A vice president of the Rouse Co. will head a nine-member group of well-known developers and business executives to undertake a thorough evaluation of Baltimore's beleaguered economic development agency.
The panel will recommend changes within 60 days.
Anthony Hawkins, who is in charge of Rouse's malls and office buildings in the Baltimore area, will be joined on the committee by another Rouse executive, Robert Minutoli; Carl W. Struever, president of Struever Bros., Eccles & Rouse, a developer with close ties to the administration of Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke; and Douglas Becker, chief executive officer of the Sylvan Learning Systems and head of the new children's museum planned near the Inner Harbor.
Also on the committee are developers Elinor Bacon and Betty Jean Murphy; M. Jay Brodie, a vice president of the architectural firm R.T.K.L. Associates Inc. and former city housing commissioner; H. Russell Frisby, a lawyer and chair of the Baltimore City Chamber of Commerce; and Michael Gaines, president of the Council for Economic and Business Opportunity.
Virtually all members of the group have had extensive business dealings with the city, and many have served Mr. Schmoke in an advisory capacity on other matters.
Observers noted that the list of members -- scheduled to be released officially today --contains no outspoken critics of the Baltimore Development Corp. (BDC), which has been widely criticized for not doing more to attract and retain businesses in the city.
"In a sense, it's a list of friends," said Michael A. Conte, director of regional economic studies at the University of Baltimore. "At the same time, these friends have every incentive to be very clear and honest about what needs to be done."
Mr. Conte added that because of the associations many have with the Schmoke administration, any recommendations they make -- such as for additional funding -- would carry additional weight with the mayor.
"If there's anything they have in common, it's that they have an expressed and long-standing interest in the city," he added.
Third District Councilman Martin O'Malley, who chaired a hearing on BDC last month, was more critical of the committee's makeup. "It seems to me that if you really wanted to reorganize the agency and give it a fresh start, you'd have a committee that includes some critics," he said.
Mr. O'Malley promised additional council hearings on BDC. On Thursday, Mayor Schmoke, acknowledging a debate over the ef
fectiveness of the agency, announced that he would name a panel to conduct a "top to bottom" review of BDC. He promised that "everything'll be on the table" regarding BDC, a quasi-public agency with a $3 million annual budget that he created four years ago by merging two economic development agencies.
At least one member of the mayor's panel, Mr. Minutoli, spoke positively about BDC at last month's council hearing. "They're not perfect. No one is. But if they can be faulted on anything, it's for trying to do too much with too little resources," said Mr. Minutoli, a senior vice president of the Rouse Co., the developer of Harborplace.
Among other members, Mr. Becker is chairing the nonprofit group building a children's museum on the site of the former Fishmarket entertainment complex on Market Place, which the city recently bought so it can lease the building to the museum. His company is also planning to move its headquarters and 250 jobs downtown from Columbia.
Mr. Struever's company will participate in the construction of the children's museum. The firm is the former employer of Daniel P. Henson III, the housing commissioner and a top political adviser to Mr. Schmoke.
Mr. Frisby and Mr. Gaines both were members of the advisory council for Baltimore's successful $100 million federal empowerment zone application.