Union workers gathered in front of Baltimore city hall on July 17 to protest a proposed $107 million tax deal for the development of the Harbor Point project on a portion of the city’s waterfront.
More than 100 protesters from UNITE HERE and United Workers gathered with signs calling for a new development model in Baltimore which puts residents first.
“We want fair development with public benefit over private profit,” said Michael Fox, labor organizer for United Workers. “The community needs to benefit from development.”
The $1 billion Harbor Point development would excavate 27.4 acres of land to create the “final component in the completion of the Baltimore waterfront revitalization,” according to plans for the site. The mixed-use development would become the home of Exelon’s new regional headquarters, a hotel, shopping area and residencies.
Developers said the waterfront will be used as a cultural attraction to bring additional tourists to the city’s Inner Harbor.
Thomas Scott, 54, who has worked in Camden Yards since 2001, said developers need to give back to the community and the residents of Baltimore.
“The city owns buildings, it owns housing,” said Scott. “They don’t give any of its citizens free rent for 10 years, so to give a developer that—I understand we can’t stop development… but if a developer is going to get those kinds of tax breaks, he should invest in the community they are building in.”
Following the rally, organizers testified before the city council’s taxation committee on how the city’s funds could be better allocated.
“We need rec centers, fire stations and schools,” said Fox. “Workers at Harbor Point need to make a living wage.”
Shantrese Wise, 39, an unemployed former hotel worker said she is concerned about the Perkins Homes community, which lies directly behind Harbor Point.
“If the Perkins Homes community is not included then there should be no deal,” said Wise. “It’s a bad deal for the community and the development will just create lower wage paying jobs.”
She said the $107 million tax subsidy for Harbor Point could instead be used to help rebuild the Perkins Homes community and other areas in Baltimore by repairing roads, tearing down vacant homes and revitalizing the area.
The council’s taxation committee did not make a formal decision on the Harbor Point tax deal after the hearing. Further discussion of the deal was tabled until the taxation committee’s next meeting in August.