He was the millionaire businessman Mayor William Donald Schaefer called on more than two decades ago to help out with a big problem.
Some 20 acres of lumberyards and warehouses between the then-newly redeveloped Inner Harbor and Fells Point faced an uncertain future. Schaefer wanted John Paterakis Sr., bakery magnate and campaign contributor, to do the city a favor and buy the land. For $11 million, Paterakis did, but the city backed down on a promise to buy back the industrial stretch later.
Paterakis took a gamble and pushed ahead, methodically developing Harbor East, a collection of waterfront towers where people live, work and shop that has been credited with shifting and redefining the city's downtown.
"It was clear early on and abundantly clear to Mayor Schaefer that one of the keys to the future development of the city would be linking the Inner Harbor to Fells Point and beyond," said Mark Wasserman, a senior vice president at the University of Maryland Medical System who served as a physical development coordinator in Schaefer's city administration. "There was discussion between the mayor and Mr. Paterakis about stepping in and ensuring control about that part of the city to ensure its future development would be controlled and compatible. The results are there for everyone to see."
Paterakis, the 80-year-old head of Baltimore-based H&S; Bakery whose development reach has since extended eastward toward Fells Point, was indicted Tuesday afternoon on charges that he violated campaign finance rules by writing a $6,000 check to pay for a poll for a city councilwoman. He could not be reached yesterday.
The charges were brought by a Baltimore grand jury at the request of State Prosecutor Robert A. Rohrbaugh, stemming from a three-year-old investigation into City Hall corruption. Mayor Sheila Dixon was indicted in January on charges that she stole gift cards donated to her office by developers who believed Dixon would give the cards to needy families.
Paterakis has become one of the city's most prominent developers. One of his companies, H&S; Properties Development Corp., is also building the mixed-use Harbor Point project between Harbor East and Fells Point, where Morgan Stanley will move early next year.
And his involvement in city business, development and politics goes way back.
The Highlandtown-born son of Greek immigrants went to work at the small family business, H&S; Bakery Inc., right out of Patterson Park High School in 1947. By the mid-1960s, H&S; was supplying hamburger buns to the Gino's chain. Paterakis took one of his earlier business gambles that paid off big when he gave up the Gino's account to take on a new, smaller customer in the East - McDonald's. He formed a division, Northeast Foods Inc., to service McDonald's, while H&S; focused on institutional and private-label baking.
Before Harbor East, Paterakis had invested in Baltimore real estate, including interests in new housing in Canton, but hadn't taken a lead in any deals. That changed with Harbor East, which several years ago changed its name from Inner Harbor East. Paterakis originally stepped in at the request of Schaefer after developer Michael Silver fell behind on mortgages.
After Paterakis bought the land, it sat vacant for years. In 1997, Sylvan Learning Systems became Harbor East's first tenant and Paterakis built the first residential component, the Promenade Apartments, in partnership with .the Bozzuto Group. Today, Harbor East is the site of the Baltimore Marriott Waterfront hotel and the new corporate headquarters of money manager Legg Mason, and a Four Seasons luxury hotel is under construction.
In a March 2007 article in The Baltimore Sun, Paterakis commented on the transformation, saying, "You wonder how you get into things - 'cause I'm a baker. What's happening down here is almost a miracle."
John Paterakis Sr.
Companies: H&S; Bakery Inc., H&S; Properties Development Corp.
* Harbor East, site of Baltimore Marriott Waterfront hotel, corporate headquarters of Legg Mason, future Four Seasons, condominiums, apartments, offices shops, hotels
* Harbor Point will become an $830 million office and residential campus
Education: 1947 graduate of Patterson Park High School