Building confidence

Baltimore: Groundbreakings reassure economic downturn has not killed construction projects.

November 04, 2001

IF THIS is recession, Baltimore is entering it with fanfare.

On Thursday, ground will be broken for Lockwood Place, an office complex on Pratt Street across from the National Aquarium. On Nov. 14, a similar ceremony is scheduled for Montgomery Park, an old warehouse that is being converted into the city's biggest office center.

Groundbreaking is something of a misnomer, because work at both sites has been going on for some time.

At Montgomery Park, developers are under the gun to get parts of the 28-acre colossus ready for 900 Maryland Department of the Environment employees.

Lockwood Place, next to Baltimore City Community College, is a more speculative venture. But its location is right. The Power Plant, slated for expansion, is just across the street. And just two blocks away is the 15-story tower rising on top of a power station that will house the headquarters of Constellation Energy Group.

It has been said that Baltimore is a recession-proof town: It doesn't do great during boom times and it doesn't grind to a halt in downturns. It's too early to tell whether this is true in this tough economic climate. Too many construction projects are so advanced they would be too expensive to stop at this point.

The apparent willingness of a Ritz-Carlton hotel developer to go ahead with the acquisition of a choice harbor site is an encouraging sign, though. Another developer who hasn't given up is J. Joseph Clarke, who wants to build a skyscraper at Light and Baltimore streets. "We've got to go forward with this in some shape," Mr. Clarke vowed recently.

The message is clear: Despite current uncertainties, developers still have faith in Baltimore's revitalization. It's just a question of time.

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