The Biotech Park That Never Was

The year before I moved to Baltimore, the city embarked on a vast urban renewal scheme. A decade into the effort, the Maryland Daily Record takes a look at how the project is progressing:

The nation's largest urban redevelopment, a projected $1.8 billion effort to transform 88 acres of East Baltimore into a world-class biotech park and idyllic urban community, lies derailed amid vacant lots, boarded houses and unfulfilled dreams a decade after it began....

Meanwhile, an African-American community known as Middle East has been virtually eliminated and its more than 600 residents relocated to make room for the development known as The New East Baltimore....

About $564 million has already been committed to the project, which is spearheaded by the nonprofit East Baltimore Development Inc. The public share of that amount is $212.6 million, more than a third of which is from loans that will take three decades for the city to pay off with diverted property taxes.

But the dream of a biotech park has been abandoned, putting the promise of thousands of new jobs in limbo. Public and private sector leaders are scrambling for a new focus for the project, saying it's too big to fail.

The story doubles as a tour through some of the most common ways local governments screw their citizens, from eminent domain to TIFs to public-private partnerships. And then, of course, there's good old fashioned neglect:

The Daily Record's investigation found that The New East Baltimore's public funding is so complex and poorly scrutinized that local elected officials, some of whom serve on EBDI's board, said they had little grasp of the $108.5 million in city funds committed to the project at a time of tax increases, and furloughs and pay cuts for city workers, including firefighters and police.

[Sheila] Dixon told The Daily Record that she did not know the city sold $78 million in bonds to support the project when she was mayor.

For video interviews with the area's angry residents, go here.

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  • ||

    Urban planners have good intentions. Isn't that what really matters?

  • ||

    Public and private sector leaders are scrambling for a new focus for the project, saying it's too big to fail.

    High speed rail will fix this!

  • Spartacus||

    Damn you and your quick-post-fingers!

  • ||

    Damn - that was exactly what I was going to say....

    as well as the rebirth of the gold crapping unicorn through the miracles of genetic engineering, which can also be used to manufacture batteries with 5,000 mile ranges.

  • Spartacus||

    The area will become a new high-speed rail station. Problem fixed.

  • Name Nomad||

    They seemed to have missed the biggest problem with this plan: no one smart enough to work in biotech is going to be stupid enough to want to live and work in Baltimore.

  • ||

    As much as I would love to pile on Baltimore, there are plenty of people already at Johns Hopkins in biotech that might find it palatable.

    That doesn't change the fact that urban "planning" is a joke, of course. In fact, it underscores it.

  • Erisian||

    Ohhhh Puh-leeze, as a member of the Board of Trustees at Columbia I can most assuredly attest to the efficacy of urban planning.

  • ||

    Sheeeeeeet

  • sevo||

    "[Sheila] Dixon told The Daily Record that she did not know the city sold $78 million in bonds to support the project when she was mayor."

    Well, you know, it happened during her nap one day. How's a mayor supposed to keep up with all that stuff?

  • Cynthia McKinney||

    Meanwhile, an African-American community known as Middle East has been virtually eliminated

    I blame the JOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOS.

  • ||

    [Sheila] Dixon told The Daily Record that she did not know the city sold $78 million in bonds to support the project when she was mayor.

    That is totally awesome; it's almost as if the voters installed somebody with no qualifications whatsoever in the mayor's office.

  • Sovereign Immunity||

    Almost as awesome as installing someone with no qualifications whatsoever in the president's office.

  • creech||

    And I bet she would win re-election in a walk over.

  • Ice Nine||

    After a quick Google Images check of Dixon's skin color, I am here to confirm that your bet is a winner.

  • ||

    You've got a real streak of that going, haven't you?

  • BakedPenguin||

    Want to trade Harper for $14B (US), Obama, and a couple senators to be named later?

  • ||

    You mean, trade our pile of horseshit for your pile of horseshit?

    Only if we can immediately convert the US$ to Yuan.

  • Jesse Walker||

    it's almost as if the voters installed somebody with no qualifications whatsoever in the mayor's office

    The sad thing is, she was actually an improvement over her predecessor...

