Penn executive chosen to head east-side project

Nonprofit corporation oversees redevelopment

April 03, 2003|By Eric Siegel | Eric Siegel,SUN STAFF

John T. Shannon Jr., an economic and community development executive at the University of Pennsylvania, has been chosen as the head of daily operations of a major East Baltimore revitalization effort centered around a biotechnology park.

A lawyer and former official of the city governments of Philadelphia and Camden, N.J., Shannon is to take over May 12 as chief executive officer of East Baltimore Development Inc., the nonprofit corporation set up to oversee the development of the biotech park and hundreds of units of new and renovated housing around the Johns Hopkins medical complex.

Announcement of the appointment will be made today.

Acknowledging that "as an outsider, there's going to be the inevitable learning curve," Shannon said in a telephone interview yesterday that he would bring to the job a "fresh perspective and a great deal of experience working on large-scale neighborhood development."

"I'm very excited about this opportunity," said Shannon, 40, who will be paid $215,000 a year.

Joseph Haskins Jr., board chairman of the development group, said Shannon was selected from about 70 initial candidates to lead the effort to reinvigorate one of the most blighted areas of Baltimore by tearing down hundreds of vacant houses to make way for a biotech park and new housing.

"Having worked with communities and with governments and universities and the private sector in another environment is going to have him prepared to deal with this environment," Haskins added.

For the past four months, daily operations of the development effort, which is expected to take up to 12 years to complete, had been handled on an interim basis by Laurie B. Schwartz.

Schwartz, a former deputy mayor for economic and neighborhood development who shepherded the redevelopment project through two years of planning from her post at City Hall, was among the candidates to be CEO. She will act as a consultant to the project for an unspecified period, Haskins said.

As managing director for economic development and later associate vice president at Penn, Shannon was responsible during the past seven years for high-profile projects on and around the West Philadelphia campus. Among them were the Sansom Commons retail development and an initiative to turn the site of the former Civic Center into a life sciences and medical services campus.

Shannon was the "go-to guy at the university to get a lot of large projects done," said Blane Stoddard, head of the Partnership Community Development Corp., a West Philadelphia neighborhood group.

Charles Solomon, director of economic development projects for the Greater Philadelphia Urban Affairs Coalition, said Shannon "made a difference in terms of moving inclusion for the community forward."

In a statement, Penn President Judith Rodin praised Shannon for his role in forging partnerships with business and government and for helping to "create new jobs and business opportunities for minorities, women and local residents."

Before coming to Penn, Shannon spent a year as the chief operating officer of Camden and three years as a business advocate and economic development official in Philadelphia.

Lucille Gorham, a longtime East Baltimore community activist, applauded bringing in someone from outside the city.

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