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Developers, Officials Discuss How Baltimore Can Attract More Outside Investment

Bringing outside investment into Baltimore commercial real estate hasn't always been easy, but developers and officials say the city can achieve its economic goals by displaying more collaboration. 

Baltimore's Inner Harbor

At a summit Monday hosted by the quasi-public Baltimore Development Corp., a series of top business leaders and public officials, including Gov.-elect Wes Moore, discussed how the city can improve its economy. 

MCB Real Estate co-founder and Managing Partner David Bramble, who is leading the development of the iconic Harborplace retail complex in the Inner Harbor, said attracting outside investment remains a challenge. 

"It's not easy to drag investors to Baltimore who don't understand what we're doing here," Bramble said. "Our first major transaction we wanted to do here in Baltimore was Yard 56, right across from Johns Hopkins Bayview. It was a battle to get to Prudential, who eventually did the equity."  

But Bramble said it is the job of developers to show investors from outside Baltimore the city's potential and progress.    

"Our job is to present the opportunity. To show them, to show outside investors what's here, what's in support of projects and how these things will work," Bramble said. 

Moore, who received support from the real estate industry before winning the Nov. 8 gubernatorial election, said collaboration between the state and the city is important to foster a thriving economy that serves Baltimore's diverse population.

"Maryland cannot achieve what Maryland needs to achieve if Baltimore doesn't, and I just don't say that because I'm a homer ... but also I'm very good at math," Moore said.  

Developers and business leaders spoke on a panel moderated by former Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake about why they're investing in Baltimore. The panel was part of the Baltimore Development Corp.'s summit on its new economic development strategy, Baltimore Together.

Nowak Metro Finance Lab Director Bruce Katz said cities like Baltimore are in a prime position to capitalize on the unprecedented federal spending spree over the last two years. 

President Joe Biden and the Democratic-controlled Congress have handed cities massive funds via the $1.9T American Rescue Plan, the $1.2T Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, and the $437B Inflation Reduction Act to make substantial investments in their future. 

Yet Katz said that cities will need to focus on using as much of those funds as possible because it is expected the now-Republican-controlled House of Representatives will curtail future federal spending.  

"We need to take this moment to reimagine how we design, finance and deliver stuff that matters to the citizenry," Katz said. 

MaryAnne Gilmartin, founder and CEO of New York-based MAG Partners, said her firm decided to take on the Baltimore Peninsula redevelopment for several reasons. 

Those reasons include the diversity and education of the workforce and the ability to eventually develop 14M SF of offices, retail and residential buildings at Baltimore Peninsula, she said. 

"Really, it is a city that deserves love and attention, and its accessibility is extraordinary," Gilmartin said.