Sissman to head theater project

Hippodrome restoration to be guided by former city housing official

$56 million west-side effort

October 05, 2001|By Scott Calvert | Scott Calvert,SUN STAFF

A former Baltimore deputy housing commissioner will help guide the $56 million restoration of the Hippodrome Theater on downtown's west side.

"My job is to think and live and breathe this project so it gets done," Mark Sissman, 56, said yesterday.

Sissman is expected to be named today as president and chief executive officer of Baltimore Center for the Performing Arts Inc., a nonprofit group coordinating the public-private effort with the Maryland Stadium Authority, the construction manager.

A reborn Hippodrome is considered a key to reversing a decades-long slump on the west side and making it the vibrant residential, retail and entertainment district it once was. The former vaudeville house is supposed to open in fall 2003 as a 2,200-seat showcase for Broadway shows and concerts.

As a senior vice president at Bank of America the past three years, he helped plan Centerpoint, a $60.8 million retail and residential complex the bank is developing across North Eutaw Street from the theater.

He said his new job will be to weave together the myriad threads of the Hippodrome project, including the sale of $8 million in historic-preservation tax credits.

"We still have deals to make on the Hippodrome," said Donald P. Hutchinson, president of the Greater Baltimore Committee and a member of the board of the performing arts group.

Sissman, who lives in Baltimore with his wife and two children, was approached about the job, which has been vacant for four years, by Walter D. Pinkard Jr., vice president of the France-Merrick Foundation, which is preparing to give the theater project $5 million.

Pinkard is joining the performing arts group's board of directors with seven others, including former Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke and David Ramsay, president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore.

Hutchinson called Sissman "a quality guy" with broad public- and private-sector experience.

From 1979 to 1984, Sissman was deputy housing commissioner. From 1984 to 1998, he was president of Enterprise Social Investment Corp., the financing arm of Columbia-based Enterprise Foundation.

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