Homes, offices proposed for Memorial Stadium site Trees, grassy malls would span 33rd St.

September 17, 1991|By Martin C. Evans

The city should tear down Memorial Stadium and Eastern High School and replace them with homes and job-producing offices built around tree-lined parks and malls, according to a consultant hired by the city.

"We believe the city has a rare opportunity in this 55-acre site," said Ellen G. Miller, a partner with K. S. Sweet Associates, a Radnor, Pa.-based consulting firm that evaluated several recommendations of the Memorial Stadium Task Force.

"Obviously all of us join in the belief that we want to create something special in a place that has been special to Baltimore," said Ms. Miller, addressing a meeting of the task force last night at Union Memorial Hospital.

Specifically, the consultant's recommendations released yesterday -- which if adopted would be implemented in phases over a 15-year period -- said that Eastern should be torn down immediately and replaced as soon as practical with a mix of office and retail buildings that would attract jobs to the area.

Later -- after the National Football League determines whether Baltimore will get an expansion team, which would play temporarily in Memorial Stadium -- the stadium would be replaced with office buildings along 33rd Street. Behind them, new housing would surround an 8-acre mall to the north.

The consultant said the city should plant trees and other landscaping immediately to give the stadium area a unique identity, reinforcing the idea that the city is planning something special there.

The future of the stadium and high school, which occupy 55-acre plot of land straddling East 33rd Street -- the largest tract of non-parkland remaining in a residential section of the city -- is a dominant concern among residents of Northeast Baltimore, whose home values and businesses could be profoundly affected.

Residents say a thoughtfully designed plan that is artfully executed could provide an exciting lift to the area, a collection of racially and economically diverse residential neighborhoods that includes a major commercial district. A poorly executed plan -- or no action at all -- could deal a crushing blow.

Several neighborhood activists said that while they would have preferred a single grand project, such as a research facility, they are convinced that the mixed-use proposal is more feasible.

"I think it would work very nicely," said Sandra R. Sparks, executive director of the Greater Homewood Community Corp.

"I think this is clearly on the right track," said Robert W. Hearn, director of the city's Department of Housing and Community Development. "This is one of those rare opportunities, and we've given it the sensitivity, care and hard questioning that it deserves."

The stadium task force, put together by Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke and the Maryland Stadium Authority in 1988 to help determine the future of the 37-year-old stadium once the Baltimore Orioles baseball teammoves to the new ballpark at Camden Yards next spring, concluded that no practical permanent use could be found for the stadium. It said the ballpark should only be allowed to stand as a temporary football stadium should the National Football League award Baltimore one of two expansion teams.

The stadium would serve as a temporary home to the expansion team while a new stadium was built.

But the league will not decide whether Baltimore is among a group of expansion finalist cities until early next year. And even if Baltimore is on that list, the league is not expected to announce its final choices until October 1992.

Although the stadium authority has agreed to pay the cost of levelingthe stadium, the uncertainty of when that will happen has made it impossible for the city to say definitely when development of the stadium portion could begin.

In promoting its mixed-use plan, the consultant rejected the idea of simply extending the street grid into the stadium-high school site and filling it in with new housing, saying that to do so risked saturating an already weak housing market.

The consultant also rejected a proposal to build an office complex, saying the market for speculative office development is too uncertain.

The consultant's findings will be forwarded to the Baltimore Economic Development Corp., a city agency that is coordinating plans to redevelop the stadium site.

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