Harbor Point's $107 million handout

June 08, 2013

The vacant lot now known as Harbor Point sure is a beautiful piece of property. To its west lies the newly developed, thriving and beautiful Harbor East. To its east sits one of Baltimore's finest neighborhoods, Federal Hill. And to its south, that which Baltimore treasures most, our lovely harbor. It is sad that this 27-acre lot now lies empty and tarnished — as those who wish to develop it keep reminding us — by toxic waste and a lack of proper road access. I look forward to the day when this property is developed and populated by mixed-use development.

But the price the city's taxpayers are being asked to pay to spur development on this lot is too high. The developers have already won the right to forgo $53 million in property taxes over the next 10 years, and now the City Council is being asked to provide an additional $107 million in taxpayer bonds. It is said that the developers need this help to build what they propose, that this money will be used to create 9,000 permanent jobs in retail, new hotels and prime office space. But the city already has underperforming hotels it has subsidized, businesses that yearn for more customers and office space a plenty waiting for tenants.

I'm not against the city government attempting to spur growth. By all means, this is exactly what they need to be doing. But for this price tag, think of what could be done! A streetcar line could be built from Charles Village down to Federal Hill, spurring growth in neighborhoods that seem to have been forgotten. Community centers and libraries could be built in our struggling neighborhoods, along with more street lights and trees on their sidewalks, adding a much needed sense of safety to our nighttime streets. More circulator roots could be added, building off the success these buses have already had in connecting our cities neighborhoods. These are just some ideas I am throwing out there, but it is ideas like this these that our city government needs to be focused on.

Enough subsidizing large corporations, waterfront developments and our city's richer residents in the name of spurring job growth and building our city's future tax base. Our government ought to be focusing on making this city a better place to live for those of us who already proudly call Baltimore a home. Were that done, were these proposed subsidies and tax breaks, and the many others over the years, spent instead on making the city better for those who all already live here, than I have no doubt others would come to join us, that our population and tax base would grow, and that real estate, like that that beautiful Harbor Point lot, would be successfully privately developed without a $107 million gift from the city coffers.

Brian Levy, Baltimore

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