Caroline A. Paff, an expert in planning and development who was a principal at VI Development LLC and previously vice president of Sagamore Development Co. overseeing its Port Covington project, died Saturday of cancer at Gilchrist Center Towson. The Federal Hill resident was 51.
“Everyone in development in the city knows Caroline,” said Martin F. Cadogan, who founded VI Development LLC, a full-service real estate advisory and development company, in 2011.
“She was the smartest person I’ve ever met and the hardest-working I’ve ever met,” said Mr. Cadogan, a Parkville resident. “She was a force to be reckoned with, and no one will dispute that fact.”
Maryland State Del. Brooke Lierman of Fells Point is Ms. Paff’s stepdaughter.
“She was really a passionate visionary leader who cared very deeply about Baltimore,” Ms. Lierman said. “She was always interested in thinking about and solving transportation and infrastructure challenges and wasn’t afraid of a fight.”
Alfred W. Barry III, a former city planner, who is the founder and head of AB Associates, a Baltimore land-use planning firm, is a longtime friend who frequently worked with Ms. Paff on projects.
“Her death was very unfortunate because she had so much to offer,” said Mr. Barry, a Homeland resident. “She was an accomplished economic development specialist that brought dedication, creativity and passion to her projects while in the public and private sector.”
Said William H. Cole IV of Otterbein, former CEO and president of the Baltimore Development Corp.: “Caroline was one of a handful of women in big development leadership positions. But I never her saw her that way. She brought tremendous skills to her job every day.”
Alicia O. Wilson, former vice president of impact investments at Sagamore Development Co. who is now vice president of economic development at the Johns Hopkins University and the Johns Hopkins Health System, worked with Ms. Paff at Sagamore.
“Caroline was a beautiful individual with an unmatched intellect and a heart of gold,” said Ms. Wilson, who lives in East Baltimore. “She had great advocacy for the city that she so loved, and was caring and compassionate. She was also a fierce advocate for women and a mentor.”
Caroline Atwater Paff, the daughter of Charles D. Paff, an insurance manager, and Jacqueline V. Dalton, an accountant, was born in Baltimore and raised in Wyman Park and also in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.
After graduating from Lebanon Senior High School in Lebanon, Pennsylvania, Ms. Paff attended the Community College of Baltimore County-Essex, University of Maryland, College Park, and PMStudy in Phoenix, Arizona, where she completed coursework for Project Management Professional certification.
Ms. Paff began working in 1994 for Claremont Management/McKenna Management in Baltimore, and later joined Maryland Hospitality Inc., which operates hotels and motels.
From 1998 to 2002, she was a project coordinator and property manager for Focus Development LLC and Calverton Hotel Management where she managed the predevelopment process for transforming the former USF&G headquarters on South Calvert Street into the current Hampton Inn and Suites Hotel.
In 2002, Ms. Paff joined the Baltimore Development Corp. as an economic development officer and served from 2004 to 2006 as senior economic officer. Key projects that she worked on were the master plan for the closed 182-acre General Motors site on Broening Highway, and the final disposition and auditing compliance of Base Realignment and Closure Act for Fort Holabird.
Ms. Paff next held project management positions with Doracon Development LLC and Tulkoff Food Products Inc. before going to work in 2010 for WV Urban Developments LLC, where she managed “large-scale urban infill projects and project teams through predevelopment that included planning, budgeting, entitlements, design, infrastructure approvals, leasing support and due diligence,” according to her resume.
In 2014, she joined VI Development LLC, where she worked for a year, before being named vice president for Sagamore Development Co. LLC, the real estate firm that was established by Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank and real estate developer Marc Weller.
She was responsible for managing the master planning and infrastructure team and “processes responsible for securing master plan approvals for 45 city blocks, more than 40 acres of parks, by right-zoning for 18 + million square feet of mixed-use development in the Port Covington project, legislative approvals for more than $690 million of public financing and $233 million in private investment,” according to a VI Development LLC profile of Ms. Paff.
“She was an invaluable advocate for Port Covington,” Mr. Cole said. "She was tenacious and took great pride in the work she was doing. "
Ms. Paff returned to VI Development LLC as a principal and at her death was leading a team updating the 15-year-old master plan for Baltimore’s historic Mill Valley.
“There wasn’t a topic that she wasn’t familiar with. If you had a question, she could answer it. Her depth of knowledge was unbelievable," Mr. Cadogan recalled. “If something wasn’t quite on our scope, she’d eat it up because she got it. She’d solve problems and then move on. She brought an art to it.”
Said Ms. Lierman: “She felt there were not enough women in the development and transportation world and this was important. She was a woman who had big ideas and could bring people together. She was always encouraging young women to be involved and have a seat at the table.”
Ms. Paff was a member of various work groups such as the Greater Washington Partnership, the Greater Baltimore Committee and the Baltimore Community Foundation.
Ms. Paff was an inveterate Orioles fan and “wore orange all year,” Ms. Wilson said.
“She was also an insufferable Steelers fan,” said Mr. Barry, with a laugh.
A memorial service for Ms. Paff will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday at the Episcopal Cathedral Church of the Incarnation, 4 E. University Parkway.
In addition to her stepdaughter, she is survived by her husband of six months, Terry L. Lierman, former chair of the Maryland Democratic Party and former chief of staff to U.S. Rep. Steny Hoyer; a son, Edmund Howard of Madison, Wisconsin; two stepsons, Trent Lierman of Greenbelt and Kyle Lierman of Silver Spring; her father, Charles D. Paff of Chestertown; her mother, Jacqueline V. Dalton of Baltimore; a brother, Ted Paff of San Francisco; and six grandchildren.