Bramble ready to be a unifier; New chairman of Downtown Partnership


Allfirst Financial Inc. chief executive Frank P. Bramble, elected last night as chairman of the Downtown Partnership of Baltimore, says he hopes to help Baltimore's fragmented business community work together more effectively to encourage development and address downtown's problems.

Bramble, a Baltimore native, replaces RTKL and Associates Inc. Chairman and chief executive Harold Adams as chair of the nonprofit alliance of downtown business leaders. He was elected at the organization's annual meeting.

Bramble, 51, said he believes that he is positioned to form a stronger downtown by bringing business, foundation and government leaders together at small receptions the organization plans to fund.

"I think we can do a lot to retain and attract business downtown if we can get leaders to meet and talk to other people," Bramble said in an interview yesterday.

"Because I am reasonably known around this region, and because I have the opportunity in my business to meet with the senior players of the region, I can become a real advocate and spokesman for downtown," Bramble said. "People need to understand how important downtown is to the region."

Bramble said the city must improve downtown's safety, cleanliness and parking in order to attract more business and development. The first two, he said, are already being addressed by the Partnership's Clean and Safe program, which provides street cleaners and safety guides downtown. Laurie Schwartz, the Partner ship's president, said the organization will launch a Streetscape program in the spring that will "transform" public areas downtown by building new brick and concrete sidewalks, installing brighter lights and historic lamps, and planting more trees.

The program, predominantly funded by the city, will begin on Redwood, South and Charles streets. Forty blocks are slated to be completed by the end of 2000.

In October, the Downtown Partnership will release an economic growth strategy for the central business district that Schwartz said she hopes will "infuse the central business district with investment and growth again."

Bramble said the organization is hoping to work closely with the new mayor to focus on issues facing downtown that may stand in the way of development, including the lack of parking.

"The parking shortage is a significant negative issue," he said. "We are very excited that it is now on everyone's screen. But we've got to keep the Bunsen burner under it. It's critical for the retention and development of the business community."

A resident of Homeland, Bramble started his career at 18 as an audit clerk at the company he now heads, then called First National Bank of Maryland. He returned to the bank in 1993 as president and chief executive, after serving as president and chief executive of Maryland National Bank. He was named chairman of the board in April.

Bramble also serves as chairman of the Baltimore Center for the Performing Arts, chairman of the University of Maryland Medical System, member of the mayor's Business Advisory Committee and board member of the Greater Baltimore Committee, which he chaired for three years until May.

Other additions to the Downtown Partnership board include: Richard C. "Mike" Lewin, secretary of the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development; James J. Abromitis, president of Trigen Energy Baltimore; James Dale, author and marketing consultant with James Dale Inc.; Joseph Haskins Jr., president and chief executive of Harbor Bank of Maryland; David Hillman, chief executive of Southern Management Corp.; James L. Shea, managing partner of Venable, Baetjer & Howard LLP; Frank K. Turner Jr., senior vice president for corporate banking of Mercantile-Safe Deposit and Trust Co.; and Otis Warren of Otis Warren & Co.

The Downtown Partnership also presented awards in three categories pertaining to its new campaign slogan, "Live. Work. Play. It's All Downtown."

The winners were: A & R Development Corp. and Baltimore City Housing and Community Development Commissioner Daniel P. Henson III for "Live," Aegon USA Inc. and the Manekin Corp. for "Work," and the Cordish Co. and Port Discovery for "Play."

Pub Date: 9/14/99

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