West downtown gets named today: 'UniversityCenter'

NEIGHBORHOOD CHRISTENING

December 19, 1991|By Edward Gunts

Property owners on the west side of downtown Baltimore will gather today to christen a new neighborhood that will be a center of activities related to life sciences.

"UniversityCenter" is the official name of the 121-acre district that includes the University of Maryland at Baltimore campus, the University of Maryland Medical System, the Veterans Administration Medical Center, the Loft District and the Ridgely's Delight neighborhood, as well as numerous privately owned properties in and around the university's campus.

Though the University of Maryland has had a strong presence in the city for decades, the area itself has never had as distinct an identity as Charles Center or the Inner Harbor, areas designated for renewal previously.

"When Marylanders think of neighborhoods such as Fells Point, Mount Vernon and Federal Hill, distinct images come to mind," lTC said Morton I. Rapoport, president and chief executive officer of the medical system. "The naming of UniversityCenter will give this area not just a name, but the distinguished image it deserves as a neighborhood where quality in academic study, patient care and life science research improves the lives of Marylanders every day."

The designation of UniversityCenter fulfills one of the chief tenets of Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke's strategy for guiding downtown development. Released last spring, the strategy divided the city into six districts and recommended that the west side be identified as "the place to focus projects that support growth for research, development and commercialization efforts in the fields of health, medicine and biotechnology."

In response, a 13-member advisory committee has been working to develop a graphics and marketing program that will help identify the area as a mixed-use district dominated by a large professional school's campus and two teaching hospitals.

Gov. William Donald Schaefer, Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes, D-Md., Mayor Schmoke and other dignitaries are expected to attend a )) ceremony today at which a new "UniversityCenter" logo will be unveiled, along with plans for street banners, signs and informational kiosks that will carry it. Many will have the tag line: "A Neighborhood of Discovery."

The new red-and-purple graphics will be visible throughout the area, which is bounded roughly by Martin Luther King Boulevard on the south and west, Saratoga Street on the north, and Eutaw Street on the east.

The graphics were developed by Wallace, Roberts & Todd of Philadelphia, the master planner for the UMAB campus, and Cloud & Geshan and Associates of Philadelphia, with help from the local public relations firm of Trahan, Burden and Charles.

One of the most distinctive elements of the graphics package is a metal sign in the twisting shape of a helix. The shape is a reference to the double helix structure of DNA and is intended to underscore the area's reputation as a high-tech center for the life sciences, said William Roberts of WRT.

DNA, or deoxyribonucleic acid, contains the human genetic code and transmits hereditary patterns.

City planners expect to see $1 billion worth of new construction and renovation in the UniversityCenter area over the next decade. Projects include an $80 million health sciences complex for UMAB, a $45 million medical biotechnology center and the addition of an $80 million tower at the medical system.

"There is an explosion of development activity taking place in UniversityCenter," said Dr. Errol L. Reese, president of UMAB. The improvements are being made so visitors will have a positive experience and regard UniversityCenter as an attractive, safe and comfortable downtown "neighborhood of discovery," he said.

University Center

University Center is the name given to a 121-acre area that includes the University of Maryland at Baltimore,the University of Maryland Medical center,the veterans administration Medical Center,the loft district and the Ridgely's Delight neighborhood

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