It’s been a traumatic 24 hours for M.J. “Jay” Brodie, longtime head of the Baltimore Development Corp., the quasi-public operation that presides over Baltimore’s economic development – and, more controversially, recommends tax breaks for developers.
Yesterday morning, Brodie was presiding over the agency’s monthly board meeting with his typical avuncular aplomb.
After the board went into closed session to recommend a tax break for Lexington Square Partners, developers of the West Side “Superblock” project, Brodie took time to entertain some questions from this and another reporter.
He then excused himself, saying he had an appointment with Kaliope Parthemos, deputy mayor for economic development and Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake’s “right-hand woman.”
A conference between the two took place in a BDC conference room.
Within hours, rumors were swirling that Brodie was retiring after 16 years as BDC president.
Confirmation of his retirement came from the mayor’s office, not from Brodie. In a press statement released to The Baltimore Sun last night, and to the rest of the media this morning, Rawlings-Blake thanked Brodie for his service and announced a professional search process for his replacement.
Brodie confirmed to The Brew today that he was retiring.
Asked why, he said in an e-mail: “It’s about my life + family: been thinking about this for some time.”
Accomplishments and Controversy
Brodie’s tenure as BDC president was marked by many accomplishments around the Inner Harbor, notably the rise of Harbor East on a former wasteland of railroad yards and empty factories.
During the real estate boom of a decade ago, Brodie guided through persistence and adroit use of tax breaks a number of apartment highrises that boosted residency in the central business district and Inner Harbor. An accomplished networker, he had an encyclopedic knowledge of the city’s real estate and its power players.
His independence perhaps wore thin among the mayor’s inner circle.
Brodie was considered one of several appointees likely to be replaced after Rawlings-Blake won a full-term in office last November. We wrote about his career – and his political vulnerability – four months ago.
During the mayoral election, the 76-year-old – who has worked in city government, with a 12-year hiatus, since 1964 – was singled out by other candidates as too cozy with developers.
Since the November election, the BDC has been subject to several well-publicized protests by Occupy Baltimore and Baltimoreans United in Leadership Development (BUILD), a religious-based coalition with political clout in the black community.
More recently, the agency was hit for its lack of transparency by Carl Stokes and other members of the Baltimore City Council.
Through this period of stress, Brodie maintained his cheerful demeanor – and clung to his job. He liked to say that he was a perennial optimist by nature.
Yesterday morning, as he was about to meet with Parthemos, he thumbed through his pile of documents, including a handwritten calendar filled with dates of future appointments.
To be sure, Brodie won’t be leaving the agency’s office on the 16th floor of 36 South Charles Street precipitously.
As noted in this morning’s press release:
“Mr. Brodie will remain president of the BDC until the professional search process is complete. Thereafter, Mr. Brodie will continue serving the city in an advisory role to Mayor Rawlings-Blake and the Mayor’s Office of Economic and Neighborhood Development, pending final employment contract approval.”