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Harbor Point, city reach deals on parks, traffic

The developer of the Harbor Point project will pay the city $400,000 in fees stemming from increased traffic under an agreement approved Wednesday by Baltimore's spending board.

Under a second agreement, the city will accept responsibility for maintaining several small parks in the development, though Harbor Point will continue to own the land.

City officials, who said the development will create thousands of jobs, described the agreements approved by the Board of Estimates as the latest steps necessary to make the $1.8 billion waterfront project a reality.

Marco Greenberg, vice president at Beatty Development Group, LLC, said the deal was an "important milestone."

But the councilman who led the charge against the heavily subsidized project said he dislikes the moves. Harbor Point is in line to receive about $400 million in public subsidies, including about $110 million in tax breaks and $107 million in tax increment financing bonds.

Councilman Carl Stokes said the traffic payment amounts to "crumbs" when compared with the city assistance that developer Michael S. Beatty's project is receiving. He said the developer should maintain the parks.

"The very least the developer could do is maintain the public land the city is paying to build," Stokes said. "In truth, it's more of a campus amenity for the development than a public park."

Harbor Point, between Harbor East and Fells Point, is the planned home of energy giant Exelon Corp.'s new regional headquarters as well as a Morgan Stanley facility, office buildings, residential towers, stores and a hotel.

Under the deal on traffic mitigation, the development group will pay $400,000 to the city Transportation Department.

Under the agreement on public spaces, the developer will spend $7.5 million for infrastructure work and will pay $675,000 in fees to the city for related work.

After the parks, open spaces, road and utilities are complete, the developer will transfer responsibility for the public areas to city government while the development group maintains ownership. The city will be required to maintain the areas.

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake has called the Harbor Point development a "once-in-a-generation opportunity" for city growth.

Mayoral spokesman Kevin Harris said the deals approved by the board Wednesday are "entirely consistent with the Harbor Point [agreement] that was authorized by both the City Council and the Board of Finance."

"This agreement protects the best interest of the city and its utilities into the long term," he added.

The largely vacant Harbor Point site is assessed now at $10 million, but the Baltimore Development Corp. estimates that it will be valued at $1.8 billion for tax purposes when the development is completed years from now.

Once fully built, city officials say, the project would contribute about $20 million a year in increased property taxes to the city's budget, which could be used for schools, roads, police and other projects.

lbroadwater@baltsun.com

twitter.com/lukebroadwater

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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