Charles Village group is looking for a leader Community organization loses chief to downtown job

September 29, 1998|By Jamie Stiehm | Jamie Stiehm,SUN STAFF

Tracy Ward Durkin has left her post as administrator of the nonprofit Charles Village Community Benefits District (CVCBD) to go downtown, and the tax-based community group has launched a search for a new leader.

In the job she started last week at the Downtown Partnership, Durkin takes charge of an initiative to convert Class-B office space into hundreds of housing units, to expand the residential population in the city's heart -- much like Cleveland and Denver.

Tom Shafer, CVCBD board chairman, said the search for a successor to fill Durkin's job is under way.

"It takes a person with a combination of management, fund-raising and people skills," he said.

Durkin, 32, spent more than three years at the helm of the CVCBD.

Spurred in part by the 1990 Christmas-season murder of a 25-year-old engineer and father of two, voters in the 100-square-block area elected to make it the country's first residential/commercial district in 1994. Property owners in the North Baltimore community of about 15,000 are taxed an extra 30 cents on every $100 worth of property value.

Because crime and pollution were the motivating factors, she said, hiring extra security and sanitation officers to supplement city police and trash collection were the organization's first steps.

"Nothing else would work without handling crime and grime," Durkin said, noting that crime has dropped by 35 percent in the area since the benefits district was established.

Now staffed by 15 employees and supported by a $512,000 budget, the CVCBD was approved for a four-year renewal by a City Council vote this year.

Publishing a grass-roots master plan to improve the urban landscape, which took two years to complete, is one of Durkin's CVCBD legacies. Another is the organization's selection for a state-funded "Main Street" economic development program that matches money business owners put into repairing and replacing storefronts.

Durkin, who grew up in Bolton Hill, said the lowest point in her tenure with the group was the city's closing the St. Paul Street library a year ago. "Look how the community turned that around," she added, noting the movement to turn the building into a learning center.

With more events in Charles Village, such as a June parade and a creative house-painting contest, Durkin said, "The volunteer spirit turned toward the positive."

Durkin's move to the Downtown Partnership follows that of Dominic Wiker, her former CVCBD colleague. Wiker, who left his CVCBD post this summer, continues work on small-business development.

Pub Date: 9/29/98

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