Developer Behind State Center Project Sues State Over Nixed Agreement

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The development firm picked 10 years ago to renovate a sprawling, crumbling complex of state government offices near Bolton Hill is suing the State of Maryland over its a to void their agreement.

Last month, the Maryland Spending Board, comprising Gov. Larry Hogan, Comptroller Peter Franchot and Treasurer Nancy Kopp, voted to end the leases awarded by Martin O’Malley’s administration to State Center LLC back in 2009 so that Hogan’s administration could find a new developer for the property.

Michael Edney, an attorney who represents State Center LLC, said at the time that Hogan was “turning his back on the City of Baltimore.“ Hogan argued the project in its current form would generate too much debt for the state and said it was “totally unworkable.”

Today, State Center LLC responded more officially by filing a lawsuit against the state in Baltimore City Circuit Court. The suit asks that the government maintain its contractual obligation from the lease and alleges that the governor’s decision to halt the agreement was politically motivated.

In a statement, Edney reiterated State Center LLC’s previous defense that they had tried to work with Governor Hogan as soon as he took office in 2015 so they could break ground on the project.

“The Governor never once told the developer any change he required,” Edney said. “Sadly, we have to conclude the Governor was never interested in moving forward this revitalization of Baltimore and all the jobs that would come with it. The Governor is putting politics above jobs and growth and neglecting the City of Baltimore.”

Hogan spokesman Doug Mayer said in a statement that the lawsuit could delay further plans for the territory. “It is very disappointing to see that this developer and their D.C. law firm have decided to follow through on their threat to hold up the development of this site in court for the next decade,” he said.

State Center LLC, led by Baltimore firm Ekistics LLC, had planned to turn the 28-acre complex at W. Preston Street off of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard into a mixed residential-retail development. The primary tenants would have been state government offices, with room for up to 3,000 employees.

Caroline Moore, president of Ekistics LLC, said workers could have begun construction within two months if not for the vote that canceled the agreement.

Hogan and Franchot have both expressed other intentions for the land. One proposal that continues to bubble to the surface is a new professional sports arena that could draw a new NBA or NHL team to Baltimore. Governor Hogan has already directed the Maryland Stadium Authority to conduct a feasibility study for several options for State Center, including a potential new arena in its place, Franchot wrote on Facebook in December.

Ethan McLeod
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Ethan McLeod

Associate Editor at Baltimore Fishbowl
Ethan is Baltimore Fishbowl's associate editor. He previously covered Baltimore-area news as a web producer for Fox45/WBFF-TV. Before arriving in Baltimore, he worked as an assistant editor for CQ Researcher in Washington D.C., and a reporter for Connection Newspapers in Northern Virginia. Look for his freelance bylines in Baltimore City Paper and DCist.
Ethan McLeod
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