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Baltimore City's industrial waterfront is a regional asset on city land. So it lies in City Council's hands whether to preserve land for industrial uses (to benefit port users, surrounding counties, and the state) or build apartments, stores, and condos (to its own benefit). A lot rides on the decision—kind of like Let's Make a Deal with more at stake and without the leisure suits.
John Hentschel at American University
Hentschel Real Estate Services' John Hentschel tells us continued maritime industrial uses for the waterfront mean all the manufacturing, warehousing, distribution, and support businesses that materialize from the port will continue to locate in Baltimore and the state. Retail and residential uses for the waterfront, however, could mean more tax revenue for the city. But hey, no pressure.

Domino Sugars factory and loading docks, Baltimore
The Maritime Industrial Zoning Overlay District went into effect in '04, initiated by the 36 private port terminal operators along the city's waterfront to protect themselves from encroachment by residential uses. It wasn't that the industrial guys didn't like the new residents, but rather they knew the new guys would tire of the industrial way of life. A sugar refinery and loading dock across the harbor may seem cool at first, John says, but in five or six months, the constant trains, the lights in the window at midnight, the buzz of business around the clock—it all gets old. Then, residents would likely complain to city council, regulations could be put on industry, and it mushrooms from there. (There's gotta be a "Corporations are people" joke in here somewhere.)
MIZOD extension signing in 2009
MIZOD preserves land with deepwater access for industrial use. City Council set the regulation (proposed as a permanent ban) to expire in 10 years. John sees the point of avoiding a permanent decision but contends that a finite deadline encourages speculation (buy low, rent for the interim, pay cheap taxes, ride it out to expiration, and then build pretty stores and restaurants). In 2009, City Council gave the can another hefty kick down the road, extending MIZOD through 2024.(That boat totally crashed the party at the signing of the extension, above.)
Parris Glendening
The Abell Foundation commissioned John to lead a research project to help City Council figure out what to do next. Former Gov. Parris Glendening had noticed a lot of empty space during an early '90s boat ride and delivered an edict to get rid of "underutilized" land. Hence Under Armour' s campus and the steel factory-turned-Ritz-Carlton condos, the latter a natural extension of Federal Hill down Key Highway to Port Covington and Locust Point.
Daraius Irani
John says he hired economist Daraius Irani of Towson University, who determined that residential and commercial uses can deliver more property taxes (over half the city budget). Port uses, though, often yield higher employment, especially among those without college degrees. Bottom line, though: Income tax goes to the county where workers live, so unless they live in Baltimore, the jobs don't directly benefit the city.
Dundalk Marine Terminal, Baltimore
What's lacking, John says, is a master plan for the entire port. (There is one for the seven Maryland Port Authority-owned terminals, including Dundalk, above, but not for the private interests.) His vision is for planning that allows the uses to co-exist: mandatory design standards, buffers, setbacks, and berms to protect and separate the uses, not just from sound, sight, and smell, but also from industrial accidents. And that burden, he says, should fall to the newer residential, retail, office, and hotel uses. At the same time, only properties valued for true maritime use—not just any old industrial that would work just as well away from the waterfront—should be preserved.