Questions and Answers: Advice to a City

Advice to a City Starting a Waterfront Redevelopment Program

(Answers to a Questionnaire from Seoul, South Korea, May, 2006)

1. Explain about CC-IH

Answer: CC-IH was a private corporation controlled by a contract with the municipality, under which it agreed to manage the Charles Center and Inner Harbor redevelopment projects on behalf of the City, and to turn any profits over to the municipality. It was created by J. Jefferson Miller, the department store executive who raised the private funds for the creation of a Downtown Master Plan, and Martin Millspaugh, a former Baltimore journalist who was previously Assistant Commsisioner of the national Urban Renewal Administration.

Mr. Miller and Mr. Millspaugh first managed the Charles Center project from 1959 to 1965 as the private Charles Center Management Office, but when the City asked them in 1965 to also manage the much larger (eight times as much area) Inner Harbor project, they formed the Charles Center-Inner Harbor Management Corporation (CC-IH), with Mr. Miller as the non-executive Chairman and Mr. Millspaugh as the President and Chief Executive.
The corporation had no assets and no stock; the three-man Board of Directors met once a year for lunch and made no decisions, because the company's purpose was to carry out the decisions of the Mayor and City Council, expressed through the corporation's client, the Baltimore Commissioner of Housing and Urban Development.

2. What was your role in CC-IH? and the development of the Inner Harbor?

Answer: My role is explained above: I was the chief executive of the organization retained by the City to manage and direct the redevelopment of the 300-acre Charles Center-Inner Harbor urban renewal area. Mr. Miller died in 1970, and in 1985, when the original Inner Harbor Master Plan was substantially completed, when I resigned to join the late pioneering urban developer, James W. Rouse, in taking the Baltimore waterfront development model to other cities around the World. Since then CC-IH Corp. has been superseded by the Baltimore Development Corporation, which is under contract to the City to manage new development and redevelopment in all parts of the City.

3. How did you deal with pressure for commercial development rather than public use?

Answer: When the original plan was created, the City of Baltimore was in such a precipitous economic decline (like all old northeastern U.S. cities at that time) there was practically no market for private commercial development. The public infrastructure and open space were developed first, with government funds -- local, State and Federal. Then locally-based corporations picked up the gauntlet to create new commercial projects, followed by out-of-town and foreign investors when the strength of the market had been demonstrated.

4. What factors make successful public-private partnerships?

Answer: The two sectors need to identify their true self-interest in the outcome, and commit a proportionate share of the investment cost. Then they need to share information and responsibility in the execution of the project so that both receive the benefits they deserve. If either party violates that process, the partnership will fail.

5. What are the differences between partnerships in the 1960's and today?

Answer: I know of no substantial differences, except that the public sector has become more sophisticated about the types of investment and incentives that it can legally provide to a project, and the private sector is more knowledgeable about the need to work for the public benefit and share information with the public, in order to justify the public participation. The community's role is different: the citizenry is also more sophisticated, and demands and receives much more transparency in the public-private deal-making.

6. In the beginning, was there any consideration to preserve the historic built environment?

Answer: There was actually little concern for that in the beginning, except for saving the structures that would contribute to the new, redeveloped environment (five buildings each in the Charles Center and Inner Harbor). Since then concern for preservation has grown over the years, until it is today a major factor in the preparation of urban renewal plans. An outstanding example is the former power-generating plant located on Pier 4 in the Inner Harbor, which was slated to be demolished in the original Master Plan, but later saved and recycled into the project's principal entertainment project, with Hard Rock Cafe, Barnes & Noble bookstore and Disney's first ESPN Zone sports bar and indoor activities center.

7. Is the Baltimore Inner Harbor successful?

Answer: By all measures, it is hugely successful: primarily by (a) restoring the citizens' pride and self-esteem in their hometown; (b) providing a focal point of public parks and attractions for the enjoyment of all local residents; (c) adding property values that have created $60 million annually in local property and entertainment taxes; (d) spreading the name and a favorable reputation of Baltimore across the U.S. and around the World and (e) creating a $3 billion tourist industry where none existed before.

