Peter Angelos isn't the only one who sees State Center is a bad deal

March 30, 2011

Bryan Dunn's attack on Peter Angelos ("Why is Angelos standing in the way of Midtown redevelopment?" March 23) and Kevin Macartney's critical letter ("Angelos lawsuits stop growth," March 3) unfairly malign a man who has done as much to benefit Baltimore as anyone I know.

Such characterizations are designed to obscure the real issues surrounding the State Center project — a heavily taxpayer-subsidized plan that threatens to suck the lifeblood out of downtown while placing an added burden on city and state taxpayers.

A group of concerned building owners, retailers and downtown restaurants — including many in Little Italy and near State Center — have joined in litigation to challenge the illegal foundation of this project before it does irreparable harm. Mr. Angelos is far from alone in protesting.

Through a non-competitive "exclusive negotiating agreement," the state repeatedly circumvented its own competitive bidding laws in order to steer this project to preferred beneficiaries. That virtually guarantees the state did not get the lowest and best price.

Phase 1is billed as a $500 million project. Yet investors are putting up only $175 million. The taxpayers must put up the rest.

Over the next 20 years, city residents will lose $15 million in property tax payments just on State Center's first phase — and possibly $314 million over the life of the full project. That money will effectively be returned to developers to pay their infrastructure costs.

Over the next 20 years, Maryland taxpayers will pay a minimum of $370 million in rent for space the state today gets rent-free in state buildings.

Over the next 20 years, the Maryland transportation department will pay $40 million to finance a 1,000-car garage the state is building for the developers, who then will place their office tower on top of the garage.

The state claims this is transit-oriented development. Yet all that happens in the initial stage is swapping an aging state office tower for a new, privately owned building occupied by the same state workers — and more parking spaces. How does that promote mass transit?

This is not a good deal for taxpayers. It's also not good for our city.

No wonder Mr. Angelos and others are alarmed. The proposal is fundamentally flawed. The General Assembly's own analysts question whether the project is viable. It is a speculative undertaking that would collapse without enormous taxpayer subsidies.

Let the buyer beware. Our elected leaders should take the time to reassess this ill-conceived project.

Calman J. "Buddy" Zamoiski Jr., Baltimore

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