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Top 5: ‘Baltimore’s getting excited’

Lots of news from the General Assembly this week as the 90-day session began, and the Baltimore Ravens’ first home playoff game in five years means big things for local merchandise retailers. Those stories and more in this week’s business top 5.

1. Tremont Plaza to become apartments — by Melody Simmons

Baltimore’s Tremont Plaza Hotel will soon convert back to its original purpose: apartments.

The 390-suite property’s owners said Monday the rooms would soon be altered into apartments and long-term stay places.

Five members of the hotel’s sales staff were laid off on Friday after the renovations were announced, said Carol Chatham, a spokeswoman for the hotel’s owner, William C. Smith + Co. of Washington, D.C.

2. Miller, Busch consider different approaches for transportation – by Nicholas Sohr

Maryland’s top legislative leaders agree the state needs to spend more on transportation projects but they’re not willing to go along with the proposed 15-cent gasoline tax hike over three years.

“I think that’s too much,” said Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., D-Calvert and Prince Georges, told The Daily Record.

3. National study: Home prices to fall in Baltimore – by Melody Simmons

A national study released Monday shows that even though national housing prices are expected to increase slightly in 2012, they will drop by 4.9 percent in Baltimore.

In its monthly Home Data Index, Clear Capital researchers found prices of U.S. homes are expected to climb by 0.2 percent this year, a reversal of last year’s figures where overall prices fell by 2.1 percent.

4. Ravens’ success trickling down in surprising ways – by Maria Zilberman

While it’s no shock that retailers selling Baltimore Ravens apparel and merchandise are seeing soaring sales in the week leading up to the team’s first home playoff game in five years, it may be surprising to know that even a local restaurant and bar supplies company is seeing increased business.

Tony DePalo, president and CEO of Baltimore-based DePalo & Sons Inc., which sells foodservice equipment and supplies, said the first quarter of the year is usually the slowest time for restaurants — and for him.

5. O’Malley floats 1-cent sales tax hike – by Nicholas Sohr

Gov. Martin O’Malley floated a 1-cent sales tax increase on Wednesday as another potential remedy to the state’s persistent and widespread money problems.

The idea appeared to catch lawmakers off guard as they gathered in the State House for the start of the 90-day legislative session that will have them debating increased spending on transportation, schools and environmental projects as well how to bridge a $1.1 billion budget deficit.