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Downtown spreads along the shore

THE BALTIMORE SUN

THE NATION'S economy may be jittery, but you wouldn't know it judging by building activity along Baltimore's shoreline:

Construction has started on the city's first new office tower in a decade. The anchor tenant of the 18-story glass-and-granite sliver at 750 E. Pratt St. will be Constellation Energy Group Inc., the parent of Baltimore Gas and Electric Co.

Seventy-six luxury townhouses and 164 apartments are being added to the HarborView development along Key Highway. Next door, at the foot of Federal Hill, planning continues for a Ritz-Carlton hotel and condominium project.

Inner Harbor East, where there are already two new hotels, keeps expanding. And nearby at 800 S. Caroline St., a new headquarters is under construction for the Whitman, Requardt and Associates engineering firm.

Even bigger projects could be announced shortly. It is no secret, for instance, that John Paterakis' H&S; Bakery Inc. is thinking of moving from the vicinity of Central Avenue to Highlandtown. If that happens, more acreage could be added to Mr. Paterakis' Inner Harbor East redevelopment projects.

Constellation Energy's decision to locate its headquarters along Pratt Street is particularly important. Just a few years ago, when the Fortune 500 company was in merger talks with Potomac Electric Power Co., plans called for the new entity to move to Annapolis.

Constellation Energy's vote of confidence in its hometown is a much-needed boost for Baltimore's self-image. The company is a crucial corporate player. It is also a growth company that is remaking itself into two corporations, one an unregulated national energy merchant.

Little by little, Baltimore is expanding its downtown. Some day it may indeed stretch all the way from Locust Point to Canton.

The good news is that the downtown is growing -- at a time when the nation's economy seems shaky and Baltimore continues to lose population to the suburbs.

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