Downtown Partnership head will resign her post July 1

President since 2000, Whelley plans to start consulting business

April 15, 2004|By June Arney | June Arney,SUN STAFF

Michele L. Whelley, president of Downtown Partnership of Baltimore, will resign her post July 1 to start a business consulting practice.

Whelley, 50, came to the organization in January 2000 as executive vice president and interim president, and was named president six months later.

"Increasingly over the past couple months, I've felt that there are other areas of interest that I'd like to dive into," Whelley said yesterday in announcing her planned departure. "What I think I have done best in is the strategizing and deal-making that leads to business development and project development."

James L. Shea, chairman of the Downtown Partnership board and managing partner at law firm Venable LLP, said the organization has a handful of candidates for her position and expects to announce a replacement by the end of the month to provide that person a few months of overlap with Whelley.

"You hate to lose someone like Michele," Shea said. "But it's the price you pay for having someone as good as Michele."

The Downtown Partnership is seeking someone compatible with business groups, Shea said.

"I don't see the need for revolutionary change," Shea said. "I think the momentum is there."

Whelley is departing as the Downtown Partnership concludes several initiatives.

"The economic health of downtown has never been better," Whelley said. "It's a sense of accomplishment for the entire organization."

During her tenure, the Downtown Partnership worked for the establishment of a municipal parking authority that has since added about 3,500 new parking spaces downtown. It also initiated a coordinated retail strategy for downtown and the shuttle service known as the Downtown Area Shuttle (DASH) to help alleviate parking and traffic congestion.

While Whelley was president, the organization also established a public-private partnership to secure funding and oversee the renovation of Center Plaza, and worked toward the passage of legislation to curtail nighttime panhandling. "Her greatest accomplishment is the pursuit of multiple goals while leading a capable staff, with concrete results in beautification, security and cleanliness of the city," Shea said.

At a board meeting yesterday, Whelley announced a second shift of Clean Sweep Ambassadors to begin this month. The workers help clean and beautify downtown.

Before joining the Downtown Partnership, Whelley was an independent business consultant for public organizations and private real estate development projects. Previously, she was executive vice president and chief operating officer of Baltimore Development Corp., the city's economic development arm.

At BDC, she was involved in the planning and construction of infrastructure improvements for the Inner Harbor East subdivision, the development of Sylvan Learning Systems' corporate headquarters and the expansion of the Baltimore Convention Center.

Whelley said she could not provide details of her new venture. "Right now, my focus is getting a lot more finalization to a lot of things still up in the air and making sure that whoever gets the job can hit the ground running," she said.

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