Hogan, Pugh tour State Center, discuss alternative plans

Gov. Larry Hogan and Mayor Catherine Pugh toured the stalled State Center development in Baltimore Thursday afternoon, lamenting the lack of progress at the site as a legal battle between the state and the company that planned to develop it rages on.

The $1.5 billion redevelopment was supposed to provide a badly needed economic boost for the city’s west side. But it has dragged on for years without progress in part due to several lawsuits. The state Board of Public Works scuttled the most recent version of the project in December after more than a decade of planning, negotiations and litigation.

After Hogan toured the government complex Thursday, the Republican governor and the development team, Ekistics LLC, engaged in a war of words over who was to blame for the lack of progress.

Hogan blasted the developer and previous administrations for entering into a deal that, he said, amounted to a “crazy proposal that didn’t make any economic sense.”

“The current deal cannot go through,” the governor said. “It’s already been rejected and it’s illegal for us to proceed.”

A spokeswoman for Ekistics said the company stands ready to build the project and the Hogan administration is wasting $900,000 in taxpayer funds on litigation.

For more than a decade, state officials have planned an overhaul of the government office buildings and adjacent properties that span 28 acres near Eutaw Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. The planned offices, apartments, condo tower and grocery store near light rail, Metro and train services would create a strong option for people looking to move to Baltimore, proponents say.

Conceived in 2004, the redevelopment plan called for building new offices for 3,500 state employees as well as residences and retail space over 15 years.

The State Center deal guaranteed the developer long-term, above-market leases with state agencies to enable the builders to secure financing. The plan was for the state to lease land to the developer, but the tract and structures would be owned by the state in the long run.

But 15 business owners backed by attorney Peter G. Angelos sued the state and the developer in 2010, contending the deal was unlawful and did not follow Maryland’s competitive bidding requirements. Ultimately that lawsuit was thrown out, but it stalled the project for years.

Soon after the Board of Public Works voted to cancel the leases in December,…

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