8. Did you imagine such success when the project was started in the 1960's?

Answer: The original Charles Center project was directed at the economy of the Central Business District. The Inner Harbor project was directed at the property surrounding the Inner Harbor and the Shoreline, where the main purpose was to create a playground for Baltimoreans. There was no thought of attracting tourists, and there were practically none coming at that time.

Then in 1976, the Tall Ships came to Baltimore after the Bicentennial Celebration in New York. Ten of them tied up around the Shoreline playground for Baltimoreans and held open house for the public. Hundreds of thousands of visitors came from hundreds of miles away, and we realized we might have a tourist destination without knowing it.

Our consultants told us we could have one, if we added some major attractions; so we spent the next five years building the Science Center, the National Aquarium, the Convention Center, and the Hyatt Regency Hotel. When Harborplace opened in 2000 it acted as the catalyst, creating a critical mass with the other attractions. The result was a visitor destination that attracted 20 million attendance the first year, and up to 21 million thereafter. Two-thirds of those were Baltimoreans, who came again and again, but the other one-third -- 6.5 to 7.0 million -- were tourists. That has continued up to the present day.

The Inner Harbor was admired before that time for its Shoreline promenade, passive parks and boating activity. The playground was sucessful, and attracted dozens of local events and ethnic festivals, but since the visitor explosion in 1980-81, city officials, professional planners and private entrepreneurs have flocked to the Inner Harbor from all over the World -- to learn how to do the same sort of development back home. This has been duly recorded in the press media, and Baltimore's fame has spread accordingly.

9. How do you see the current waterfront?

Answer: Cultural: 25 new attractions and museums, ranging from the National Aquarium to the Maryland Science Center and the Outdoor Symphony Amphitheater. Commercial: millions of square feet of new and rehabilitated office space and 5,000 new or recycled hotel rooms. Residential: 4,000 to 5,000 new or recycled apartments and/or residential condominiums throughout the downtown area. Historical: a collection of local and national shrines such as the Old Otterbein Church, Federal Hill Park and the USF Constellation. Leisure and entertainment: 1.5 million square feet of attractions, restaurants, night clubs and convention and meeting facilities, as well as 180 acres of outdoor open space around the shoreline of the historic Inner Harbor and a public pedestrian Promenade that circles the Inner Harbor and extends for seven miles along the edges of the outer Harbor. Environmental: the result of all of the above, with the resulting cleanup of the water quality, buildings constructed with strict design controls and over it all a close attention from the public opinion of the community.

10. What factors played roles in creating the success?

Answer: (a) A near unanimous determination to reverse the frightening economic and social decline of the center city in the 1950's. (b) Sensible and practical urban planning by professional, government and business leaders working together on a pro bono or non-profit basis. (c) A non-political, non-profit, public-private management organization, funded by government, in charge of implementation. (d) Strict attention to a level of excellence in urban and architectural design quality. (e) A long-term view of development, with a mixture of uses that could take advantage of shifts in the business cycle and in public tastes over a period of a generation (25 years).

11. What are the main problems, and what is the future direction?

Answer: There appears to be no threat to the area's successful appeal to locals and visitors in the short range. A finding that the public areas were suffering from heavy use and some neglect has resulted in the creation of a Business Improvement District, which will raise the level of maintenance and public safety through voluntary funding contributions by the businesses that are dependent upon the Harbor's viability as a magnet for visitor spending.
In the long-range, the base of the success of the Inner Harbor may be safe because of the appeal of the water and the unique heritage of the Inner Harbor as the birthplace of the city.

However, the problem is the tendency for its huge success to stimulate more and more development of all kinds, creating a danger of overbuilding and a relaxation of the standards of design quality, which together can jeopardize the ambience that now attracts millions of people to the center city -- to live, work and play. What will happen in the future depends on whether the city government, the business sector and the community combine to control that danger. There are already both good and bad examples, leaving the long-range future somewhat in doubt.