When Thomas Bozzuto, chairman and CEO of Greenbelt-based Bozzuto Group, approached the podium to deliver his remarks during the groundbreaking ceremony for the $100 million mixed-use Anthem House, he had something on his mind beyond the standard exuberance surrounding the start of a new project.
The founder of one of the region’s most successful development companies had a message he wanted to deliver in the wake of riots that followed the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray and the spike in violent crime that has followed. He acknowledged there are problem’s haunting Baltimore that need to be addressed, but he also chastised those who balk at investing as a result of recent violence.
“It’s just that this is an unusual time in Baltimore. It is an unusual time because we’ve all been reminded by recent events of the unsolved problems in our city. But these aren’t just Baltimore’s problems. These are our nation’s problems, and while our city does need to deal with these issues, our country as a whole needs to deal with it,” Bozzuto said. “And anyone that suggests the opposite is just fooling themselves. Yet some have responded, or will respond, to the recent events in our wonderful city by withdrawing investments, or hesitating to make a commitment to Baltimore.
“But this is not a time to turn our backs on this great city. It is, if anything, a time to stand up even taller and say, ‘I’m a Baltimorean and I love this place.'”
The groundbreaking for Anthem House, a 292-unit apartment building with 20,000 square feet of retail space, which is being built in partnership between Bozzuto, former Under Armour executive Scott Plank’s War Horse LLC and Solstice Partners, was originally scheduled to take place on April 27 but was postponed. Later that night the city erupted into citywide spasms of arson and looting. In the weeks that have followed the riots the city has experienced a level of shootings and murders it hasn’t seen in decades.
But during the ceremony Thomas Bozzuto; Bozzuto Group President Toby Bozzuto; Scott Plank; Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and Baltimore Development Corp. President William Cole all used the event to express optimism and to focus on what they say are the attributes that can spur economic development in the city.
“Today we must take a moment to celebrate the triumph of this city. In this moment we recognize that man has a propensity to create beauty the same way that man has the propensity to destroy what is beautiful. It’s really a choice … that all of us can make to create or destroy, to triumph or to fail,” Toby Bozzuto said.
Correction: An earlier version of this article misidentified where The Bozzuto Group is based. The Daily Record regrets the error.