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Charles W. 'Bill' Pacy, longtime city developer, dies

William Pacy - Original Credit:
William Pacy - Original Credit: (HANDOUT)

Charles W. "Bill" Pacy, an entrepreneur and developer who worked on west-side Baltimore revitalization as head of the Market Center Development Corp., died March 5 of congestive heart failure at Brookdale, a Naples, Fla., assisted-living facility.

The former Ruxton resident was 87.

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"Bill was one of the nicest people I've ever worked with in my life," said M. Jay Brodie, former city housing commissioner. "He was bright, personable and could get along with all sorts of people, The city could use more Bill Pacys."

The son of Walter Pacy, a movie theater owner, and Gertrude Pacy, Charles William Pacy was born in Baltimore and raised on University Parkway.

He was a 1946 graduate of the McDonogh School, where he earned varsity letters in football, wrestling and lacrosse. He was later inducted into the school's athletic hall of fame.

Mr. Pacy was a 1950 graduate of Washington & Lee University, where he was an All-American lacrosse player and was a member of Sigma Nu fraternity.

He coached men's lacrosse at the University of Baltimore in the 1950s and took the team from last place to five national championships, earning him a place in the college's athletic hall of fame.

After college, he joined the family business, building and managing theaters in Baltimore. His father, who owned the Pacy's Garden movie theater, eventually merged his business with F.H. Durkee Enterprises, a neighborhood theater chain that ultimately included members of the Pacy, Durkee and Nolte families.

Mr. Pacy became an officer and director of F.H. Durkee Enterprises, working there from 1950 to 1978.

In 1959, he and a partner designed, built and managed a 120-acre Western theme park, Frontier Town, near Ocean City. Attractions at the park featured Pawnee and Cherokee dances, rodeos and western-style amusements.

"He participated theatrically as the town marshal, rodeo clown and occasional cancan 'girl' in the Old Saloon," a son, Jeffrey R. Pacy, said in an email. Mr. Pacy sold his interest in the business in 1964.

He was doing development work for Towson University and was a member of the Baltimore County Liquor Board when Mayor William Donald Schaefer appointed him in 1979 to serve as president and CEO of the new Market Center Development Corp. The group's mission was to revitalize the downtown retail district and oversee an $11 million Lexington Market expansion.

"Our first job is to specify the problems and the desires of the historic-preservation groups, the small merchants, then large merchants and the federal government and find ways to solve the problems," Mr. Pacy said in an Evening Sun interview at the time.

"Bill was well-connected and he knew a lot of people in Baltimore," said Robert Tannenbaum, who worked closely with Mr. Pacy. "I came on board as an architect and planner, and we hit it right off immediately. He was a larger-than-life, tall guy who had a great sense of humor."

In 1981, the David H. Murdock Development Co. of Los Angeles signed a contract with the city that, as The Evening Sun reported, was designed to "pave the way for a $150 million-$200 million office-retail center that will revitalize the city's downtown retail district."

The area affected included Howard Street west to Greene Street and Lexington Street north to Saratoga Street, adjoining the Howard Street Transit Mall and the subway stop at Saratoga and Eutaw streets.

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Mr. Pacy "was a major force in the beginning of the west-side plan and bringing light rail to Howard Street," said Al Barry, a former city planner who is now a Baltimore development consultant.

"There was to be no demolition, and we were to be sensitive to the needs of historic preservation," said Mr. Tannenbaum. "We were trying to work with the small businesses who depended on the department stores that brought people downtown.

"It was a struggle, but we had our successes," he said. "Market Center proved that people were willing to move into new townhouses. It began very slowly as an impetus for developers to convert old buildings like the Congress Hotel and the old City College into residential apartments."

Mr. Pacy left the corporation in 1982 to join David H. Murdock Development Co., and was named vice president of the company's Baltimore operations.

In addition to the Market Center revitalization, Mr. Pacy was charged with overseeing the company's Inner Harbor hotel-condominium project, completed in 1985. It is now the Royal Sonesta Harbor Court Hotel on Light Street.

Mr. Pacy left Murdock in 1986 and worked as a real estate development consultant for three years. In 1989, he was named executive director of the Building Congress and Exchange of Metropolitan Baltimore Inc., a post he held until retiring in 1993.

He was a longtime resident of Circle Road in Ruxton and later lived on West Lake Avenue.

In his early years, he sailed the Chesapeake Bay and later took sailing vacations with family and friends to the Bahamas and the British Virgin Islands. He also crewed with several friends on voyages to and from New England waters.

"Over the last 40 years, his keen interest in sailing continued to grow stronger and was a source of great happiness," said his son, a resident of Washington.

Mr. Pacy married the former Brooke Page in 1992, and in 2002 the couple moved permanently to Waldoboro, Maine, where he spent eight summers sailing and exploring the Maine coast.

While living in Baltimore, he served on the McDonogh School board and spearheaded the school's 2000 fundraising campaign and corporate campus initiative.

He also served on the boards of the Baltimore Civic Opera, Provident Bank of Maryland and the Kennedy-Krieger Institute. He was a longtime volunteer with Big Brothers and Big Sisters.

In Waldoboro, he served on the local library's budget committee and several town committees. He also delivered food with Meals on Wheels.

A memorial Mass will be offered at 1 p.m. Saturday at the Roman Catholic Cathedral of Mary Our Queen, 5200 N. Charles St.

In addition to his wife of 24 years and his son, Mr. Pacy is survived by two other sons, John Pacy of Baltimore and David Pacy of Thomasville, Pa.; and five grandchildren. An earlier marriage to Mary Rita McFee ended in divorce. Another son, Charles William Pacy Jr., died in 1976.

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