96

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