Reluctant recyclers

Baltimore Glimpses

November 19, 1991|By GILBERT SANDLER

THERE'S BEEN a lot of talk about it, but we haven't yet decided (as a community) what to do with Memorial Stadium.

No one should look harshly on this civic indecision, though. It's just the way we do things in Baltimore. These things take time. For example:

We haven't decided for most of the century what to do with the Roland Park water tower. It was built in 1904 and has had very little use since. It once held 200,000 gallons. Now it holds nothing but memories. It's been a "recycling" problem for decades.

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What is the latest use suggested for Fort Carroll? This ancient ruin, built in 1832 by Robert E. Lee, sits sullen and brooding in the main channel of the Patapsco, just south of the Francis Scott Key Bridge. It was built to be a "strong outer line of defense for the city," but it was never occupied, and the city has been looking for a use for it ever since.

Back in the 1960s there were vague plans for private interests to operate the place as a gambling casino, but its only use has been -- and will be until somebody has a better idea -- as a spooky haven for bats, rats, swallows and sea gulls. The old fort has been waiting for recycling for 159 years.

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Does anybody have any ideas what to do with the old BG&E power plant? A lot of intriguing ideas were submitted in the most recent attempt by the city to put the plant to use, but no plan seems to inspire sufficient support to make it happen. The plant, which sits on choice land in the Inner Harbor, has been a banquet hall, a disco and an amusement center -- all unsuccessful. The debate about it has been going on for maybe 15 years.

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The venerable Hippodrome Theater, once a bright star in the galaxy of Baltimore's movie and vaudeville houses, sits there (at Eutaw and Baltimore streets) dark and dead, begging for ideas that will bring it back to light and life. It closed in 1951 as a vaudeville theater and only recently as a movie theater. Since then, there have been lots of suggestions (but no action) about what to do with it.

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By the way, it isn't always easy, this business of recycling civic monuments. Some recyclings have worked quite well: The old City College at Howard and Centre streets survived a fire and was turned into a residential complex. Several former garment district clothing factories in the Paca and Green street area have been successfully recycled as offices and condominiums. The Tower Theater (in the plaza at Charles and Saratoga) is now part of Johns Hopkins University's School of Continuing Studies Downtown Center. The Savings Bank of Baltimore at Eutaw and Fayette is now the grand Baltimore Grand (ballroom and banquet hall).

But some ideas fail or just never come into being, and a particular building winds up as a parking lot. You can now park over the ashes, so to speak, of the Stanley Theater (Howard and Centre), the Sports Center (near North and Charles) and McCormick's Light Street home (from whence the wonderful fragrance of spices used to provide the Inner Harbor with a character unique in the world).

Which brings us back to Memorial Stadium.

Patience . . .

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