City officials and developers celebrated the groundbreaking of the Liberty Harbor East, a new building being constructed at 711 S. Central Avenue, that will be home to a new, larger Whole Foods as well as 282 apartments and 35 condominiums. It's scheduled to be completed in late 2018.
City officials and developers celebrated the groundbreaking of the Liberty Harbor East, a new building being constructed at 711 S. Central Avenue, that will be home to a new, larger Whole Foods as well as 282 apartments and 35 condominiums. It's scheduled to be completed in late 2018. (Handout/The Baltimore Sun)

As officials celebrated the start of the next building in Harbor East, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said it was the success of that neighborhood that convinced her to stand firm in her support of subsequent development projects — even when they came with controversial tax benefits.

Rawlings-Blake traced her support to a stand-off with the late developer and baker John Paterakis about two decades ago, when she disagreed with the city's decision to build a publicly subsidized hotel with Paterakis in Harbor East, instead of going with a different developer's site, closer to the convention center.

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"I can't tell you how grateful I am to be wrong," she said, describing the hotel as the "first domino" that eventually led to the rest of the neighborhood's growth. "He made me a believer."

Rawlings-Blake offered one of many tributes to Paterakis, who died earlier this month, at the ceremony celebrating the $170 million Liberty Harbor East project. The 22-story building at 711 S. Central Avenue will house a new, 50,000-square-foot Whole Foods, 282 apartments, 35 condominiums and about 575 parking spaces. Work has been underway since last month.

The building will be majority owned by H&S Properties Development Corp. and developed by Harbor East and the Bozzuto Group. Its name comes from the Liberty ships constructed during World War Two, as well as the late Liberty Tsakalos, the daughter of Isadore 'Steve' Paterakis and wife of Harry Tsakalos. Harry and Steve are the H and S in H&S Bakery.

The building is scheduled to open by the end of 2018 with the Whole Foods replacing a smaller store in the neighborhood. The project is expected to create more than 500 construction jobs.

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