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State Center Project Badly Needed In Baltimore

Tom Chalkley

The state’s high court last week cleared the way for a project that could increase the momentum behind Baltimore’s burst of transformational energy.

Major downtown property owners led by the Orioles’ Peter Angelos were rebuffed in their effort to kill the $1.1 billion State Center project.

The decision could have wide-ranging significance. The go-ahead enhances the University of Maryland Medical Center’s plans for the old Maryland General Hospital. The reborn hospital will need better emergency vehicle access. It will proceed with moving doctors and services to a vibrant neighborhood. A hoped-for transit hub will make access easier for all.

The project calls for new residential housing and retail space – all to the good for that neighborhood south of Bolton Hill. Penn Station and the light rail are also nearby.

The Court of Appeals chose to nullify a lower court decision favoring the Angelos concern – by invoking an issue of timing. The group failed to act in a timely fashion, the court said. Which is not to say the Angelos concerns had no merit. He and other downtown interests are rightly worried about office space vacancies: two million sq. ft. were unoccupied at one point.  Reportedly, some concessions in the form of state government office leases have eased the property owners’ unhappiness.

The important point: Baltimore’s redefinition of itself as a residential city continues apace. Everywhere you look, private interests are converting warehouses and other buildings to apartments and condominiums. Developers and owners of vacant buildings are moving quickly to catch the wave of older and young people acting on their desire for city living.

State officials, welcoming the State Center decision, are optimistic that financial backing for the State Center project remains intact.

As for downtown?  Its character is changing overnight. Something other than a lawsuit might have been a more realistic response.

Your comments are welcome at [email protected].