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There's more to Baltimore than The Wire. You know that, but others are learning: Blake Cordish's neighbor on Federal Hill neighbor told him Baltimore is 10 times better than she thought it would be. (We double sourced this story by asking the white picket fence between them.) So, word's getting out. Hear opportunity knocking?
Four Seasons, Harbor East, July 26
Blake was a featured panelist at our Bisnow Future of Downtown & the Waterfront last week at Harbor East's Four Seasons. Greater Baltimore Committee CEO Donald Fry says no one imagined that when the Civic Center (now 1st Mariner Arena) was built in '61, it'd still be in use 57 years later. (But isn't that true of all Baby Boomers?) Same for the '79 convention center when it doubled in size in '96. Here's what he wants now: a new civic center that connects to the convention center and brings pedestrian life to the underutilized gateway corridor of Charles Street while connecting the stadiums and the Inner Harbor along Conway Street.

Donald Fry at Four Seasons, Harbor East, July 26
Donald (above) says Whiting-Turner CEO Willard Hackerman is looking for a private investor. The idea: an 18,500-seat arena, a 500-key hotel, and a convention center expansion to return it from the country's 73rd largest to 28th, anticipating demand from U of M and JHU. This all could run $900M to $1B. Donald also would love to do something more than just beach volleyball on the seven-acre Rash Field between the Maryland Science Center and the Rusty Scupper. Ultimately, he'd like a seven-mile promenade connecting Locust Point, McHenry Row, and Camden Yards. (With seven miles, he could probably fit a nice drag racing course in there.)
Blake Cordish and Bryce Turner at Four Seasons, Harbor East, July 26
Blake (with Brown Craig Turner Architects CEO Bryce Turner) is pumped about public spaces, too. Downtown gets 16 million to 18 million visitors a year, he says, including 4.6 million at his firm's Power Plant Live. The area's attractions—Camden Yards, Port Discovery, the aquarium, M&T Bank Stadium—barely passed referendum, he says, but have since worked wonders. Still, he maintains the area needs three to six more anchor destinations, plus reinvestment in the "tired" public spaces. He pointed to Chicago's Millennium Park and New York's public spaces as examples.
Bryce Turner at Four Seasons, Harbor East, July 26
Bryce reminds Donald to take it easy on beach volleyball, which is, after all, an Olympic sport. Bryce loves the idea of moving the arena and redeveloping the parcel for residential or parking. He points out that the city was built for 1.2 million people and now has a population of 630,000. That makes for excess office. He says Baltimore was always a city of neighborhoods, and conversions of office to residential can play to that strength. He's also a fan of redeveloping owner-occupied buildings, going storefront by storefront instead of always thinking entire block by entire block.
Kirby Fowler at Four Seasons, Harbor East, July 26
Bryce says the waterfront is an asset that makes Baltimore the best-kept secret on the East Coast. And Downtown Partnership of Baltimore prez Kirby Fowler (above) says of the 64 major CBDs, Baltimore is 28th in office vacancy, beating the likes of Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Miami, and Pittsburgh. (That last one isn't a Tier 1 city like the others, but it bears mention every time Baltimore is beating it—in anything.) On the residential side, 95% occupancy is considered "full," and Baltimore apartments are 97% occupied. He says Baltimore City can accommodate another 1,000 units a year for five years. His organization is concentrating on conversions of '60s, '70s, and '80s office stock to residential and ditching any further hotel and office development incentives.
Bob Manekin at Four Seasons, Harbor East, July 26
Colliers managing partner Bob Manekin remembers the Inner Harbor when it was 11 acres of body shops (clarification: auto body shops) and warehouses and the place you went for F. A. Davis cigars. When he graduated from City College in '66, he says, none of the CBD's defining buildings (except maybe One Charles Center) were there. Now, there are few large blocks of office, which will prompt some development in three to five years.
Four Seasons, Harbor East, July 26
We spy four onlookers. How 'bout you?