In an attempt to help revitalize Baltimore’s downtown central business district the state plans to relocate more than 3,000 of its employees to offices in that area of the city, Gov. Larry Hogan said Monday.
In all the proposal will affect 3,300 state employees from a dozen agencies. More than 15,000 state employees already work in the downtown central business district. The proposal would be funded with $50 million in funds that came into the state’s supplemental budget through the federal government.
“We are very pleased to begin that process today with the issuance of an RFP (Request for Proposal) for the relocation of the Maryland Department of Human Services headquarters to the downtown central business district,” Hogan said at a news conference that was held at McKeldin Plaza in downtown Baltimore. “Moving the department and it’s more than 700 employees into 105,000 square feet of office space in downtown is an important first step in the recovery of the central business district.”
Hogan said that Maryland Department of Health, which has about 1,200 employees, will be the next state agency to move to the central business district.
“These two agencies will bring the first of nearly 2,000 workers of what will become 3,300 workers in total to this downtown area, which will be a big boost for the revitalization and transformation of downtown Baltimore,” Hogan said.
Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford reflected on how the pandemic both changed the once-busy downtown area and reinforced the need to reevaluate how many state employees might work going forward.
“It changed from bustling downtown to being at home offices and Zoom meetings. The pandemic forced us all to rethink and reimagine state government operations and the needs of our workforce in ways that fit the demands and conditions of our current reality as well as our future.”
Rutherford said accommodations related to work flexibility are necessary so that the state can compete with employers in the private sector.
“This pandemic-era has shifted many private companies to move a large portion of their workforce to remote work. And some permanently. Currently, 47% our employees were able to telework during the pandemic emergency.”
Rutherford said that it might actually be cheaper for the state to rent property in the downtown central business district than to maintain some of the buildings that currently house state employees.
Senate President Bill Ferguson hammered home the importance of the state increasing its presence in the downtown central business district.
“This is not just about buildings. The buildings are important. Don’t get me wrong. The buildings are very very important. It is about the people. A city lives and dies on momentum.”
Greater Baltimore Committee (GBC) President and CEO Donald Fry praised Hogan’s decision to move state employees to downtown Baltimore in a statement on Monday.
“The Governor’s decision to relocate a large number of state employees to Baltimore’s central business district will have a significant economic impact on the many businesses downtown that rely on office workers to stay profitable. It also underscores that the downtown area remains highly attractive as a location to base major office operations and may help attract other tenants. The relocation of state offices to the downtown business district will also help to restore a vibrant and active downtown neighborhood.”