The Maryland Board of Public Works voted today to hit the restart button on the massive State Center overhaul project that has been more than a decade in the making, though a lawyer representing the developer said that’s not going to happen without a fight.
The Sun’s Michael Dresser first reported last night that the spending board was planning to vote on whether to nix an agreement between the State and developer State Center LLC. Seven years ago, former Gov. Martin O’Malley’s administration reached an agreement with the developer for a $1.5 billion overhaul of the aging 28-acre government complex located at W. Preston Street off of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.
However, the project never moved forward after the state grew concerned about going over its borrowing limit, Dresser reports. When Gov. Hogan took office, he declined to resubmit a proposal from State Center LLC to reduce the size of the planned parking garage at the site, which could have reduced costs.
Today, Hogan and two other board members, Comptroller Peter Franchot and Treasurer Nancy Kopp, voted unanimously to end the leases awarded to State Center LLC. According to the AP, Hogan said the plan in its current form would cause the state to incur too much debt and was “totally unworkable.”
Before the vote this morning, attorney Michael Edney, who represents State Center LLC, said in a statement that “the Project would have transformed this space” by adding “modern, environmentally conscious, and healthy office towers for the State’s employee population” and “restaurants, retail stores, a grocery, apartments and condominiums.”
He also said that the State was “turning its back on the City of Baltimore.” In the event that the board voted to cancel their agreement, which it did, Edney said his client would take the State to court and prove the vote has no legal effect “because the State is already contractually bound to the occupancy and ground leases the Governor wishes to cancel.”
Edney has not yet responded to a request for comment.
Some 14 years have now passed in trying to move State Center to fruition, Mayor Catherine Pugh said today follow an unrelated announcement in Station North. “It started under [Gov. Bob] Ehrlich. I remember posing in a picture I think almost eight years ago with Governor O’Malley with the intent of moving State Center forward,” she said.
Pugh said she recalled pushing with others as recently as this year for the project to continue, but said today that there were conversations contributing to the delay that “the rent rates that were to be in this particular project…are not market rate.”
The mayor later added that she will work with the community and Gov. Hogan “to move the project in State Center forward.”
A government complex overhaul may not be in the cards. Hogan told the AP his administration may explore whether it can instead build a professional sports arena there near the Bolton Hill neighborhood.