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$166 million in state funds will revitalize Downtown and Inner Harbor

Senate Pres. Bill Ferguson speaks at Rash Field Park.
Callan Tansill-Suddath
Senate Pres. Bill Ferguson speaks at Rash Field Park.

Senate President Bill Ferguson highlighted a $166 million investment in State funding Thursday to revitalize Baltimore’s Downtown and the Inner Harbor.

In an early afternoon press conference at Rash Field Park next to the harbor, Ferguson said the state has long lacked the funding the area needs to thrive.

“We all know that downtown is the fastest-growing residential community in the city,” Ferguson said, “Unfortunately, there has not been sufficient funding for the infrastructure and community building that has been necessary to meet the downtown Inner Harbors' fullest potential.”

But now, he said, it is finally possible.

“Over the last two sessions, we have been able to invest $166 million in state funds over these last two years to support the revitalization of downtown Baltimore and our Inner Harbor.”

Part of that involves spending $50 million to move state employees from the State Center complex on Preston Street to the central business district. The state will steer another $11.5 million to the Downtown Partnership of Baltimore.

The remaining funds will be divided among organizations such as Port Discovery Children’s Museum, the Maryland Science Center, Baltimore City Community College, Chesapeake Shakespeare Company, and Rash Field Park.

Earlier this month it was announced that Baltimore-based developer P.David Bramble and his company MCB Real Estate would acquire and revitalize HarborPlace.

Laurie Schwartz, the President of the Waterfront Partnership of Baltimore said the value in an investment of this magnitude is clear. You can see it in the kids running around the park.

“Just since the November 5 opening, we've had literally thousands of children running and playing and shrieking and climbing and skateboarding throughout this park. You come on a Saturday or Sunday, it is packed. It's just what all of us want for Baltimore,” she said.

Schwartz said $60,000,000 will also go toward building a new Inner Harbor promenade. The promenade is close to 50 years old. We had close to 14 million people on that promenade a year. That's a lot of people, that's a lot of trucks, a lot of vehicles, a lot of use, and much of it’s outlived its useful life.”

Del. Luke Clippinger, a Democrat whose district includes the harbor and is a native of the area, said he’s thrilled to see this finally happen.

“I remember back in the early 80s when Harborplace opened so many people brought their vision for this part of our city, and for what could be the core of an incredibly livable and strong place for all Baltimoreans to come together,” he said.

Del. Brooke Lierman, another Democrat who represents the area and who is running for state Comptroller, said this is an opportunity to change Baltimore as a whole for generations to come.

“It's time for us to build and lead and stand on the shoulders of previous generations who had a vision, who had a vision, that Baltimore's Inner Harbor that our Harbor Place, that our waterways would be the best in the nation, that we would take advantage of this incredible gift that we have, and the city around it would prosper because of it,” she said.

Pres. Ferguson said he believes revitalization will also serve as a deterrent to violent crime, which continues to plague the city.

“Safety is always going to be a top priority,’’ he said. “What we know is that when we make smart investments that are thoughtful, and that give opportunities to people, we reduce the incidence of violence and crime.”

Callan Tansill-Suddath is a State House Reporter for WYPR, where she covers the General Assembly.