    ...who is now the governor of Maryland.

  • smalls||

    But at least he as able to get out of office without an embezzlement conviction.

  • ||

    In her defense, the gift cards set her up.

  • x,y||

    Carcetti?

  • smalls||

    Yes. But he sometimes goes by "O'Malley"....same guy.

  • ||

    Maybe they could turn Baltimore into a strip mine.

  • ||

    How long does it take crack pipes to turn into coal?

  • Sovereign Immunity||

    1.4 million years.

  • ||

    Dammit!

  • ||

    You're still wondering what happened with your Christmas stocking, aren't you.

  • Sovereign Immunity||

    Maybe they could turn Baltimore into a strip mine joint.

    FTFY

  • Blaze Starr||

  • Irresponsible Hater||

    Way I hear it, the problem is there's no high speed rail into or out of the area.

    I'm thinking we need to up the US' infrastructure for DOMESTIC mining of rare earth minerals, so we can bend the cost curve down on maglev technology, and get a monorail up and running asap. I'm also thinking there must be a way to make use of space shuttle ceramic tile technology too. Then the biotech firms will come a running to the area. Then, profit!

  • ||

    Infrastructure doesn't change the fact that we don't have the right sort of rocks to dig up here.

  • Irresponsible Hater||

    That's why we need the biotech park, and the monorail. Duh.

  • ||

    Maybe they could turn Baltimore into a strip mine.

    ... or, a la Detroit, simply allow it to regress once more into a modern urban veldt.

  • ||

    Wait a cotton pickin' minute here! Isn't 88 acres enough land to build a billionaire sports team owner and his millionaire employees a new place to play at taxpayer expense?

  • The Other Kevin||

    Win.

  • ||

    Come to think of it, a new MegaMonsterDome with retractable roof and piped in beer might actually cost less than the "Biotech Park".

  • Highway||

    They already *did* that in the other abandoned area on the south side of the city.

  • ||

    "Middle East, that's a good name for it. Fuckin' Fallujah."

    -- Tommy Carcetti

  • Police Commissioner Bealefeld||

    THE WIRE IS FUCKING BULLSHIT!!!!

  • ||

    The sad thing is, she was actually an improvement over her predecessor...

    ...who is now the governor of Maryland.

    Ouch.

  • ||

    “It has got to succeed,” said Shale D. Stiller, a Baltimore lawyer and civic leader who is a member of several boards deeply invested in the project. “If it does not succeed, it will be a big blot on Baltimore’s future.”

    Translation:
    It's got to succeed because we want it to succeed and we want it to succeed because it's got to succeed.

    Or something like that.

  • ||

    "civic leader"

    So he's a self appointed, self important busy body, who wants to do things for the community that, just guessing here, benefit Shale D. Stiller.

  • ||

    You peeked, didn't you?

  • tote-road||

    I sure hope Clay Davis wet his beak in this.

  • ||

    It's got to succeed because we want it to succeed and we want it to succeed because it's got to succeed.

    FAILURE IS NOT AN OPTION

  • Rich||

    Just remember, you can't spell "biotech" without "biotch".

  • ||

    No. It's you can't spell biotech without b, i, t, c, & h.

  • ||

    It's got to succeed because we want it to succeed and we want it to succeed because it's got to succeed.

    "I've already spent my kickback, f'chrissakes!"

  • Brett L||

    Nothing to see here. Bunch of upper-middle class folks voted to run out the black and the poor in the name of economic development. Good thing we don't live in that libertopia Somalia where the force is more explicit. I'd like to see them impose eminent domain on the country club once. I mean, what are the chances that the poor people ALWAYS live on the land the government needs?

  • ||

    Obviously poor people have managed to buy-up all the best land, duh. You ever been to a country club? They're always next to landfills or coal-fired power plants, it's a deplorable state of affairs.

  • smalls||

    Don't lose sight of what city we're talking about. The black and the poor (mostly redundant in Baltimore's case) are the ones doing the voting. Don't get me wrong, the developers are working with the politicians to pull the strings here. But the people getting screwed are the same ones that voted for Baltimore's enlightened, infallible leaders.

