Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake touted the completion of the new Exelon office tower at Harbor Point as proof investments in tony-neighborhoods along the waterfront can help the entire city.
Rawlings-Blake, during her remarks at an opening ceremony Friday, said that Warren Hill, a young black man who worked construction on the project, is an example of how the development has helped city residents. During an elevator trip to the event, Hill expressed pride in working on the building to Rep. Elijah Cummings, who used the anecdote in his speech.
“For everyone peddling this notion there’s two Baltimores, and we can’t rise together, I’ll show them (Hill’s) face,” Rawlings-Blake said, after requesting a selfie.
According to Exelon, more than 150 companies were involved in the interior build out of the building and 70 percent of total project investment went to minority- and women-owned businesses.
The 21-story tower will roughly house 1,500 employees of Exelon and its subsidiary Constellation. The company also contributed $450,000 to programs providing low-income and unemployed residents training programs for construction trades.
Rawlings-Blake, who leaves office next month, has been criticized by activists and political opponents for pursuing a development strategy they argue has resulted in heavy investment in wealthy neighborhoods along the waterfront, but not in the city’s more disadvantaged neighborhoods.
“I get to stand in buildings, in developments not just in the Harbor, but around our city,” Rawlings-Blake said, pushing back against such criticism.
Opponents and activists point to the city awarding public financing to large waterfront developments, including $36 million for Harbor Point and $660 million to Port Covington, as proof Rawlings-Blake’s administration has provided incentives for building in some areas of the city while others are left behind.
“I knew this (project’s impact) was possible,” Rawlings-Blake said, defending her support for public financing for the $1 billion Harbor Point project.
Cummings, who said he told his staff he wouldn’t miss this event even in the midst of a re-election campaign, also argued the building represents an investment that benefits all city residents.
“This facility, this effort what you’re doing here today… you care about lifting up all of Baltimore,” Cummings said.
Exelon CEO Chris Crane touted the building as proof of his company’s commitment to Baltimore and Maryland. He said the firm, through its three utilities, plans to eventually invest $6.7 billion in the state’s power infrastructure.
“This building is a symbol of growth and that we are supporting this great city and state,” Crane said.
Gov. Larry Hogan said his administration’s top priority has always been economic development. He added that developments like this show the potential power of a growing economy in the state.
“It’s definitely the best part of my job to see business grow and expand their footprint,” Hogan said.