Board changes at BDC as new president Cole steps in
By By Natalie Sherman and The Baltimore Sun
Aug 28, 2014 | 9:26 PM
City Councilman William H. Cole IV appeared as the new president of the Baltimore Development Corp. at its board meeting Thursday, on a day when the mayor announced six new board members and the board approved three new projects for the city's west side.
The new appointments, which include former Mayor Kurt Schmoke, are the latest changes at the quasi-public agency.
Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake chose Cole about two weeks ago to take over as the BDC's leader, replacing Brenda McKenzie, who cited personal and family reasons for her departure after less than two years.
Cole is stepping down from his council seat, where he has represented the Inner Harbor, Federal Hill and Bolton Hill since 2007. His official start date is next week.
As the new president, Cole said he plans to tour commercial corridors around the city, set up meetings to connect the BDC with his former council colleagues, and make sure people know "Baltimore is open for business."
"Part of the challenge is making certain that the BDC is seen as an organization that's affecting all neighborhoods and not just downtown neighborhoods," said Cole, who will earn $190,000 a year.
The new appointments, which include replacements for some retiring members, expand the board to 17 people. The board voted last month to increase its membership from 15 to 19 in an effort to add representation from industry sectors such as technology.
Rawlings-Blake said the new members reflect her economic development vision for the city and represent the diversity in Baltimore's "job growth sectors." Their four-year terms begin on Sept. 25.
"We are very fortunate to have these talented business and institutional leaders who will bring their expertise and skills to BDC's mission of growing the city by attracting and retaining businesses, expanding job opportunities for city residents, and investing in our neighborhoods," the mayor said in a statement.
Joining Schmoke, who is the new president of the University of Baltimore, are the mayor's new director of finance, Henry Raymond; Greg Cangialosi, CEO of MissionTix, an online event ticketing platform; and Jeffrey Fraley, president of the Fraley Corp., a general contracting company.
Christy Wyskiel, senior adviser to the president of the Johns Hopkins University, and Gary Martin, president and CEO of the Municipal Employees Credit Union of Baltimore, take the other two appointments.
Cole said the experience and expertise of the new members complements that of the existing members.
"This is an exciting group that will add a tremendous amount to this group," he said before the board voted unanimously to approve the new members. "I believe that these are exceptionally qualified candidates."
The BDC board also voted unanimously to recommend the sale of six city-owned sites for three new projects on the west side, responses to the city's February request for proposals for the area — a collection of properties roughly bounded by Park Avenue and Clay Marion and Liberty streets.
The board recommended that Columbia-based Housing Trust of America receive development rights to build 73 new units of workforce housing along the south side of Clay Street, on parcels currently used as a parking lot. The proposed sales price for the lot and an adjacent two-story building on Liberty Street is $1.5 million, above the roughly $1.36 million assessed value of the sites outlined in the city's February request for proposals.
Attorney Deborah H. Devan, who leads the BDC committee charged with reviewing projects, said the "Lexington Gateway" development would add a more affordable option to the area, where city officials are hoping to see a renaissance driven by the arts and the growth of the University of Maryland, Baltimore.
The board also voted to sell Baltimore-based Okoro Development three historic properties at the corner of Lexington and Liberty streets for $40,000, to be turned into seven residential units and ground-floor retail. The assessed value of the properties is more than $600,000, according to state land records. The sales price is about four times what the developer originally proposed, Devan said.
Carmel Realty Associates also won its bid for 119 Park Ave., which sits next to another property it owns, the historic Art Deco Kresge building, which houses a store on the first floor. The board agreed to sell the property, valued at about $55,000 for tax purposes, for $17,500. Carmel Realty, a longtime merchant in the area, plans to rehab the outside of the building, and do a bigger development within three years.
The board did not take action or discuss a fourth proposal from New Urban Equities to build a 90-unit apartment building on a triangular block bound by Liberty, Park and Fayette streets, of which 20 percent of the units would be affordable. The developer is seeking a deal for payment in lieu of taxes, according to the project committee's minutes.
Baltimore Sun reporter Yvonne Wenger contributed to this article.