Doing downtown

July 26, 1991

Mayor Schmoke apparently intends to move quickly on the recommendations a city task force on downtown development, whose report earlier this year contained literally hundreds of suggestions for revamping downtown Baltimore's economy. Though the suspicion inevitably arises that election-year politics may have played a part in Schmoke's sudden enthusiasm for getting Baltimore moving again, the task force in fact came up with some good ideas that deserve prompt action.

The main problem will be how to coordinate the myriad suggestions of the task force with a comprehensive big picture scenario and how to set priorities for getting the job done. Schmoke seems inclined to concentrate first on historic preservation, public spaces and parks, which presently are managed by an unwieldy hodge-podge of groups, and traffic changes -- one suggestion is to make Charles Street one-way below Mount Royal Avenue.

If all this seems a bit belated after four years of relatively quiescent leadership from City Hall, remember that this mayor started out committed to revitalizing Baltimore's human infrastructure -- particularly education -- and that only after that effort seemed to sag did people begin missing the old bricks and mortar approach to civic progress. The downtown renaissance was Baltimore's great success story of the last generation; Schmoke obviously wants to appear a worthy steward of that legacy in an election year. Still, if this is what is motivating his new "do it now" attitude toward downtown, so much the better.

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