Understandably, many residents of Cambridge have grown slightly impatient that the town’s waterfront project has taken so long to mature and be actually developed. It has been after all twenty-seven years since the genesis to redevelop the city’s exceptional location on the Choptank River started to take form.
But the history of what Cambridge has done on its waterfront since those early, visionary citizens saw a new future for their community already includes one of the most tremendous urban-renewal success stories in Maryland, if not the nation. Only seven years after that “Committee of One Hundred” first gathered, a $250 million hotel and convention center opened its doors on the Choptank banks.
Now, that’s progress for you.
This public-private project was unprecedented in both scale and scope then. as it is now in hindsight. With a “once in a lifetime” coalition of state and local politicians, government funding agencies, and Hyatt corporate leadership, this financially struggling community of only 13,000, living with the stigma of civil unrest from the 1960s, and devastated by the decline of the seafood industry, dared to shoot for the moon with the 280 room resort idea.
And it worked. Next year the Hyatt will celebrate twenty years as a premier Mid-Atlantic conference center. Before the pandemic, the hotel had been hugely successful in room occupancy and general revenue, but it also has fulfilled its promise as a critical new gateway to Cambridge for newcomers quickly impressed with the region’s beauty.
One important person at the table in moving the project forward was then-mayor Dave Wooten, who played a key link in building alliances with state leaders like Donald Schafer and Parris Glendening.
The Spy recently caught up with the former mayor (and current Eastern Shore representative for Maryland’s Comptroller Office) at his favorite table at the Black Water Bakery to recall the Hyatt project and how critical a first step it was in Cambridge’s renewal plans. He also notes the sometimes slow walk these projects must take to have lasting and taranformatal impact on a city’s future.
This video is approximately five minutes in length.