Baltimore Sun’s 2023 Business and Civic Hall of Fame honoree: Anthony T. ‘Tony’ Hawkins

Anthony T. “Tony” Hawkins was the first general manager of Harborplace and saw it through 15 successful years. Today, the former Rouse Co. vice president is rooting hard for its revitalization. (Lloyd Fox/Baltimore Sun)

Anthony T. “Tony” Hawkins was there when the magic happened, when a waterfront park in downtown Baltimore became overnight a symbol of the city’s rebirth and its grand potential as a destination for visitors. Harborplace opened in 1980, and James Rouse, the Maryland-based developer who envisioned the project, had summoned Hawkins back to his hometown to manage it.

There was huge excitement, but no one was sure whether a “festival market” in the formerly industrial Inner Harbor would work. The city’s population losses had accelerated, and, while tall ships had attracted thousands of visitors during the nation’s bicentennial four years earlier, there was a looming question: Could Rouse work the same magic for Baltimore that he had worked for Boston with the redevelopment of Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market?


The answer came almost immediately: Millions of people visited Harborplace to eat, drink and shop in the waterfront pavilions. Hawkins, who had been managing a mall in New Jersey for the Rouse Co., had a big job on his hands, handling tenants, employees and visitors from near and far who wanted to see the heralded Baltimore renaissance for themselves.

“I didn’t understand the enormity of it, the impact it would have,” Hawkins says. “We were all surprised. But it was right on the money, man.”


Just what his native city needed at the time.

Born in 1945, Tony Hawkins grew up on the west side of the city, just a few blocks from one of Rouse’s first urban retail projects, the Mondawmin Mall. But as a high school student at City College and later an undergraduate at Morgan State College and the Johns Hopkins University, Hawkins had no interest in real estate development, his ultimate career track. He loved school and admired his teachers. He wanted to be an educator.

“I started at Morgan, then the Ford Foundation gave me a scholarship to attend Hopkins,” Hawkins says. “They were recruiting us to become principals.”

And he saw himself as one.

The road to the principal’s office started in a classroom. Hawkins taught sixth grade at a middle school in West Baltimore. He was married, and his wife was pregnant. He wasn’t making much money. So he took a job in sales, going after school and on weekends to the homes of new parents to persuade them to buy a high chair called Wonda-Chair. “The key selling point was, you couldn’t tip them over,” Hawkins says. “I did that for four years. I made a good bit of money.”

Still, he struggled. It was Hawkins’ aunt, Marion Banfield, who suggested a new path: a job with James Rouse, visionary developer of Columbia and shopping malls. Rouse offered Hawkins a chance to learn the mall business from the ground up, from maintenance and security to dealing with tenants. He sent Hawkins to a Rouse property in New Jersey, a multilevel mall in Cherry Hill, and that’s where he stayed, content with his new career, until Rouse called on him again, this time to launch and manage Harborplace.

It was the best of times, the shot of energy downtown Baltimore needed. “It was a big deal, and I got to meet a lot of wonderful people,” Hawkins says.

He eventually became a Rouse vice president and stayed with the company for three decades. He later established Hawkins Development Group and served as chair of the Baltimore Area Convention and Visitors Association.


“Most important to him was his ability to make a difference in his hometown of Baltimore,” says Jody Clark, who worked alongside Hawkins as an executive at Rouse. “He was the steward of Harborplace, Cross Keys, Mondawmin and The Gallery at Harborplace, and worked to make them special jewels that served the community.”

Drew Hawkins, a cousin and an accomplished business executive in his own right, says he drew inspiration from his older relative’s management of Harborplace, his networking abilities, negotiating skills, commitment to serving customers, his persistence and perfectionism.

“There was nothing ever too big, with too many moving parts, that [intimidated] Tony,” says Drew Hawkins, a former Morgan Stanley executive who established Edyoucore, a financial advisory for professional athletes and entertainers, in 2020. “It was really a [matter] of keeping your head down and staying true to the things that you believed in.”

Harborplace fell on hard times in the years since Rouse sold it. Tony Hawkins, who lives with his wife, the retired public relations executive Paula Rome, in Harbor East, has watched with dismay and anger as the “festival market” declined under new ownership. His hope now is that developer David Bramble will be able to restore the magic that once made the corner of Pratt and Light streets an attraction for millions of visitors a year. An ever-confident and positive Baltimorean, Tony Hawkins says: “There’s no reason why it can’t be good again.”

Name: Anthony T. “Tony” Hawkins

Age: 78


Hometown: Baltimore

Current residence: Baltimore

Education: City College High School, Morgan State College, the Johns Hopkins University

Career highlights: Vice president, Rouse Co.; first general manager of Harborplace

Civic and charitable activities: Baltimore Area Convention and Visitors Association; SEED School of Maryland, East Baltimore Development Inc.; Kernan Hospital

Family: Married to Paula Rome; a blended family of five children and one grandchild