Albert M. Copp, an unassuming planner who shepherded redevelopment of the Inner Harbor, shaping a waterfront of abandoned warehouses and rotting piers into Baltimore's showpiece, died of pancreatic cancer Thursday at his home in Roland Park.
Mr. Copp was 82. His cancer had been diagnosed less than three weeks ago, his wife, Laurie Schwartz, said.
The waterfront had plunged into decay and neglect by the 1960s, when Copp and the city's development firm embarked on its renewal. Afterward, the American Institute of Architects praised their results as "one of the supreme achievements of large-scale urban design and development in U.S. history."
Mr. Copp rose to become president of the nonprofit Charles Center-Inner Harbor Management Inc. The firm guided the companies, donors and city agencies behind a 20-year development that emerged as a model for waterfront cities around the world. Mr. Copp advised planners in Pensacola, Fla., Philadelphia and San Juan, Puerto Rico.
He tended to be quiet and observant, and listened more than he spoke, a "behind-the-scenes" man, said Martin Millspaugh, who recruited him to Baltimore.
Ms. Schwartz said, "He didn't care about getting attention and publicity, and he was more 'Roll the sleeves up and get it done.'"
For years, the couple would escape for a night and tour the jazz clubs of New York, from Birdland in Manhattan to Village Vanguard in Greenwich Village, staying out until 3 a.m. Mr. Copp also embraced winemaking and co-founded a small vineyard in Baltimore County.
He maintained friendships with eight high school pals, nicknamed the Band of Brothers, until his death. About a decade ago, he invited the group to Baltimore. They toured the Inner Harbor, and Raymond Peterson of Albany remembers marveling at the waterfront. He turned to Mr. Copp and remarked that his friend must be proud.
"He choked up and tears came to his eyes," Mr. Peterson remembered. "He was just so in love with that city and that project."
His role leading waterfront development, however, made him a target for critics of the offices towering above the harbor. Mr. Copp addressed such concerns in June 1990, shortly before he retired.
"There is a big question of scale in the city," he told The Baltimore Sun. "Are we building too big? As buildings go up in size, with land costs rising, how do you cope with the new scale? That is the question. I don't want to say how do you control it, because that would be too negative. But how do you cope with it? How do you plan for it?"
Born in Syracuse, N.Y., to Albert Copp, a manufacturing foreman, and Ruth Anderson, a homemaker and secretary, Mr. Copp earned a bachelor's degree in marketing and a master's degree in business administration from Syracuse University. He worked for the Syracuse planning department and old U.S. Urban Renewal Administration in Washington, D.C., before arriving in Baltimore in 1961.
He worked for the Charles Center Management Office, which was building the first tower of the downtown Charles Center. The agency grew into the Charles Center-Inner Harbor Management Inc. and oversaw the renewal of the decayed waterfront. Mr. Copp rose through the ranks in the company, being promoted to vice president in 1965 and to executive vice president in 1979. He then served as president from 1984 to 1990.
Mr. Copp was collecting for the Johns Hopkins University archives thousands of slides depicting the harbor's transformation.
"He was full of glowing descriptions of the work that was being done; he took great pride in it," said Mr. Peterson.
In the late 1960s, Mr. Copp began making wine in five-gallon jugs stored in the basement of his Roland Park home. The casual hobby blossomed and by the mid-1970s he was winning national awards for homemade wine. Mr. Copp once explained why he started:
"I couldn't afford to buy the quantity I wanted to drink. If you use it every day, it can get very expensive," he told The Sun in 1975.
By the mid-1980s, he had co-founded Woodhall Wine Cellars in northern Baltimore County. It was one of only about 10 Maryland wineries in those days, said Kevin Atticks, executive director of the Maryland Wineries Association. Mr. Copp served as president of the association in the 1990s, and he worked to promote local growers. He began printing their names on labels.
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"Al was one of the first in the industry to raise the profile of growers by putting their vineyard name on the label," Mr. Atticks said. "Al was very clear: He wanted to highlight the grower."
In recent years, he assisted the Roland Park Civic League with its development plan and helped volunteers navigate city approvals for features such as new crosswalks. He volunteered on committees for the Baltimore Convention Center, the National Aquarium and the restoration of the Constellation.
After Mr. Copp was diagnosed with cancer, word spread among winemakers to honor him with a toast. Mr. Atticks said he opened a prized bottle from Woodhall: a 2007 Parkton Prestige, a Bordeaux blend still fruity and unfaded though 10 years old.
He said he sipped and thought of Mr. Copp, thrilled by the brightness and life that lingered in his wine.
A visitation will be held from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. and from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday at Mitchell-Wiedefeld Funeral Home, 6500 York Road. Services will be private.
In addition to his wife, Mr. Copp is survived by his children, Susan Waterman of Wheaton, Ill., Sharon Murray of Catonsville and Stephen Copp of Millington; two brothers, William and Lloyd Copp, both of Syracuse; eight grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his first wife, Diane McNulty.