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Planning Students Investigating Controversial Harbor Point Development Project

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Planning Students Interviewing Stelios Spiliadis, owner of Black Olive Restaurant and Black Olive Inn. Photo Courtesy Tonya Sanders

On Wednesday, February 5th, Professor Tonya Sanders, PhD and students enrolled in her City and Regional Planning course, Neighborhood and Community Development, visited Stelios Spiliadis, owner of Black Olive Restaurant and Black Olive Inn, at the Olive Room of the Black Olive Inn to discuss the controversial Harbor Point project that is going in just across the street from Mr. Spiliadis’ Inn in Fells Point.

Baltimore’s Harbor Point project is a $1billion mixed-use, planned unit development situated between Harbor East and Fells Point. The 27.4-acre former superfund site once was a chromium factory. The finished development will contain 1.8 million square feet of commercial space including office, retail, and hotel space as well as a park. Two major US corporations will occupy the site—Morgan Stanley and Excelon. It is believed that 17,000 jobs will be created at the site—construction and permanent jobs. Tax Increment Financing (TIF) dollars will be used to fund the infrastructure and other improvements in addition to the $100 million municipal bonds that were approved to help finance the project.

The controversial nature of this project has been well discussed in local papers such as the Baltimore Sun and Baltimore Brew. Concerns surround the health impact the development will have on the community once they start burrowing into the capped chromium to stabilize the structures that will be built on top. Chromium, a carcinogen known to cause cancer, has the potential to be released into the air. The Maryland Department of the Environment is overseeing the testing of the air and water to ensure that chromium levels do not increase.

City and Regional Planning students got a chance to sit down with Mr. Spiliadis to get a first hand account of the concerns business owners have about the project. According to Spiliadis, community concerns about the health impact have not been fully addressed.

Throughout the semester, students will continue to conduct interviews with key community stakeholders to better understand their concerns and their expectations of this billion-dollar project.

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