At a recent meeting, task force members offered other ideas for ways to improve the facility.

"There is a lot of thinking about the future of the market, both what's being sold, how healthy it is and about the physical facilities," said M.J. "Jay" Brodie, president of Baltimore Development Corp., the city's quasi-public development arm.

The task force's work is applauded by WestSide Renaissance Inc.'s executive director, Ron Kreitner, though he said it was too early to measure results.

"There's certainly an effort to re-energize the effort from the public-sector standpoint," he said. "It's certainly a new approach on the part of the city."

Kreitner said he hoped to see a focus on finding appropriate uses for vacant buildings owned by the city.

"There needs to be … a strategy to maintain those properties and find new uses for them," he said, adding that "fresh thinking" was needed to determine what approaches work best, especially for smaller buildings that he said were well-suited for entrepreneurs and small businesses.

Officials have seen encouraging signs on some potential projects. Developers have shown interest in two city-owned sites, one at Liberty Street and Park Avenue and another at Liberty and Clay streets, prompting the BDC to issue requests for proposals. Both sites had sparked interest from developers several years ago, but plans were abandoned during the recession.

"We're seeing interest of the kind we haven't seen for the last couple of years," Brodie said, adding that that interest was driven by "a little bit of a sense that the worst is over in commercial real estate."

He said he expected future west side redevelopment would be driven by demand for downtown rental housing.

"That's where we see the great potential for downtown," Brodie said. "The driver is residential, and creating neighborhoods."

lorraine.mirabella@baltsun.com

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