Nonprofit entity sought for west side

Development group would support city's $350 million project

July 15, 1999|By Tom Pelton | Tom Pelton,SUN STAFF

The major stakeholders in the city's proposed west side redevelopment plan yesterday launched a campaign to create a nonprofit corporation devoted to boosting the $350 million effort.

Representatives of Orioles owner Peter G. Angelos, the University of Maryland Medical System, the University of Maryland, Baltimore, and the Harry and Jeannette Weinberg Foundation said they support the creation of the West Side Development Corp.

They met about 50 business leaders and state officials yesterday during a fund-raising lunch in the Camden Club at Orioles Park.

"The west side needs a geographically-focused organization to advocate its interests," said Mark Wasserman, vice president for external affairs at the University of Maryland Medical System.

The West Side Development Corp. would be formed by September, have a privately funded budget of about $500,000 a year, and would try to attract developers to build apartments and shops in an 18-block area around the Howard Street retail district.

In May, the City Council laid the foundation for the effort by approving a law that allows for the condemnation of 110 buildings in an area north of Camden Yards and east of the University of Maryland, Baltimore.

The redevelopment effort is now being led by the Baltimore Development Corp., a city-funded agency created by Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke a decade ago to consolidate the efforts of other economic development groups.

The West Side Development Corp. would cooperate with but not replace the Baltimore Development Corp., Wasserman said. The BDC would continue to have the power to condemn buildings and prepare sites for construction. The west side group would recruit developers and promote the project, Wasserman said.

Schmoke, who did not attend yesterday's event, said through a spokesman that he is wary of the proposal because he prefers not to create more development agencies. He wants to hire someone to "quarterback" the effort from within the existing corporation.

"I have not seen any details about the proposal," Schmoke said. "But I have stated in the past my concerns about creating a new entity."

Angelos was the official host of yesterday's lunch, but was unable to attend because he was held up by business at the baseball All-Star Game in Boston, according to an assistant.

One advantage to creating a development agency independent of city government is that it could guarantee the continuation of the effort even if support falters when a new mayor is elected in November, said William Couper, president of NationsBank of Greater Baltimore, who pledged his financial support yesterday.

Stewart Greenebaum, a member of the University of Maryland Medical System Board of Directors, said the Baltimore Development Corp. tends to focus its efforts on the Inner Harbor and east side. The west side project needs an organization focused entirely on that area, Greenebaum said.

"The Baltimore Development Corp. is a wonderful, very efficient organization with enough on its plate for 12 organizations," said Bernard Siegel, president of the Weinberg Foundation, the largest development group in the redevelopment effort.

"What we really need for the west side is someone with adequate support staff who has nothing else on his plate other than the west side," Siegel said.

Pub Date: 7/15/99

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