The controversial Harbor Point project is shaping up as an important test for Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake. On the one hand, the mayor has a gift, a piece of cake development-wise. A big outside corporation is relocating in Baltimore, a city not exactly awash in corporate headquarters.
Thousands of new jobs are at hand as Exelon, the energy giant, prepares to build a headquarters on one of the city’s premium bits of vacant land – Harbor Point. In the bargain, the mayor may get water-side parks, promenades and other infrastructural enhancements.
But she is asked to provide the developer at least $107 million in tax increment financing. The acronym TIF becomes, once again, a lightning rod for groups who have better ideas for using the city’s borrowing power.
Her project suddenly finds itself in heavy weather. Downtown property owners want help, too. Where’s their TIF? A citizens group in Fells Point says the prospect of even more traffic congestion is intolerable.
At the same time, a heavy hitter proposes to oppose the project. Peter Angelos, the Orioles principle owner, reportedly is ready to oppose the project on environmental grounds. The project would be built on industrial land contaminated by chromium waste. Federal authorities say the damage has been contained by a concrete dome. Questions might still be raised in court, of course.
Delay seems likely. Would that kill the project?
The mayor has to figure out how the project can go forward without political damage in the neighborhoods and in the business community.
She’s got her work cut out for her.