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Melody Simmons’ real estate notebook

Maryland’s real estate community is already gussying up for the party of the year on May 23 — in Las Vegas.

At least 800 are expected to show up at the Encore Beach Club, part of the Wynn Resort complex, for what is known affectionately as the “Maryland Dinner.” The festivities coincide with the opening of the annual International Council of Shopping Centers RECon retail real estate conference, which draws nearly 45,000 people from around the U.S.

The Maryland bash begins at 6 p.m. and is themed “Margaritaville,” with the lead sponsor being the Maryland Department of Economic and Business Development. No doubt, Secretary Christian Johansson will be in full Parrothead mode (Buffett shirt, flip-flops, salt shaker, etc. optional).

The party started in the late 1990s as a seven-course dinner for Maryland real estate officials, but has grown so much in popularity that it is the buzz on the desert at RECon on Monday, said Larry Lichtenauer, a Baltimore RE expert. Lichtenauer said he plans to fly out to Vegas on Monday morning just to rub elbows at the Maryland Dinner – and then return home early Tuesday.

Past Maryland Dinners have drawn a heavy slate of politicians, including governors, mayors, county executives and local economic development directors to mingle with RE regulars, bankers and business leaders. Event sponsors are in three categories: platinum, silver and gold, and their logos are plastered all over the room.

Other sponsors include the Baltimore County Office of Economic Development, the Baltimore Development Corp., Harford County Office of Economic Development, Howard County Office of Economic Development and the Prince George’s County Office of Economic Development

Platinum-level sponsors include Commercial Settlement Services, KLNB Retail, St. John Properties, Merritt Properties LLC, Manekin LLC and Alex Cooper Real Estate.

There are 33 additional sponsors for the event in categories that mimic the Olympics from gold to silver and bronze.

Bricks and Mortar:

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and Congressman Elijah Cummings are expected Tuesday at the 11 a.m. groundbreaking of “M on Madison,” a 74-unit work force housing project. The six-story complex will be constructed in the Mt. Vernon community, at the corner of Madison and Howard Streets. Baltimore-based Peter Fillat Architects designed the sustainable building with financing from the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development.

Gino’s returns to Baltimore this summer with a restaurant now under construction on Joppa and LaSalle roads in Towson. Expect a nostalgic grand opening in July with lots of old Baltimore Colts memorabilia and Gino Marchetti himself … Real estate spies say state Sen. Catherine Pugh has leased a campaign headquarters office in the 800 block of E. Baltimore. She has not yet filed to run…MacKenzie Commercial Real Estate was recently awarded a deal to redevelop the old Cardinal Gibbons High School site in the 3200 block of Wilkens Avenue. No word yet on the scope of the project…Bids are due soon for redevelopment of the 52-acre Solo Cup site in Owings Mills, as the company winds down business.

Melody Simmons’ real estate notebook will appear every week in Real Estate Weekly. Have a tip? Call Melody at 443-524-8160, or email her at