Photo via mayor’s office
Photo via mayor’s office

After five years helming Baltimore’s economic development arm, William H. Cole IV is leaving to become a partner in a Howard County consulting firm with a similar mission.

Cole, who’s served as president of the Baltimore Development Corporation since 2014 after nearly two terms on the Baltimore City Council, will start his new position at Margrave Strategies next month.

“I’ve devoted my life to making Baltimore and the region better, and I believe that by joining Margrave, we will have the opportunity to make a lasting impact on the lives of Marylanders by envisioning the communities and neighborhoods where they will work, live and play,” Cole said in a statement. “This is a tremendous opportunity to continue to grow neighborhoods and communities in Baltimore and throughout Maryland.”

He’s the second major city official to leave amid city and state investigations into Mayor Catherine Pugh’s “Healthy Holly” children’s book scandal. Pugh administration cabinet member and campaign lender Jim Smith tendered his resignation the same week that Bernard C. “Jack” Young stepped in as acting mayor. City and state lawmakers, as well as the influential Greater Baltimore Committee, which includes a number of Pugh allies, have called on the mayor to resign.

The BDC has already found a replacement. This morning, the quasi-public agency announced its board has approved Pugh’s deputy chief of strategic alliances, Colin Tarbert, as its new president. Tarbert previously served as deputy mayor under Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, and has worked in city government for 13 years in total.

Young said in a statement that Cole “has been a tremendous leader,” and “his energy and commitment to the city is unwavering.” Of Tarbert, he said, “Colin is well prepared for this role. He has been intimately involved in every major project in Baltimore over the last decade and has led several key initiatives over two different administrations.”

Two-time Howard County executive and 2014 lieutenant gubernatorial candidate Ken Ulman founded Margrave Strategies in 2014. The firm has worked with the University of Maryland, College Park, Towson University and others on economic development plans, such as revitalizing the Route 1 corridor and bringing tech investment to College Park, adding student housing at Salisbury University and setting a growth strategy for Towson. (Full disclosure: Ulman is an investor in Baltimore Fishbowl.)

“Bill brings a unique set of skills and experiences to Margrave,” Ulman said in a statement. “His deep understanding of economic development, job creation and investment, combined with a knowledge of higher education and state and local government, will enable Margrave to serve more anchor institutions and engage in more communities throughout Maryland.”

As president and CEO of the BDC, Cole oversaw development on downtown’s long-dormant Westside, helped coordinate plans to revamp several of Baltimore’s public markets and was one of several city officials to shepherd a controversial deal giving $660 million in public financing to Kevin Plank for his Port Covington project.

Despite protests that the deal would only further Baltimore’s inequity, proponents argued the large-scale development, which includes a new headquarters for Plank’s athletic apparel company, Under Armour, and millions of square feet of office, residential and retail space, would be an economic boon for the city. After a 12-1 city council vote in favor of authorizing the public funds, Rawlings-Blake signed off on the deal in September 2016.

“We’ve always anticipated there would need to be significant state and federal money required to make this project a reality,” Cole told The Sun at the time. “You’ve got to put certain pieces together to unlock the next piece.”

Last fall, following a failed bid to lure online retail titan Amazon to the site for its second headquarters, officials announced the waterfront property would become a hub for cybersecurity, with DataTribe, AllegisCyber and Evergreen Advisors signing on as the first tenants. The building they will call home is due to open in 2020.

On Cole’s watch, downtown’s Westside, a once-bustling shopping district that has seen redevelopment over the years in fits and starts, began to see new life, highlighted by the redevelopment of the Mayfair Theatre site, rehabilitation of five vacant buildings as part of the Howard Row development and plan to overhaul Lexington Market, among other projects.

Prior to being appointed to the BDC, Cole served as a city councilman in District 11, starting in 2007. Prior to that, he was a member of the Maryland House of Delegates from 1999 to 2002 and a special assistant to Rep. Elijah E. Cummings from 1996 to 2003.

This story has been updated.