One of the stories that really engages me this month is "10 Big Ideas for 2012." I think we have tapped into some forward-thinking endeavors that speak to the optimism Baltimoreans have for making the city and the region a showcase for innovation in every field imaginable.
Of course, there were ideas not on the list that are undeniably bold, though not exactly new. But they're still concepts I'm anxious to see embraced in the years to come.
One example is the Harbor Point plan just before the recession (remember when developers could borrow money?) to turn the peninsula at the harbor's entrance that was once the Allied Signal Chromium Plant site into an $830 milllion hotel and residential space that would create thousands of jobs and attract millions of dollars in tax revenues.
Another one of my favorites is the vision to bring bullet trains to the Northeast corridor that could reach speeds of 220 miles per hour, in essence making Washington, New York, and Boston as nearby as Towson. Unfortunately, the initial funds for the $53 billion, multi-year project were recently cut by a cash-starved Congress. That'll have to wait, too, until the nation grapples with its economic problems and debt.
The $1 billion West Side redevelopment, with the Hippodrome Theatre at its heart, has been going on for some years, but has been slowed by bickering over property development rights between the city, developers, and property owners.
One big idea that's really happening? The rise of casinos as a major force in the region's economy. Finally, there are casinos in Perryville and the Eastern Shore, gambling is coming soon to Arundel Mills, a complex is being planned for the Rocky Gap area in western Maryland, and a project is on the drawing boards to put a Harrah's near M&T Bank Stadium. Even those with a moral objection to gambling (in the minority now, according to polls) can't argue with the millions of dollars that Hollywood Casino Perryville and Ocean Downs alone have contributed to public education funding and other good causes. And when the Harbor Point project gets restarted, I can imagine casinos in a location like that, too, as well as gambling concessions that could help revitalize our horse-racing industry.
And one of my personal pipe dreams?
Just weeks ago, Walt Disney Parks & Resorts canceled plans to build a 500-room resort property on 15 waterfront acres in National Harbor in Prince George's County. Disney's project, which would have joined the hotels, restaurants, and a conference center already there, was key to raising National Harbor's visibility as a tourist destination.
So, hey there Mickey and Minnie, why not put it somewhere that's already a big tourism draw? Like here.