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Jeff Middlebrooks, city planner who assisted Oriole Park and other city projects, dies

Jeff Middlebrooks, a city planner who helped place Oriole Park at Camden Yards in its downtown Baltimore location, died of complications of flu and lung disease Jan. 27 at the Johns Hopkins Hospital. The Patterson Place resident was 75.

Born in Philadelphia, Pa. and raised in Wallingford, Pa., he was the son of Glenn Middlebrooks, an engineer, and his wife, Janie Rhyne, an early proponent of art therapy.

He attended Temple University and earned a bachelor’s degree in urban and economic planning at Antioch University.

He also spent time in Spain, where he studied flamenco guitar. He later took courses at the Peabody Conservatory of Music. In 1969 he performed at what is now the Walters Art Museum as part of the Peabody Guitar Ensemble.

Mr. Middlebrooks worked throughout his career in demography, market analysis and real estate economics.

In 1972 Mr. Middlebrooks became a staff planner at the Prince William County, Va. planning office. In 1976 he was named the county’s planning director, and led an office of 35 engineers, planners and technicians.

In 1982 He joined Baltimore’s Charles Center-Inner Harbor Management, the city’s nonprofit arm that handled the redevelopment of the harbor and downtown. Mr. Middlebrooks worked on land disposition and selling city real estate. He solicited developers’ proposals and selected winning designs.

He also oversaw public space projects and the installation of infrastructure needed for those projects.

When a decision was made to build a new downtown baseball park and discontinue the use of Memorial Stadium, Mr. Middlebrooks was part of the planning process.

“Jeff was known for helping make it possible for the Camden Yards stadium to be fitted in around the brick warehouse,” said Martin Millspaugh, retired chief executive officer of Charles Center-Inner Harbor Management.

“Jeff was a superior employee who was excellent at what he did,” said Mr. Millspaugh. “As a city planner, he was wise and was widely educated to develop long- and short-range plans.”

In 1990, Mr. Middlebrooks was photographed with then-Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke as the city announced plans to create Harbor East and its Marriott Waterfront Hotel.

He went on to be named an executive vice president of the Baltimore Development Corporation.

In 1993 he formed a private company, CityWorks. The consulting firm worked to help city neighborhoods and towns develop strategies to overcome economic distress. He also worked with educational institutions and assisted with the creation of senior citizen residences.

“He was a bright and hard-working guy who contributed to the successes we had,” said M. Jay Brodie, former Baltimore City Housing Commissioner.

Mr. Middlebrooks also worked on a master plan for a new resort at Cambridge in Dorchester County, and was a consultant to Sailwinds Park, a 31-acre development.

"Think of it as Delmarva's Inner Harbor," Mr. Middlebrooks said in a 1993 article in The Baltimore Sun. "It can be the whole Eastern Shore's recreation center."

“Jeff thrived on real data when doing his market research and demographic analyses,” said Bruce Manger of Baltimore, an architect and friend. “We called him the vacuum cleaner. He was a quick study and went beyond the facts to intuitively interpret the information and discern the bigger picture. He predicted the coming higher education tuition crisis years before it became manifest.

“In addition to his keen intellect and sense of humor, he was a consummate humanist and advocate for animals, like his five dogs,” Mr. Manger said.

He also sat on a committee whose members oversaw exhibit designs at the Christopher Columbus Center for Marine Research and Exploration on Pratt Street.

In 2003, Mr. Middlebrooks joined with a partner to form Threshold, a planning firm. Clients included the Power Plant, the Living Classrooms Foundation, the Visionary Arts Museum and the Port Discovery Children's Museum.

He also worked on market studies for the Maryland Science Center, La Salle University and Anne Arundel Community College.

Mr. Middlebrooks was a dog fancier and often walked his pets in Patterson Park near his home. He continued his interest in flamenco guitar and practiced daily.

Plans are a private service are incomplete.

Survivors include his partner of 31 years, Lois Schwait; and a son, Benje Middlebrooks of Baltimore. His sister, Jan Williams, died a week before her brother.

jacques.kelly@baltsun.com

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