Schaefer urges joint planning of Inner Harbor

December 20, 1990|By Doug Birch | Doug Birch,Annapolis Bureau of The Sun

ANNAPOLIS -- Gov. William Donald Schaefer said yesterday that Baltimore's mayor and business leaders should join the state in writing a new master plan for development of the Inner Harbor near the vacant Power Plant and bankrupt Brokerage complex.

"I somewhat reluctantly am going to suggest maybe there ought to be joint planning, joint action between the business community, state and city," the governor said, adding he was concerned that he might be accused of "interfering" in city affairs.

"The city makes its money down here," he said of the Inner Harbor at a meeting of the state Board of Public Works. "This is where the tourists come. It's known all over the world. And I'm somewhat concerned."

He offered few specifics. Later, in a brief interview, he explained that he would like to see a new group created -- to include representatives of the state, city and business community -- to draft the new plan.

He said he was concerned about a number of businesses in the area: the Power Plant, vacant for 11 months; nearby restaurants; the Brokerage commercial and office complex; and the Fish Market, the former nightclub complex that is struggling to reopen after closing in July 1989.

At the same time, he noted, the city, state and federal governments are preparing to build together the $200 million Christopher Columbus Center for Marine Research and Exploration -- a research, teaching and exhibition center -- on 11.5 acres on Piers 5 and 6. The state is contributing $18.8 million.

A spokesman for Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke said: "He's got no comment."

Business leaders pointed out that the city's quasi-public Center City-Inner Harbor Development agency already coordinates private development efforts in the Inner Harbor.

"I'm not sure what the governor is proposing," said David Gillece, the head of Center City-Inner Harbor Development Corp. "The state has beena partner with us on a number of projects in the area. . . . But full-bore, joint programming and planning would be a new wrinkle and we'd have to get a more full idea of what he has in mind."

Robert Keller, president of the Greater Baltimore Committee, said: "I think that, in fact, there always ought to be state and local cooperation. The business community is already an advocate of that."

In helping to plan city development, he said, "We have to be very careful that the political balance be maintained" between the state and city.

The governor, he said, was right to raise the concern about the appearance of interference.

"That's not rejecting out of hand what the governor said," Mr. Keller added.

The governor's comments came after he and the two other members of the Board of Public Works, which ratifies many major state contracts, approved a $500,000 grant toward the $4 million reconstruction of the Pier 6 concert pavilion's canvas tent.

Demolition of the old tent is to begin Dec. 26 and its replacement is to be completed sometime in July. The effort will double the seating capacity -- from 1,500 covered seats and 1,000 open air seats to 3,500 covered and 1,500 open air -- of the Inner Harbor attraction.

Governor Schaefer, who has long had an icy relationship with Mayor Schmoke, told the Public Works Board, "If I were the mayor, I wouldn't like the proposal at all."

But he urged Mr. Schmoke to view the offer in the "broader context" of the problems of the area.

"If it isn't rejected out of hand by saying that you're interfering with local government, if we don't get a total rejection, then I will call the business community and call the mayor," he said.

Mr. Schaefer suggested his proposal was not an ultimatum. "If it's rejected out of hand, it's OK with me," he said. "I'm just putting it out."

But at one point, he said that the pavilion "may be the last one [project] I have an active interest in until I see a general plan . . . unless we see a plan.

"This is not trying to be an intrusion by the state. This is trying to save an important area of the state."

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