This Q&A appeared on citybizlist (Baltimore and DC) on Wednesday, July 19.
Q&A with Caroline Moore, CEO of Ekistics
Q&A with Caroline Moore, CEO of Ekistics, a Baltimore-based development firm with expertise in urban infill and adaptive re-use projects, and the Co-managing Member of the State Center mixed-use development project in Baltimore, Maryland.
What is State Center?
State Center is the economic hub of West Baltimore. It has the most accessible mass transit network in the city and contains the largest concentration of state employees in Maryland.
However, after decades of decline, it stands as a deteriorating 28-acre state office complex that poses one of the biggest problems, as well as one of the greatest opportunities, for economic development in the state.
Tell us about the proposed redevelopment plans for the State Center complex.
The project is a community conceived plan developed at the request of the Ehrlich administration, and carried through by Governor O’Malley. It is anchored by the state’s office presence and encompasses $1.5 billion dollars of private investment, including 250,000 square feet of neighborhood retail, a new grocery store and 2,000 mixed-income residential units. Additionally, one million square feet of private office space is planned to cater to the healthcare, education and tech innovation sectors that are the driving forces in Maryland’s economy.
Where does the State Center redevelopment project currently stand?
Governor Hogan has rescinded the shovel-ready phase 1 development agreements and has sued the private investors, asking the courts to sanction his right to cancel the contracts. We remain committed to the project and are willing to work with the Governor to address whatever issues he has.
Why is the redevelopment of State Center important to the city and state?
In order for Baltimore to thrive, we need more than our waterfront to thrive. State Center brings vital economic development to the communities of West Baltimore for the first time in generations. It is an investment in Baltimore’s neighborhoods, enriching and uniting nine communities by providing state-of-the-art facilities, new jobs, amenities and economic opportunity.
The redevelopment of State Center is unlike any other project in the city. It converts 28 acres from paying no taxes to paying all new taxes, keeps 3,500 state workers in the city and adds 6,500 new jobs. It brings a grocery store to a food desert and converts a deteriorating economic drain into a thriving, vibrant asset.
How is the proposed plan a good deal for the state?
The plan saves the state $16.5 million per year in maintenance and operating costs. It moves 3,500 employees from unhealthy working conditions into new, safe spaces. By consolidating agencies in one location, the government will run more efficiently and save taxpayer money. All of this while being 100% financed with private capital providing 75 years of profit sharing and ensuring that the state retains ownership of the property and improvements.
What kind of support has the project received from elected officials and community leaders?
State Center has had unanimous support for over 10 years from two governors, four mayors, nine community groups, five Board of Public Works votes, the Board of Estimates and the City Council. We have participated in more than 475 community meetings to arrive at a fully vetted community development plan that is shovel ready now.
What can the community do to support the project?
There is a strong citywide coalition in place that we encourage others to join. Community members and business leaders who are interested can:
1) Go to www.Statecenter.org/contact and become a member of the coalition.
2) Reach out to the elected officials: Governor Hogan, Comptroller Franchot, Treasurer Kopp, Mayor Pugh and Council President Young, and urge them to end the lawsuit and proceed with the project.
3) Tell your neighbors, friends, family and colleagues the project isn’t dead and ask them to sign up on the website and contact their elected leaders.
Time is of the essence. West Baltimore cannot be cavalierly cast aside and continually ignored by our most senior elected leaders without being held accountable to a better and more immediate plan.
What needs to be done to move this project forward?
Only the Governor can stop this wasteful lawsuit by agreeing to meet with us to find a way forward.
Connect with Caroline on LinkedIn
Caroline G. Moore, CEO of Ekistics, has over 30 years of experience in public-private partnerships and mixed-use developments and is leading the effort to save State Center.