Fate of Redwood Street

November 30, 1990

The city's planning commission has heard the arguments for and against the sale of Redwood Street, and it has decided to defer judgment. We would have preferred an outright rejection of the fatuous notion that the streets of downtown are up for grabs. Still, it may be true -- as opponents of the project claim -- that the commission's indecisiveness is a positive sign, at least in the sense that the problems raised at the hearing cast serious doubt on the wisdom of the current proposal.

Indeed, there is more than enough reason to think so: The proposed plan would allow developer Leonard Attman to buy two lanes of Redwood Street, between Charles and Light, for a 32-story office complex. There are glaring questions about zoning, the project's effect on traffic, neighboring businesses and the ambience of the city. But most worrisome is the precedent of selling off public property -- not as part of grand plan for public benefit, but for the sole benefit of a private developer. Once cash-poor Baltimore starts down that slippery slope, what's to stop the city from selling the Washington Monument, or a couple streets in Fells Point?

The commission's silence may indeed indicate that it recognizes these broader concerns of citizens. Still, there are no guarantees. The fact is that with the hearing behind it, the commission is under no obligation to hold another. It could now, if it chose, ignore the opposition and approve the sale behind closed doors.

Would the commission stoop to such tactics? The answer, we trust, is no. Any attempt to scuttle citizen concerns would not only be irresponsible, it would also risk the credibility of the city with an already disgruntled public.

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