Schaefer's Trial Balloon

January 06, 1991

Gov. William Donald Schaefer raised an interesting trial balloon by proposing that city and state officials get together with the business community to revive the area around the Inner Harbor's vacant Power Plant, failed Fish Market and bankrupt Brokerage complexes.

This is an idea worth pursuing. Like the Linowes commission proposals, it could lead to a relaxation of tensions between the governor and Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke and send a powerful message to the business community to get involved.

When Governor Schaefer "somewhat reluctantly" made his suggestion about "joint planning, joint action between the business community, state and city," he may have been thinking aloud. Yet his timing was propitious.

The city's quasi-public Center City-Inner Harbor Development Corp. is in the midst of an organizational change that allows for flexibility and new ideas. Meanwhile, the focus of future development activity is shifting east toward the Central Avenue corridor. This will mean redevelopment of the Flag House public housing project and the historic Jewish area near East Lombard Street's Corned Beef Row, which within walking distance from Inner Harbor East, a planned $350-million waterfront community between Little Italy and Fells Point. These changes will come to a sharper focus when the construction of the East Baltimore leg of the Metro is completed and work begins on the Christopher Columbus Center for Marine Research and Exploration, an 11.5-acre facility on Piers 5 and 6.

These renewal efforts rival the dramatic face lift that took place a decade ago in the original Inner Harbor basin. For Baltimore, they represent an economic development opportunity that will keep transforming the city well beyond the year 2000. Most of that future development will be private, but the public sector also can play a decisive role.

City officials are mulling over six development concepts for the Power Plant. Those ideas include the Baltimore Museum of Art's proposal to house its 20th century collection in that cavernous building as well as the possibility of creating a children's museum there. Mayor Schmoke and his administration ought to talk to the governor about the Power Plant. Its next incarnation must be more successful than the indoor amusement park that opened there with great fanfare but never attracted large enough crowds to be profitable.

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