  • ||

    Getting It Good And Hard: The Gov't You Deserve II - The Re-Gettening

    In theaters this spring.

  • ||

    They didn't call him the Sage of Baltimore for nothing.

  • Brett L||

    I'm not unaware of Baltimore's demographics, but honestly, isn't the evidence in that the gummint is not the friend of the dusky and the poor? At some point doesn't self-interest make you change your strategy?

  • Old Man with Candy||

    Baltimore's government is nearly 100% "dusky." As long as "dusky" triumphs "competent," there will be no more Don Schaefers, no more Mimi DiPietros, no more Ted McKeldins. Baltimore will continue its rapid descent down the shitter. I'm glad to be out of there.

  • ||

    It's irrelevant. The sort of people who seek political office are not the sort of people who can actually do things or manage something.

  • Old Man with Candy||

    I named three people who could actually do things and manage something. They would be, today, demographically disqualified.

  • ||

    If you were raised in a climate where the actions of white people could be plausibly blamed for all your problems, you'd probably respond to the same racism whistles as urban blacks do. No doubt, they're constantly voting against their economic interests, but it's hard to muster up much blame for them in my mind.

  • Ass Heaven||

    It's almost like they're children or something.

  • Brett L||

    Thank you. I expect every person, regardless of race, creed, sex, etc, to be able to evaluate actual outcomes. That few do, regardless of those qualifiers, is not my problem or even unexpected. What should we do? Just ignore the problem?

  • ||

    H&R's response to nearly every instance of poor people acting against their own interests is to point and laugh at them for being so inferior, so forgive me for not thinking that the purpose in bringing this point up was to organize a solution.

  • Ice Nine||

    I'd like to see them impose it on a VFW hall in, say, Texas.

  • Susan Kelo||

    I mean, what are the chances that the poor people ALWAYS live on the land the government needs?

    Well, not always...

  • ||

    To be fair, it makes sense that wealthy neighborhoods and country clubs are less likely to be "blighted". Which is one reason why allowing that to be the standard for eminent domain is, shall we say, problematic.

  • ||

    To be fair, it makes sense that wealthy neighborhoods and country clubs are less likely to be "blighted".

    Even if the standard were actually objective instead of based solely on the opinions of the wealthy country club and city council members.

  • ||

    Yes, it would still be so if the blight standard were objective.

  • Erisian||

    Actually, 'blight' is no longer a criterion. The Mayor of San Diego thinks that the purpose of the CRA is to be sure that the vibrant, gentrified, downtown remains as such. Of course this is after the downtown section of San Diego utilized earlier CRA monies to clean up the blight, so this is really just a valid extension.

  • Zeb||

    When I read "biotech park" I thought it was going to be like Jurassic park. I am disappointed.

  • ||

    Perhaps if they renamed the abandoned neighborhood "Hamsterdam" ....

  • Wind Rider||

    Well, you could chalk it up as "tuition". The taxpaying students paying pretty (well, ok, whole shitload of) pennies for the lesson that pie in the sky, well intentioned politicians are a bunch of fucking morons that don't really know how to do anything except fleece the gullible that actually believe their crappy and expensive ideas, which actually accomplish nothing except to make money simply disappear.

    Solid B+.

  • Wind Rider||

    They do get an "F" for failing to learn that Government really only has the power to destroy, subjugate, and displace - build and cultivate, not so much. As in, they can tell someone to get the fuck out and hand over their house, but are just pissing into the wind by insisting that an otherwise free to make its own economic decisions company do X, y, or even Z, lacking a contract. And as with most ideas from stupid politicians (redundant, yeah, I know), if there is no profit, they'll go all Ferengi on them and go elsewhere every fucking time, because gold pressed latinum trumps politico bloviation hands down.

  • ||

    At least they have an expert--nay, an Ace--cake maker to prop up the local economy.

  • smalls||

    He did my wedding cake. Not really related to this article....but felt like the right time to bring it up.

  • Johnny Longtorso||

    "He did my wedding cake"

    Hence the creamy filling.

    I'll be here all week, folks. Be sure to tip your wait staff.

  • smalls||

    You win.

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