Baltimore’s revival had begun in the early 1960s with the Charles Center business complex. Under Mr. Schaefer, the city implemented plans to use the waterfront area to keep people downtown after working hours. The aquarium became a centerpiece. The mayor also helped bring in architect I.M. Pei to design the city’s World Trade Center and courted businesses such as Hyatt to build a large hotel at the harbor.
An issue that Mr. Schaefer treaded carefully was race, especially as his tenure saw the city’s population become majority black. He reportedly wanted to address the city’s poorly performing school system but worried that any criticism of the predominantly black Board of Education would reflect badly on him.
Biographer Smith wrote: “He was caught between conflicting expectations: He was expected to stay out of — and to reform — a system that increasingly failed to prepare its students for productive lives. . . . Baltimore’s school system represented everything Schaefer disliked: It was the classic institutional aircraft carrier that does not easily turn at the captain’s command.”
Many of Baltimore’s black leaders expressed concern that their neighborhoods were being left behind during the city’s transformation.
Former delegate Timothy F. Maloney (D-Prince George’s), a Schaefer admirer, said that the mayor tried to be vigilant about all neighborhoods but that on big renewal efforts, he focused on areas of the city that tourists were likely to visit.
“He was interested in doing things that were practical,” Maloney said. “You’re not going to build an aquarium [in poor neighborhoods far from the city center] and expect people to come out there.”
By the mid-1980s, Mr. Schaefer was the most visible politician in the state. Esquire magazine named him “best mayor in America” in 1984. He was lobbied by state power brokers to run for governor.
In a landslide win in 1986, he became Maryland’s 58th governor, succeeding Harry R. Hughes (D). He stormed Annapolis with his requests, expecting and largely getting them approved.
He once greenlighted a $50 million oncology building for the University of Maryland Medical System and halved the time of completion through his knowledge of the state’s bureaucracy.
He oversaw the revamping of the higher education system with College Park as the capstone of the university system. With all the state schools operating under a single board, they could make requests of the General Assembly from a more united and powerful position.
He won General Assembly approval to build Oriole Park and a stadium for a prospective National Football League team to replace the Colts, which had abandoned Baltimore in 1984. The Cleveland Browns were lured to Baltimore in 1996, after Mr. Schaefer left the governorship, and were renamed the Ravens.