Vision on 33rd Street

September 18, 1991

Mayor Schmoke did the right thing by including community groups in the process of deciding what is to become of Memorial Stadium, and the plan recommended by consultants this week reflects their concerns: It attempts, foremost, to preserve the ambience of the existing neighborhoods with a town house development clustered around an 8-acre open space north of 33rd Street, keeping office space south of 33rd, on the Eastern High School site. Retail stores, along with a math-science school or magnet city public school, would comprise a livable mix for residents yet offer the city a source of new revenue. In short, it is an appealing vision. But it is a vision nonetheless.

First, the city has virtually no idea when it might raze Memorial Stadium, and the proposal stretches development over 15 years. In addition, there is still disagreement over whether Eastern High should indeed be razed. There is almost no market for speculative development now, anyway. It is possible, of course, to recruit clients for the office space, to offer incentives to develop offices and homes, and to rouse public support for whatever variation of this plan officials finally endorse. But such steps require the city to put long-range considerations before present concerns.

The politics of Memorial Stadium's redevelopment, in other words, offers big risks and few immediate rewards. Nonetheless, with the 1991 baseball season ending, it's up to Mayor Schmoke and the City Council to generate the kind of consensus and enthusiasm that will make the best use of this valuable city asset.

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