Raymond Skinner, who twice served as secretary of Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development, is retiring from his position as head of East Baltimore Development Inc.
The nonprofit is overseeing the often-controversial redevelopment of 88 acres of land surrounding Johns Hopkins Medical Campus in east Baltimore. Skinner took over as the group’s CEO and president in 2015. During Skinner’s tenure EBDI and its partners completed work on several pieces of the $1.8 billion project including the five-acre Eager Park, 49 market rate townhomes called the Townes at Eager Park, and $84 million, 15-story, 200,000-square-foot Residence Inn Baltimore at The Johns Hopkins Medical Campus.
“There were those who said that Eager Park would not reach its full potential after the Great Recession and the slow recovery that followed,” Skinner said in a statement. “But vision, dedication, persistence and enthusiasm are winning the day. That’s a credit to our local, state and federal government sponsors; our funding partners; our development teams; our businesses and employers; and, especially, our former and new Eager Park residents. I am grateful to all of them.”
Cheryl Y. Washington, previously the organization’s chief operating officer, was appointed president and CEO, during EBDI’s board meeting on Wednesday. Her previous responsibilities included overseeing economic inclusion and workforce development at the project. The project, according to EBDI, has surpassed its minority inclusion goals by directing $150 million, or 34 percent, of construction contracts to minority firms.
“My goal, the board’s goal, and the goal of everyone involved in this project,” she said, “is to ensure that Eager Park is a neighborhood of choice for both historic and new residents and a family-centered place to live, work, learn and play.”
At full build out, in the neighborhood formerly called the Middle East, is expected to provide 1.25 million square feet of commercial space, 1,850 housing units and 130,000 square feet of retail space.
The redevelopment has faced several challenges in the past. Work started in 2001 but halted following the 2008 financial collapse. The relocation of more than 700 mostly poor black residents and the demolition of roughly 600 homes to make way for new building resulted in activists calling the project gentrification.
The Daily Record, in 2011, published an award-winning investigative series by Joan Jacobson and Melody Simmons highlighting issues with the project’s transparency, the displacement of residents and the struggle to attract bio-tech park tenants. In a letter EBDI defended itself and argued the series was slanted by “an unfortunate lack of understanding of the facts and a lack of openness to information.”
Skinner is the second high-profile member of the redevelopment effort to leave in less than a year. Last July, Scott Levitan, development director of master developer Forest City-New East Baltimore Partnership, left to take a position as president and CEO of the Research Triangle Foundation in North Carolina.