Frank's legacy? Subsidizing rich developers

March 16, 2010

Your editorial, "Unfinished business" (March 10) about Deputy Mayor Andy Frank's departure from City Hall stated that his legacy will be his efforts to bring slots to Baltimore, and if successful at some point in the future, to reduce the property tax rate in Baltimore City.

In fact, the legacy of Mr. Frank and the Dixon Administration are the massive public subsidies the city provided to a few politically connected developers for the Harbor East and Westport Developments. Regrettably, those investments came at the expense of city taxpayers and the existing businesses and growing number of residents downtown.

Just a fraction of the hundreds of millions of dollars of public investment in these two developments could have revitalized the entire West Side, Baltimore's historic retail and entertainment center. Although renovation of the Hippodrome Theatre, Hecht Company, Stewart's and Abell buildings have brought new life the area, the "Superblock" parcel that was condemned and acquired by the city sadly sits vacant.

While Charleston, Denver and Miami have capitalized on their unique historic buildings and neighborhoods to attract new residents, businesses and visitors to their cities, Baltimore has pursued a costly newer-is-better approach to economic development.

Mr. Frank's departure is a sign that Mayor Stephanie C. Rawlings-Blake is ready to take a more fiscally responsible and sustainable approach to revitalizing Baltimore, and in the process reestablish downtown as the business and cultural center of the region.

Tyler Gearhart, Baltimore

The writer is executive director of Preservation Maryland.

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