Name a real estate development in Baltimore and the odds are good that attorney Stanley S. Fine has worked on it.
In his nearly 40-year career, the 72-year-old Baltimore native has become one of a handful of go-to lobbyists for development work, adept at navigating city bureaucracy and treading the fine line between business and politics.
His projects include some of the city's most visible buildings — the Inner Harbor pavilions, Horseshoe Casino and HarborView, to name a few — as well as other projects scattered throughout the city. Often, as in the case of the Morris A. Mechanic Theatre's demolition and plans for a new Royal Farms gas station in Hamilton, the developments are not without some controversy.
This week, the local chapter of the Urban Land Institute honored Fine with its annual lifetime achievement award — the first nondeveloper to be so honored, citing his ability to realize challenging projects of all types.
"My role as a lawyer is being a problem-solver," Fine said. "When a client comes to me, he wants to get something done and my job is to solve the issues and make it happen. I enjoy the challenge and the strategic thinking and even some of the nuts and bolts."
Fine's successful real estate practice is rooted in part in his deep knowledge of government and politics, for which he developed a taste as he was growing up.
His father, Melvin Fine, represented Baltimore as a Republican in the House of Delegates and the state Senate, and later held state posts. In his early 20s, Fine volunteered on the 1966 gubernatorial campaign of Spiro T. Agnew, serving as his driver and, later, sometime pingpong opponent.
(Agnew later would resign the vice presidency in disgrace. Fine, who played lacrosse at the Johns Hopkins University and served in the Coast Guard reserve, before following family tradition to embark on a law career, would become a Democrat.)
After a stint in the state's attorney's office, Fine became a legislative aide to Gov. Marvin Mandel, who in 1974 appointed the 30-year-old to lead the still-new state lottery agency.
Fine entered private practice in 1979, picking up Wendy's as an early client.
Though he started out working on general business matters, Fine said his work eventually focused on real estate, an outgrowth of his time on the Mount Washington Improvement Association and stint on the city Planning Commission. He reported more than $50,000 in lobbying activities last year, according to reports filed with the city.
"He got the reputation that if you go to Stanley, you'll get good information," said City Councilwoman Rikki Spector, whom Fine has supported for decades. "You can go to the bank on what he says."
Fine, who is married to Bailey Fine, a former aide to William Donald Schaefer and Ben Cardin, described development as a "three-legged stool," supported by government, developers and community members.
"You don't burn bridges," he said. "The idea is to come with a good project and improve the city."