Beating around The Block

August 15, 1991

With the ascent of the 30-story Commerce Place building, Baltimore's once-thriving adult entertainment zone, The Block, is making way for redevelopment that could earn desperately needed additional tax dollars for city coffers.

Since adult entertainment businesses are not directly addressed by city zoning laws, Councilman Jody Landers recently introduced a zoning bill that would effectively wipe out The Block. By outlawing adult entertainment, the bill would encourage a transformation of the area to service establishments that cater to office workers.

Although several sites near City Hall are ripe for renewal, would-be developers feel their ability to obtain bank financing and tenants for projects on the drawing board have been impeded by The Block's negative image. When asked for their views, city employees in the Charles L. Benton Jr. Building -- across from The Block -- deemed the area unsafe and inconvenient for workers.

The Landers bill could be the first step toward a systematic redevelopment of The Block. Admittedly, the bill has some wrinkles to be ironed out. The bill permits adult entertainment businesses only in remote industrial areas where they must be 1,000 feet away from one another, yet it does not address the impact on communities -- such as Curtis Bay, Locust Point, Broening Highway and Canton -- that might see strip-tease bars cropping up. Despite this weakness, the bill is commendable.

Candidates for the City Council ought to tell the voters how they feel about the future of The Block. When the council reassembles after next month's elections, it should give the Landers bill serious consideration. Whatever vibrancy The Block may have once had has been drowned out by sleaziness that Baltimore does not need. It is an eyesore that should be removed.

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